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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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Not only were there souls going into the upper and lower regions, but there were souls coming out of the openings of both heaven and earth. As Er stood by he heard some of the stories of the arriving souls, of those who were about to be reincarnated. By listening to them and by following them on their journey to the land of Necessity where they would choose their next lives, Er learned about the mysteries of immortality.

Those dusty and squalid souls coming out of the earth wailed about their horrible experiences. Those clean and pure souls coming from heaven related beauty and visions of beauty beyond words. However, at the mouth of the earthen arrival gate there were souls wailing to be released. They were hurled back into the tortures of the underworld. These souls were the incurably wicked whose great crimes against humanity may never be paid, their souls never purged.

All souls that had emerged from the openings, both the punished and the rewarded, gladly assembled in a meadow waiting for their next assignment on earth. They were, no doubt, ready for a change because they had been away from life for a thousand years and had experienced pleasure or pain ten times as strong as their past-life deeds had brought to others.

After seven days in the meadow the group destined for rebirth journeyed to the spindle of Necessity. Here the three Fates (past, present, and future) distributed lots to the souls soon to be mortals. The lots designated the order in which the souls would choose their next lives. Then the Fates flung the patterns of lives, much more numerous than the assembled souls, onto the ground. Every sort of animal and human life was represented, from tyrants to apes, from the average man to eagles.



Each soul got to choose his future existence. The one who had drawn the first lot chose to be a tyrant. He was an ignorant soul who, having lived all these centuries in heaven, wanted to taste power and luxury. But he soon discovered that he would engage in such despicable deeds as eating his own children. Another soul chose to be a swan because he was still feeling the pains of human life. And on and on. Some souls chose wisely, others foolishly, but in most cases the souls made their choices on the basis of their past lives. Those who had led a life of justice and knowledge were best equipped to choose a happy life to come.

This, then, is the moral of Socrates' tales: By pursuing a life of wisdom, you ensure your chances of living harmoniously and happily forever. The pleasures of the body come and go, but wisdom is eternal and is eternally beneficial.

Another moral is that there is no one to blame but yourself for the life you lead. Each person is responsible for the course of his life. People who have knowledge realize this universal law and know that justice is both its own reward and the blessing of the ages.

The Myth of Er reveals Socrates' view that people are fully responsible for the lives they lead and that not to accept the responsibility for learning more about such eternal ideas as the principle of justice and the path of human excellence is ignorance.

Justice has been revealed and rewarded. The Socratic poem has been told. And The Republic is ended.

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The Republic by Plato - Barron's Booknotes
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