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)

Unblocking: Removing Blocks to Understanding


A companion to The Pocket Pierre, Unblocking will give you the tools to meet the challenge of the phrase, “Know Thyself.” You will be led through a series of questions that will help you uncover deeply-held beliefs about yourself, beliefs that have created your difficulties and prevented you from achieving your highest purpose in life.

Anatomy of Dreams – Pierre Grimes


Pierre Grimes demonstrates dreams, dreaming and the structure of dreams explored in philosophical midwifery (philosophical counseling).

These talks were recorded at the Philosophical Research Society where Pierre Grimes gave talks from 1995-1998.

These videos deal with dreams, fantasies and random thoughts as a doorway to understanding the intelligent, caring nature of the mind.

50 Questions for Mastering the Art of Philosophical Midwifery:

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

The following questions are challenges to both the philosophical community and the wider intellectual community and can be considered as central to a mode of philosophical counseling called philosophical midwifery.

Continue reading 50 Questions for Mastering the Art of Philosophical Midwifery:

Dreams and the Philosopher

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

It is generally agreed among philosophers and those in the social science that in Plato’s Republic, the training of the philosopher king includes such topics as arithmetic, geometry, harmony, astronomy, and the dialectic, but only a few know that there is another necessary study that Plato says reaches truth.

The truth he refers to is not a general kind of knowledge as with those other studies but a knowledge personal and particular to the individual. Those studies of the philosopher, even the dialectic, do not bring him any closer to the Delphic “know thyself”. Thus, after these general studies are mastered there is still the need to learn personal things about oneself the ignorance of which can have tragic consequences.

Continue reading Dreams and the Philosopher

The Dream Master and The Pathologos

By Pierre Grimes, Ph. D.

Those who are led through our way of exploring dreams gain an understanding of themselves, their reality, and the profound nature of the role of the Dream Master. This approach is philosophical rather than psychological because it is a non-interpretive method that draws all the material for the exploration and analysis from the subject, bringing a recognition of how false beliefs are at the basis of one’s problems. The conclusions reached through this method are tested and verified when they are applied to the individual’s own experience. Thus, the exploration of each dream takes the form of a structured dialogue designed to uncover a subject’s belief system and as such it is a rational method.

Analyzing the content of many people’s dreams brings the realization that man is only partly aware in his waking life of the problems, failures, as well as the victories of his waking life. In the waking world that means that dreams play a vital complementary role in man’s psychic life. Equally, since the method of analysis makes this conclusion obvious, the method itself plays a critical role in dream work. For, in learning about dreams the dreamers learn not only about their personal lives, but learn a method of analysis that has far-reaching consequences. Once the method becomes second nature to dreamers, they apply it to other areas of their lives and learn to anticipate the occurrence of problems, find themselves more fully aware in their lives, and recognize more fully what they had previously ignored.

Dream analysis shows that dreams often carry a theme across many dreams, that there is a significant linkage between dreams, and that later dreams correct or modify the conclusions made in earlier dream analysis. The dreamers learn that the maker of dreams must be aware of the dreamers’ personal past since it uses their past history as the material for the dream; that it can artfully select key images from their past to represent the message of the dream; that is has a grasp of what they themselves have ignored from their waking world and reminds them of its significance both in terms of their present life as well as its implications on their past history. The dreamers realize that the maker of dreams must be awake to their life and is even awake in their life in a way that they themselves are not. This brings a greater realization to the dreamers that something beyond them, that is yet present to them, has an intelligibility that works for their personal good and, hence, is providential in its vision. This maker of dreams we call the Dream Master because its mastery is profound in its understanding and most artful in its production.

The dream master presents a special kind of problem to the dreamer, for the failures and successes that are ignored in the waking world become the subjects of the dream. The analysis of dreams discloses this special kind of problem as having its roots in beliefs about oneself that have been formulated in our early youth but which were never articulated and therefore cannot be recalled by the believer. These beliefs have their origin in early experiences in one’s youth, during occasions when families disclose their fundamental and emotionally held beliefs about life, about themselves, and about family members. From them one draws one’s own conclusions, in private, about oneself and the nature of reality. These beliefs are the root cause of our problems because these beliefs are always, in principle, false. These beliefs are never discussed in the family but live as milieu beliefs and taboos within the family.Invariably, these beliefs were shared when we ourselves were in the state of mind or approaching a success that threatened or challenged the beliefs of the family authorities. Thus, later in life, whenever we face analogous situations or states of mind that would threaten those family beliefs, we withdraw and find a solution that preserves or can be reconciled with those family taboos.

These beliefs are given the stamp of authenticity and are made believable because they were revealed by authorities who gave the appearance of being most caring, genuine and sincere. It appeared that they thought enough to share their fundamental convictions and, so, to reject the belief would be tantamount to rejecting them, leaving one to face the possibility of exile and loss of affection. Thus, while these beliefs shape an image of ourselves and our reality, they are, in principle, false and irreconcilable with our highest ideals. These false beliefs are called the pathologos because they are “sick beliefs.” The pathologos’ are the causes of our sense of dissatisfaction and failure in life. When one’s possible achievements are in contradiction to these beliefs, then blocks are experienced that either compromise one’s achievements or precipitate one’s failures.

The dream presents these blocks and sets them within scenes that show their common dynamic and structure within the history of our life. Through analysis we can unlock those personal blocks to our achievement of excellence and come to a way of analysis that opens up the possibility of leading a more rational life.