Socrates and the Shining Father
Dyḗus ph₂tḗr (or Dyeus pəter) ** is the god of the day-lit sky, reconstructed through comparative mythology and linguistics, and theorized to be the progenitor of the Indo-European sky gods and allfathers. The name Dyeus — from which many of the romance languages derive their word for “god,” such as the Latin “deus,” the Spanish “dios” and the French “dieu” — comes from a Proto-Indo-European root that means “to shine.” The name ph₂tḗr or pəter became the Latin “pater” and the Germanic “*fadēr,” and eventually the English word father.
The exact character and practice of the historical worship of the Dyeus pəter among the Proto-Indo-Europeans will always be a matter of speculation and academic debate (since they left no written records). There’s no point in trying to “imitate” the Proto-Indo-Europeans in the 21st Century or in saying we “know” exactly what they believed. What is useful is the broad theme, the connection, the repeated idea, the prevailing archetype of the patriarch in the sky and the light of his cosmic order.
This is a few steps beyond the 19th Century nerdgasm of connecting oneself to the “true” Aryans, which now more often than not attracts the low-energy ressentiment of men who desperately want to believe that a questionable connection to some ancient charioteering conquerors makes them somehow better than “others.” I’m going to skip past all of that. In fact, what I like about the Indo-European frame is that it is directly or indirectly connected to a much wider range of men and is conceptually accessible and relevant to all men.
For some time, I’ve been promoting a “solar” mindset.
I recently came across Plato’s “Analogy of the Sun,” which precedes his more famous “Allegory of the Cave” in The Republic. In Book VI, (507b–509c), after admitting that he could not explain the essence of goodness (or greatness), Socrates uses the sun as an analogy for “the child” of goodness.
Socrates argues that of all the senses, the only one which requires a third factor beyond stimulus and the organ to function is sight. We can touch and hear in darkness, but to see something right in front of our eyes, we still need light.
The sun creates light, and we can see the sun, but the sun is not light itself. Socrates explains that light and truth are like the sun, but not the sun. The sun is one step removed from something greater, some primary cause.
“Now, that which imparts truth to the known and the power of knowing to the knower is what I would have you term the idea of good, and this you will deem to be the cause of science, and of truth in so far as the latter becomes the subject of knowledge; beautiful too, as are both truth and knowledge, you will be right in esteeming this other nature as more beautiful than either; and, as in the previous instance, light and sight may be truly said to be like the sun, and yet not to be the sun, so in this other sphere, science and truth may be deemed to be like the good, but not the good; the good has a place of honor yet higher.”— Plato. The Republic
“You would say, would you not, that the sun is not only the author of visibility in all visible things, but of generation and nourishment and growth, though he himself is not generation?
In like manner the good may be said to be not only the author of knowledge to all things known, but of their being and essence, and yet the good is not essence, but far exceeds essence in dignity and power.”— Plato. The Republic
As mentioned earlier, Dyeus Pəter is the god of the day-lit sky, but not exactly the sun. Maybe he was more like Zeus or Odin or he may possibly have been more abstract like Uranus.
What is interesting to me is the idea of a paternal actor or force that makes growth and generation and light and knowledge and higher all reason possible.
Gods and heroes are ideals for men to imitate.
We may never know the thing beyond the sun — the cause of knowledge and being and forms — but why would we not strive to imitate this theory of goodness as explained by Socrates in Plato’s “Analogy of the Sun?”
Be not generation, but the cause that makes generation and nourishment and growth possible.
Be not knowledge, but a force of revelation.
** There are a variety of spellings in the source material. Dyḗus ph₂tḗr is the one used on Wikipedia. For the rest of this piece, I’ll use a simplified Dyeus pəter, as the h₂ is more or less a schwa — the sound of the letter “a” in the word “about.” As an English speaker, when I see a “ph” I want to make an “f” sound as in “phone” and I’ve made that mistake in speaking about Dyeus Pəter in the past out of habit.