Osho on Socrates
Socrates is a Greek philosopher, who lived during a period of untold atrocities, amidst the experiences of death, war, and disease in ancient Greece. He is considered as a revolutionary sage who rescued the future Athenian leader Alcibiades during a siege on the city of Potidaea in 432 B.C and known for his strong awareness of death with less mystical interpretations.
Socrates guided the masses with a more realistic perception of the world through a deep-inquiry in the true nature of our very existence. He realized that the master key to attain true wisdom is to first admit one’s ignorance of things in life that I know absolutely nothing about existence followed by an inquiry into our true nature.
Osho says Socrates had become a child again, but he had risked all his wisdom, philosophy, his great intelligence, all his arguments, his whole life’s effort of winning against opponents in debates, discussions. He had become the topmost intelligent man in Greece. But he had the tremendous courage to say, “I know nothing.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL TO BE HERE IN GREECE, THE LAND OF SOCRATES?
Socrates is one of the persons I love the most. And coming here I feel tremendously joyous, because it is the same air Socrates must have breathed, the same land he must have walked, the same people with whom he must have talked, communicated with. To me, without Socrates Greece is nothing. With Socrates, it is everything. The day Athens chose to poison Socrates, it poisoned the whole Greek spirit. It has never again been to the same heights. Twenty-five centuries have passed, but not a single man has been able to reach to the same glory, to the same light, the same insight.
Killing Socrates, Greece committed suicide. And it can be seen easily. If they had listened to Socrates rather than poisoning him, and dropped their conditionings, which he was asking them to do, Greece would have been at the very top of the world today in intelligence, in consciousness, in the search for truth.
But people are ignorant.
They have to be forgiven — but they should not be forgotten. If you forget them, you are bound to commit the same mistake again. Forgive those people who poisoned Socrates, but don’t forget, so that it never happens again. There have been great people on the earth, but Socrates has something unique. There is Gautam the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu — in Greece itself there has been Pythagoras, Heraclitus; in Persia, Zarathustra… and many others, but none of them had a certain quality which only Socrates has. And that is a scientific approach about everything — and that was his crime. And you are all being benefited by science all over the world, not knowing that Socrates sacrificed himself for the same scientific enquiry. He was asking only one thing: that nothing should be believed. Everything should be experienced, experimented with, and unless there is evidence, evidence without exception, it should not be accepted. Even when you accept a thing as truth, if you are honest, accept it only as a hypothetical truth, because who knows? — Tomorrow there may be new facts known, and you will have to change the truth.
Nobody has been in the service of truth as much as Socrates. Even if you have found the truth — today it looks absolutely true, not a single flaw, no possibility that it will ever be untrue — still he says the scientific spirit will accept it only as hypothetical, for the time being… because eternity is ahead. Every day new facts will be discovered, and those facts may not go with your truth. You may have to change it, you may have to make place for those new truths. This is something absolutely unique in the whole world.
And the man was not like Jesus — proclaiming himself the only son of God, or proclaiming himself a prophet or a messiah. That makes me tremendously respectful towards Socrates, and disrespectful towards all those pretenders who have been talking about being prophets and saviors and messiahs. Socrates was far more intelligent than any of them, but still so humble that he remained just a human being, with no claim of being special, being higher.
Twenty-five centuries ago it was even more difficult, because in every country there were messiahs, prophets, messengers of God, sons of God. In that climate the man’s humbleness is really surprising and makes him one of the most respected human beings who has ever walked on the earth.
Socrates does not believe in any God, but he does not say that there is no God. He is very scientific. He says, “As far as I have enquired, there seems to be no God, but who knows about the results of further enquiry? Take it as a hypothesis that there is no God, but if some day you discover God, hypotheses can be changed. Socrates does not say that life survives after death. He says, “I will have to wait and see. When I die, only then can I see whether life survives after death or not, because nobody has come back from death and told us that life survives.” And never forget that this was twenty-five centuries ago. This man had such courage that when poison was given to him, he gathered all his disciples and said, “You have always been asking about whether life survives or not. This is a good chance, a great opportunity. If I had died an ordinary death then there would have been no opportunity. But now poison will be given to me” — and poison kills very slowly — “so I will report to you to the very last moment, till my tongue also becomes numb and I cannot say anything.”
And as the poison is given he starts saying with closed eyes, “My legs up to the knees are dead. I don’t feel them; even by touching them I don’t feel them. Life has gone out of them. But one thing is to be remembered: I am still feeling as whole as I was always. So the death of the legs has not affected my consciousness.”
Then he says, “Half of my body, the lower half, is dead, but I am completely whole; half of my consciousness is not dead.” Then he says, “My hands are becoming numb, my eyes are drooping, and I can feel that my tongue will stop any moment, so this is perhaps the last statement I have to make to you — that life survives after death, because I can see death happening. Parts of my body are dead and I am fully alive. Nothing is missing. So I am certain that when my tongue stops, my eyes close, and my heart stops, it is not going to matter. But don’t believe me; it is just a hypothesis for you. When you die, try it.” Such a scientific spirit!
I feel immensely happy to be here.
I have loved Socrates much more than anyone else — for his humbleness, for his scientific enquiry, for not creating a religion, not creating a theology, not creating a following, not becoming a prophet… which he was capable of, far more capable than Jesus or Moses or Mohammed. These people were all illiterate. Socrates was far more sophisticated, as cultured as you can imagine. The temptation must have been there to proclaim himself a god, and by that proclamation he may have been worshiped and not poisoned. The same people who killed him would have worshiped him; they would have made churches, and they would have still been worshiping him. It needs immense courage when you have such consciousness, such clarity, to remain humble and just human — knowing perfectly well that this is the way to death. Sooner or later these same people are going to kill you, these people whom you are trying to make free from all fetters. Still Socrates chose to remain human. That’s why you don’t see any religion after Socrates, no church, no theology, no holy scripture.
But the man did a great service: he made it clear that your prophets and your messiahs are pretenders. And you are such that you get into the traps of pretenders very easily, because they strengthen your conditioning; they help you to remain in your prison. And they call your prison by good names, so you are happy. With a man like Socrates you are not happy because he says exactly what the situation is — that you are a prisoner, and you have to come out of it. People are lazy; people want not to change. People simply want consolations. Somebody should come as if he is from somewhere higher, coming from God himself to tell them, “You are perfectly right — just go on believing in God. Go on praying to God every night for two minutes, and everything is perfectly okay with you.” This you enjoy, because it saves you all the trouble of change.
People like Socrates seem to be very dangerous because they go on hitting hard on your consolations: they take away all your conditioning’s, they expose you to your reality. Their work is surgical. It hurts, it is painful, but that is the way a new man can be born. What Socrates was doing twenty-five centuries ago, I am doing now.
Twenty-five centuries have gone by without any change as far as humanity is concerned. Three times they have tried to kill me… three attempts on my life. In every possible way the same people whom I am trying to make free, trying to take their chains away, are ready to kill me. Humanity has not changed. It will still do the same. But what Socrates was not capable of doing, I am capable of doing. He remained in the very small area of Athens, not even the whole of Greece. Athens was a city-state, and he remained an Athenian for his whole life.
I belong to the whole world. In a small place you may not get people of courage, but in the whole world you are bound to come across thousands of people who have the capacity to become a Socrates. So I am in a better position. And you are the evidence for it. All around the world now we have three to four million people whose hearts are with me. This is a great revolution. And their number is going to increase as I will be coming to every nook and corner of the world.
We have to create a world force against the ignorant masses, so there are no more poisonings of Socrates, so they cannot dare to do it. Otherwise you will go on moving in the same vicious circle: every time a Socrates is there, you kill him.
In the whole history of Greece there is no other name comparable to this man’s. Nobody comes even close to his shoulders. He stands high like a great mountain peak. Perhaps people become jealous seeing such a great man — such humbleness, such intelligence, such sharpness, such beauty. Perhaps they start comparing themselves with him and feel very inferior, and the inferiority becomes revengeful. In India there is a proverb that the camel does not want to go near a mountain — he likes to live in the desert. There, he is the mountain. But near the mountain he feels very bad — he becomes just a rat. But if we have millions of people around the world, then the ignorant mob can be prevented — and it should be prevented, so that never again does any Socrates have to be crucified, poisoned, killed. They are our very cream. We should learn their art of growth, transformation, and how they have attained to such humbleness, such silence, such peace, that even when he is dying…
The sentence was given that exactly at sunset Socrates should be given the poison. He looks from the window and he says, “The sun has set! The man outside who is preparing the poison — tell him that he is late and he should never be late when he is on duty.”
The man came in. He said, “You are a strange person! Just out of love for you I am delaying the process so that you can live a little longer. I have given poison to many people — this is my profession — but my heart is trembling, my hands are trembling. What I am doing is not right. I want to delay it as long as I can.”
Socrates says, “No, that is not right. You do your duty; your personal feelings should not come into it. And moreover, I am so curious to go into death because I have lived a long life, I have known all the secrets of it, but death is such a great adventure, such an unknown. So don’t delay it, just bring the poison.”
People who were not afraid of death, we have killed. And these were the people who had known life; that’s why they were not afraid of death. Deep down they have known that there is something that is going to continue, but they didn’t have any proof, any evidence. Hence Socrates will not say it; he will say it only when the evidence is there. Such devotion to the scientific spirit! That’s why no religion has been created after him. And my effort is that the future religion should be nothing but a science. Just as there are other sciences — they are the sciences of the objective world — there should be one more science, of the inner, subjective world. There is no space or scope for any religion at all.
The scientific spirit is capable of revealing the truth of the object and it is capable of revealing the truth of the subject, of your interior. I am immensely happy to be here because of Socrates, but immensely sad too because of the people of Greece who poisoned the man.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
Chapter title: I belong to the whole world
19 February 1986 pm in
Osho has spoken on Western Mystics like Gurdjieff, Rumi, Socrates, Zarathustra, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Diogenes and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- Sermons in Stones
- Philosophia Perennis, Vol 1, 2
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
- Beyond Psychology
- Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
- Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1, 2
- The Hidden Splendor
- Beyond Enlightenment
- The New Dawn
- The Sword and The Lotus
- The Path of the Mystic
- Nansen: The Point of Departure
- Om Shantih Shantih Shantih
- Light on the Path