The Love of Diotima

“Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.” 
Plato, Symposium

A Path

Diotima of Mantinea’s place in the history is unrivaled. Indeed, without her, Plato’s Symposium would have been a rather commonplace affair.  You may recall the setting.  A group of brilliant thinkers came together, in the manner of the elite of Athens, to discuss the merits and intricacies of love.

The banquet’s guest list was a “who’s who” of Athens:  Phaedrus, an aristocrat, Alcibiades, a statesman, orator and general, Pausanias, a legal expert, Eryximachus, a physician, Aristophanes, a comic playwright, Agathon, a tragic poet and host of the event and Socrates, the eminent philosopher and Plato’s teacher. Everyone had their turn to speak, however it was Socrates’ dialogue that transformed our understanding of love. Over the course of a lavish feast, he related with persuasive eloquence the ideas that were given to him by the prophetess, Diotima.

Diotima’s inspiration was the concept of divine or Platonic love, the means by which humanity can ascend to the contemplation of the divine.  The most truthful way to love others is to embrace a love that transcends the earthly plane, to touch divinity.  A genuine Platonic love recognizes the beauty and loveliness in another person in a way that inspires the mind and soul to the spiritual, rather than the physical.

Diotima’s name means “honoured by Zeus.”  Her identity is shrouded in mystery, and there is some debate as to whether or not she actually existed.  Even so, we have the word of two reliable philosophers, who stated without reservation, that Diotima of Mantinea gave the world the best of all possible loves.

“Love’ is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.” 

 Plato, Symposium

21 thoughts on “The Love of Diotima

  1. What an amazing occasion – great minds discussing love. How I would love to have been there! Your discourses on the great philosophers are entirely new to me. It is not a subject that has ever really appealed to me, but you have brought them to life in a most engaging way. I think this discourse has to be the ultimate, for what subject could be more all-embracing than divine love. May our lives be graced with such a gift as this. Beautiful!! Thank you, dear Rebecca.

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    • Thank you so much for your heartwarming comments – I love when you stop by. I confess that I am learning as I go along – I did not know that the concept of Platonic love was a women’s idea. Moreover, I was pleased to find out that great philosophers were quick to give the credit to a woman, especially in a very male dominated world. I would have loved to be in their midst. Thankfully we have a record of the event, which reminds me that we all need to keep thinking and writing.

      I agree – the idea of divine love has transformative powers that embrace all of who we are and what we are meant to be. Take good care, my dear fried – have a wonderful week!! Vancouver forecast calls for sunshine!!!

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    • And thank you for joining the dialogue! Plato had a way with words – I have a feeling he would have made an excellent blogger. Can you imagine how many would be following….

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  2. Funny how “Platonic” came to describe “simply friends” rather than anything deeper as if that were somehow not doable. It must have been something to sit around with that crowd.🙂

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    • I can only imagine the drama, the song, the food, the conversation! There are moments in time, when it all seems to come together to produce an outcome that humanity comes to see as a tipping point. Perhaps we are engaged in a tipping point that we, as yet, don’t recognize. We are on a global stage now…let’s see what we can come up with!!!

      “All the world’s a stage,
      And all the men and women merely players;
      They have their exits and their entrances,
      And one man in his time plays many parts…”

      William Shakespeare, As You Like It

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  3. Platonic love. I am afraid that we lower its real value by trying to understand it completely. I have problems comparing Platonic love with Divine love, though.

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    • I think it depends on the definition of what is divine. I have a feeling we have just scratched the surface of this conversation. I thought you may appreciate this quote.

      “Men of Athens, I honor and love you; but I shall obey God rather than you, and while I have life and strength I shall never cease from the practice and teaching of philosophy… Understand that I shall never alter my ways, not even if I have to die many times.”
      ― Plato, Apology of Socrates: An Interpretation with a New Translation

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  4. This is a wonderful interpretation of love… and it’s one I experienced once with an older friend and teacher – a woman – and it was a blissful and spiritual relationship. I hadn’t realised until I read this wonderful post that that was how it could be defined. How we have demeaned such love when we refer to Platonic love today, as though it’s just a friendship between a man and a woman in which there;s no sexual component.
    Such an enlightening post Rebecca, and what glorious pictures you add to the wonderful thoughts and words….

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    • I know exactly what you mean. These are extraordinary connections that build upon each other’s strengths and wisdom. There is never a competitive thought, only the joy when the other moves forward, gains new insight. A perfect understanding, even when there is a difference of opinions. Thank you so very much for adding your wisdom to this dialogue. So very much appreciated!

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