Socrates Dream -or- The Oracle at Delphi

Western philosophy has been on a journey for thousands of years in pursuit of a dream. Its perennial question revolves around the nature of justice. We are told in legends that the Oracle at Delphi was received by the goddess Themis, Lady of divine Justice, who personifed the forces of morality that underlie and guide the judicial system. In its simplest sense, the trial of Socrates offers a theory of justice whose ideas still resonate. The trial, said to have been second-greatest trial of antiquity (the greatest trial, we are told in the Bible that the wife of the Roman judge Pontius Pilate had a dream about the consequences of a death sentence for Jesus).

For Marie-Louise von Franz in Traeume (Dreams), Socrates was motivated by the archetype of the Wise Old Man. Socrates was an orator, a man of moral action, a man of principle, thought, and self-reflection. Ironically, it could be argued that it was the Oracle who initially set Socrates on the philosophers path in search of wisdom, justice, truth, knowledge, and beauty, and then by later prophesizing his death sentence thereby secured his immortality.

Socrates' death was what Emil Durkheim in On Suicide describes as an altruistic suicide. Through his trial and death in 399 BC, Socrates became the scapegoat for Athens's loss of the Peloponnesian war five years earlier. Plato saw the injustice of the philosopher's death penalty, memorialized his life, and founded the first institution of higher learning. As told by Plato, Socrates' life, trial, teachings, discursive method, and dialogical philosophy have been handed down through successive generations, influencing the course of Western civilization.

In Crito Socrates informs his friend Crito (and the audience) that he has had a Dream Vision that prophesized that he would go to Pythia, the priestess who was the caretaker of the Oracle at Delphi. Socrates believes that the meaning of the dream is obvious; he knows he will be sentenced to death and he goes freely to it. Socrates is an archetypal rebel, a martyr, a prisoner of conscience who understands his role and obligations to himself, his society, and history.

In taking his deadly medicine, Socrates clearly understands that the hemlock will act as a pharmakon for himself and his community. Just before his death, his last words are, "Crito, we owe a cock to Asclepius (the ancient Greek God of medicine); please pay it and don't let it pass." Asclepius was the god of medicine and these words implied that Socrates felt that he owed a debt to the god because of the cup of hemlock he had just drunk.

All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.