The Ideal in the West

The Ideal in the West

by David A. Beardsley

ISBN: 9781477495186

Publisher CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Published in Nonfiction

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Book Description

The influ­ence of “Ide­al­ism” has so pen­e­trated our lan­guage and our think­ing that we don’t rec­og­nize it as per­haps the old­est continuously-operating philo­soph­i­cal sys­tem in the West. This book traces its history and influence through some of the most fascinating people in history--Plato, Plotinus, Marsilio Ficino,and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It also shows how these timeless teachings can be put to practical use by overstressed people in the 21st century.

Sample Chapter

The Ideal in the West

“You're such an Idealist...”

“In an ideal world....”

“Ideally, we could....”

The influence of “Idealism” has so penetrated our language and our thinking that we don't recognize it as perhaps the oldest continuously-operating philosophical system in the West. Although its influence rises and falls, its conception and articulation of "the Good" continues to shape our beliefs and aspirations. This is not good as opposed to evil, but the absolute source of all beneficence, beauty, and justice.

This book grew out of realization that Western civilization is itself in possession of this spiritual tradition which is every bit as compelling and magnificent as any to be found in the East--not that there’s anything wrong with them. But I have found myself at each point along the way in studying it saying “yes” in recognition, feeling kinship with figures who lived hundreds and thousands of years ago. As with all true spiritual writing, I feel they are speaking directly to me at this moment. They make me want to be a better man; to be, in fact, Ideal.

Since its founding by Socrates and Plato over 2500 years ago, "Idealism" has been the rootstock of all Western philosophy. Alfred North Whitehead of course said famously that all Western philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato, and Plato's formulation of the Ideal set the tone for something new and unique in the world. It is rational without being dry; spiritual without being religious; it acknowledges the shortcomings of humans, but also believes they can be as gods.

The aim of this book is to show the Ideal not as an abstract intellectual construct, but as an eternal and ever-present reality that can be known in experience by people everywhere. Many attempts have been made to “define” the Ideal, and many of them will be examined in this series, but they all point to it as the ultimate Reality, eternal, ever-present, imperceptible to the senses, but knowable to the intellect. This is not the intellect in the ordinary sense of the thinking or critical mind, but a “higher” faculty of consciousness suited perfectly to knowing the Ideal, sharing its nature. The Ideal is the source of all the transient objects and thoughts that can be perceived, but these are seen derivative, depending on the Ideal for their existence, therefore being less real. In Plato's formulation, they are mere shadows.

For this reason we will not speak of “Idealism” as a school of thought that can be compared and contrasted with other schools of thought. This too is a limitation. As we will see, Plato’s school of the Ideal was not in competition with other schools of thought such as Stoicism or Pythagorianism; although they all had different starting-points they all attempted to transform the lives of their students through study and practical exercises. Plato founded his Academy to to teach the Ideal, but he always returned to its indefinability, saying we cannot speak of the Ideal or the Good itself, but only the child of the Good.

It is not that it is supernatural; it is that we are subspiritual. Underneath all the names that are used for it--the Ideal, the Good, the One, the Over-Soul, yes; God, even--is the consciousness that lives also within each of us. It is the source of all we can see or know, but without the anthropomorphic limitations we place on it. In Plato’s memorable phrase, it is “the universal author of all things beautiful and right.” Many people have studied it, some have written about it, but a small few have known it first-hand, as Emerson says, “without mediator or veil.” It is their unmistakable voices on which I have centered, attempting to let them speak for themselves. They are not historical writers, but every bit as contemporary as the most recent best-seller.


Excerpted from "The Ideal in the West" by David A. Beardsley. Copyright © 0 by David A. Beardsley. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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