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Socratic Method

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Socratic Method?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Socratic Method

Inquiry is an Application of the Socratic Method

The Diamond Guidance can be accessed and used not just in our work but in many ways—for example, in a philosophic or scientific inquiry. In the Diamond Approach, we inquire specifically into our own personal experience. Inquiry is an application of the Socratic method to the immediate reality of our life. It is worth noting that many people, when reading books about the Diamond Approach or when first coming to the Ridhwan School, believe they know how to practice inquiry. This is especially so if they were trained in philosophy or psychotherapy. I am sure that many people know how to inquire, but that does not mean it is the inquiry we are discussing here. We do not practice inquiry as it is conventionally understood; we do it from the perspective of our true nature.

Modern Developments of the Socratic Method

These lines of thought all explore the nature of the human being as self or subject and its relation to existence, to the divine or ultimate reality, or Being. In the West, a particularly potent thread of this exploration began with the Platonic inquiry as developed by Socrates. We will see in the course of our investigation how pursuing deeply Socrates’s admonition, “Know thyself,” is a powerful path of liberation from the “cave of illusion,” and how, in our own times, we have knowledge and techniques available to help us engage in this inquiry with more precision and ease. The development of depth psychology has enabled us to take Socrates’s query to a new level. Freud’s discovery of unconscious aspects of the self was a pivotal development in the understanding of human consciousness. The current focus on narcissism in psychoanalytic and psychological research adds further important knowledge about the self. However, in the current context of psychology this development of our potential for self-understanding has not really penetrated the question of the nature of the self in a way that would satisfy either the philosopher or the mystic’s quest. Existential psychology and some aspects of transpersonal psychology have explored this territory, and its explorations have led to a certain degree of integration of philosophical and spiritual understanding with psychology. In general, however, psychological theory is limited by its conceptions of the self, which we will examine in detail in this book. In the philosophic and spiritual realms the pursuit of truth is often limited by ignorance of the unconscious factors that keep our limited conventional view of ourselves and the world trapped in egoic veils, and thus often render spiritual experience as exasperatingly short-lived or unintegratable into our everyday sense of ourselves.

Questioning is the Socratic Method

So a question is a dynamic manifestation that integrates in itself the openness of true nature, the dynamism of true nature and the knowingness of true nature, all at the same time. By extension, the entire process of inquiry also embodies the openness of true nature, the knowingness of true nature and the dynamism of true nature. That's why inquiry is not just a passive witnessing, it is an active engagement. When I ask a question I'm interested to know; I'm not just sitting here watching what passes in front of me. When something passes in front of me, I'm going to inquire into it— dissect and analyze it, contemplate and question it. I call this the Socratic method because Socrates was the first major figure we know who engaged this process directly, who sat down with people and asked them pointed questions such as, What is courage? Everybody thought they knew what courage was, but he led them in inquiry, first showing them that they did not know, and then guiding them through questions so they could find out for themselves. He knew the answer for himself, but when he asked the question, he asked it from the place of not knowing. He knew, but he knew that he didn't know everything, and because of that his inquiry was always alive. That's why so many people flocked around him; they were excited by that energy of inquiry. He could have just told them the answer, but they wouldn't have learned anything, for the important thing is to learn how to inquire, how to ask questions.

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