Did ancient philosophers have a method to contact the Spirit?

Did ancient philosophers have a method to align themselves with the Divine realms (or Spirit)?

From what we know about them, some of them certainly did. Part of this method consisted of studying the philosophical and poetic works of their forefathers. They assembled in Mystery Schools of old, where the spirit of the group took them to new levels of understanding by inspiration and, of course, exchanging their ideas about the Good, the Just and the Beautiful. Plato is well known for his use of his dialectical method.
This method (as used by Plato) presupposes certain basic insights into the nature of things, like the presence of subtle realms and orders of Gods, Heroes, and the like. Nowadays, it seems, large portions of inhabitants of the West seem to have lost these basic insights. But that is not the topic of this posting.

The Neo-Platonists combined Plato's teachings with elements of Aristotle's writings, like his work on logic. Proclus demonstrates the use of logic, and dialectical method, in combination with philosophical questions. Just study his tome "Commentary on the Parmenides" to find a rather lengthy example of this. He, like Plato, was very enamored by mathematics as a science and study of it as a first step to intellectual enlightenment.

So, philosophers of old had their ways and methods of reaching a deeper understanding of the world. Their knowledge and method was more of a philosophic-spiritual nature than directed to empiricism, but this is not to downgrade their insights. Their understanding of the essential unity of the world certainly seems larger to me than that of many of our contemporary philosophers.
Also, Pythagoras is said to cure depressions of his disciples through the use of music. He must have learned this either from someone else, or have discovered this method of curing himself, which likely involves empirical data, experience, and/or intuitive insights. His work on musical theory is well known, and involves mathematics as well as practical work on instruments.

Today, we have the advantage of the internet to exchange ideas. Imagine what possibilities this would have opened to them!

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Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on August 27, 2013 at 8:35am

There is no questioning that vibration is able to create phenomena and ancient Indian sages knew about it. The problem comes when such concepts are used to propagate falsehood. Just a couple of days back a senior member of the site in chat told me that he was able to reduce the agonizing pain of a kidney cancer patient by chanting a Sanskrit Vedic Mantra. I was naturally curious and asked him which mantra was it, to which he could not reply properly but finally was able to tell me a few words. What he described as Mantra, is a peace invocation from Brihakadaranya Upanishad, introducing the concept of Infinity:

purnam adah purnam idam

purnat purnam udacyate

purnasya purnam adaya

purnam evavashishyate

The full, that; the full, this.

From the full, the full arises.

Of the full, the full taken back,

the full alone remains.

This was the first time I had heard of this passage being used in healing. Most Hindu faith healers have never graduated to reading the Upanishads. And I told him so which upset him a little.

Vibrations are wave forms and are therefore subject to Doppler Effect, So irrespective of the language, a verse composed one or two thousand years ago cannot produce the same wave forms and therefore cannot result in the phenomena that it is supposed to do. It is for this reason that mantras do not work these days.

One of the great explorers of the powers of musical vibrations was a distinguished Indian classical musician Tansen in the court of great Mughal Emperor Akbar. Legend has it that he could light fires through Deepak Raga (Symphony) and bring rains through Malhar Raga. But historians claim that he spent all his time experimenting with Deepak raga and was successful in lighting fire only for a brief fleeting moment. He was never successful in bringing rain. Perhaps he was trying Doppler Effect by trial and error method. Those interested in Indian Classical Music can find many compositions on Malhar Raga, none of those will produce rain.

Music can soothe the nerves or excite them depending upon the composition and the psychological make up of a person. One person may get excited whereas another may find the same thing dull. I visit hospitals regularly working with cancer patients and believe that these studies are only marketing ploys with no therapeutic value. The real study will map the brain, find the areas which light up on scans related to a particular note, use standard deviation techniques etc.

Sure, the ancients had figured out a lot of things. It is we, caught in the past who are unable to take that knowledge forward.

Comment by Martin Euser on August 26, 2013 at 11:50pm

Research in hospitals has shown that patients feel better (and recover somewhat quicker, I believe) when  pleasant music is being played. I don't remember reading whether this was classical music or just popular music. Nowadays, people in hospitals can simply plug in an earphone and choose what they like to hear or see.

The power of sound or, more generally speaking, vibrations, can be enormous. One can kill or cure with these. And everything between that. From cosmic rays to microwaves to audible sound. The ancient Hindus knew about  Mantrika shakti, the power and effect of mantras, and vibration in general.

Comment by Capt. Anand Kumar on August 26, 2013 at 9:58pm

Music as a cure for depression is perhaps over rated. I myself once went into depression listening to Pathetique by Tchaikovsky. Though at other times I have enjoyed that piece.

Comment by Paige on August 26, 2013 at 11:17am

This was a great discussion question here! I am a musician who does suffer from depression and in my music classes Pythagoras was discussed. Basically just how music was math so I would be able to count out rhythms and see how to write out notes. However, until reading your post here Martin I am going to side with you here because it is like Pythagoras might have suffered from depression himself and then some great insight from the Divine could have captivated him with a beautiful gift, which had been the gift of interpreting music through sound as a form of self-healing for this particular ailment.  So, I had really enjoyed reading your post here! Cool! 

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