Platonism and Buddhism

Ancient Gandhara Source:
Ancient Gandhara in the upper Indus valley is where a Hellenistic culture turn Buddhist. Source

Session 4 of Reading Plato comes to the Phaedo’s myth of the soul’s transmigration, where students are often astonished by the similarities with Buddhist doctrine. This raises the question of whether Platonism influenced Buddhism, or whether Plato and Buddhism share a common source.

This question has been raised many times down through the centuries and continues to be asked by modern scholars. Much of the interest centres around the ancient Gandharan civilisation of the northern Indus valley in modern day Pakistan. Gandhara was part of the great Persian Empire until Alexander’s conquest, when it came under Hellenistic influence in its art and culture. But then it turned to Buddhism.

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Summer Sessions starting soon

Doubling the Square

The full force of the southern Summer is finally upon us, and so it’s time to strip down to the toga for a heady dialogue with Plato.

If you have not already claimed a place in the circle, then there is still space in our February-March courses. But don’t dally! Bookings must close in the next few days.

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Summer 2021 enrolments open

Portrait of Luca Pacioli, ?Jacopo de' Barbari? (1500 AD)
Portrait of Luca Pacioli, attributed to Jacopo de’ Barbari (ca. 1500)

Enrolments are now open for Summer evening classes, starting February 2021. We plan to be back in the classrooms in Lonsdale Street, although online attendance is also available. See the complete list on the Courses page.

The courses running this Summer include the foundation course Reading Plato, recommended for those new to Plato and philosophy. Plato’s Republic is also back by popular demand. And then, finally, there is the course that we are most excited about, namely Platonic Esoteric Geometry. [UPDATE: BOOKED OUT] This compass & ruler hands-on class was scheduled to run just before COVID hit. It had to be cancelled because it could not run online, which also means that this time around it is the only course without an online attendance option.

Twilight Sessions starting soon

Moses conversing with Hermes in front of Isis (Pinturicchio, 1495, Borgia Apartments Vatican)
Moses conversing with Hermes in front of Isis (Pinturicchio, 1495, Borgia Apartments, Vatican)

We are looking forward to seeing everyone at the Twilight Sessions. Platonism and Christianity (from Mon, 9 Nov) is now booked out, but there are still a couple of places in our introductory course, Reading Plato (from Tues, 10 Nov). If you are enrolled in either course, but have not received a welcome email (with the zoom link), then please contact us.

Classes for 2021 will begin in February. By then we hope to be back in the classrooms in Lonsdale Street Melbourne, while still offering online attendance for our out-of-town friends. Three courses will be offered: Reading Plato, Plato’s Republic and Platonic Esoteric Geometry (new).

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Twilight Sessions Nov-Dec 2020

St Basil, St John Chrysostom and St Gregory the Theologian
St Basil, St John Chrysostom and St Gregory the Theologian

Melbourne’s silly season looks not to be so silly this year with COVID restrictions continuing to keep us indoors and online just as the evenings start to fill with light and warmth. Our final sessions for the year begin right after Melbourne Cup week with the ever-popular introductory course, Reading Plato (Tuesdays from 10 Nov 2020), and then one other pre-Christmas special where we reflect on the Platonic origins of Christianity (Mondays from 9 Nov 2020).

Christianity’s beginnings as a Jewish sect are hard to miss, but the subsequent Hellenistic influences are often neglected or ignored. Folks are often surprised to find just how Hellenistic Christianity actually is! The influence of Platonism from the earliest times through to the Renaissance is a rich and fascinating tale. Platonism and Christianity will be more a lecture series than a reading group. It is open to all, including those who have not yet completed Reading Plato. And while some knowledge of Plato and of Christianity will be an advantage, those lacking in this background should still enjoy these classes.