Plato's Dialectic
and Maharishi's
Transcendental Meditation

This web page is a student's tribute to the works of Jonathan Shear, PhD and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
not an official TM Organization web site
Dr. Shear's Google Scholar Profile currently shows 4656 Citations and Hirsch Index = 18

Dialectic Technique (DT),
as taught at Plato's Academy

428 - 427 BC

Transcendental Meditation, TM technique
as taught at
Maharishi University
1971 AD - present

Turning the mind in the opposite direction During the Transcendental Meditation technique, the mind turns inward, experiencing the source of thought, instead of outward, through the 5 senses.
Employing a different faculty Different areas of the brain are enlivened during the TM technique, including increased coherence between the left and right cerebral hemispheres.
Having different objects The mind uses a mantra, and various sutras, to transcend normal waking state of consciousness and experience Transcendental Consciousness
Producing a different kind of knowledge Regular practice of the TM and TM-Sidhis Program, produces higher states of consciousness, developing the state of enlightenment
Universal archetypes or "Forms"

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are used during the TM-Sidhis Program, to experience different innate structures of consciousness and natural law which comprise the universe

Pure Being Experience of pure Being
There is an absolute beauty and an absolute good, and of other things to which the term `many' is applied there is an absolute There are two aspects of life, the relative (always changing) and the absolute (ever the same).  During TM, the mind settles down to experience the field of non-change.
Allegory of The Cave   Glaucon Book VII
"And must there not be some art which will effect conversion in the easiest and quickest manner; not implanting the faculty of sight, for that exists already, but has been turned in the wrong direction, and is looking away from the truth?"
The TM technique is the easiest and quickest technique for the conversion into a more consciousness and intelligent person, because it is the most natural.
The surface aspects of life, which we see with our eyes, is mostly of what is always changing, rather than what is absolute.  During TM we close our eyes to experience Transcendental Consciousness. 
Attaining the Good Life in enlightenment is blissful, and reportedly quite good
"Then you see that this knowledge may be truly called necessary, necessitating as it clearly does the use of the pure intelligence in the attainment of pure truth?" During TM we experience the field of pure intelligence.
"In every man there is an eye of the soul which, when by other pursuits lost and dimmed, is by these purified and re-illumined; and is more precious far than ten thousand bodily eyes, for by it alone is truth seen. : The ability to experience the level of truth, with eyes closed, is the most valuable experience, and easily experienced through the TM technique
"And so with dialectic; when a person starts on the discovery of the absolute by the light of reason only, and without any assistance of sense, and perseveres until by pure intelligence he arrives at the perception of the absolute Good, he at last finds himself at the end of the intellectual world, as in the case of sight at the end of the visible.
Exactly, he said.
Then this is the progress which you call Dialectic?
During TM we experience the absolute without any assistance of the senses.  The eyes are closed, in a noiseless environment.

This developmental progress is what we call meditation for higher states of consciousness?

"Then dialectic, and dialectic alone, goes directly to the first principle and is the only science which does away with hypotheses in order to make her ground secure; the eye of the soul, which is literally buried in an outlandish slough, is by her gentle aid lifted upwards;" TM is the simplest and most natural of meditation techniques, allowing the awareness to go directly to the first principle.
"Dialectic, then, as you will agree, is the coping-stone of the sciences, and is set over them; no other science can be placed higher" Experience of pure consciousness is the coping-stone of all sciences. SCI provides principles which are seen in all other arts and sciences.

"Dear Glaucon, I said, you will not be able to follow me here, though I would do my best, and you should behold not an image only but the absolute truth, according to my notion.  hether what I told you would or would not have been a reality I cannot venture to say; but you would have seen something like reality; of that I am confident."

It is not possible to describe the experience of Transcendental Consciousness during meditation in words to another, though we would do our best.  The other person has to experience the absolute for themselves.  Otherwise it is just a notion.
It is like trying to describe the taste of an apple to someone who never has tasted one.  But the first taste is worth more than 1000 words.
(Glaucon) replied:
"But I must also remind you, that the power of dialectic alone can reveal this, and only to one who is a disciple of the previous sciences."
The power of transcending, through Transcendental Meditation, alone can reveal the experience of Transcendental Consciousness, the 4th major state of consciousness.  This experience is one of infinity, universality, and eternity.
"Practicing death"  (not literally) from Plato's story of Phaedo During the TM technique, for 20 minutes twice a day, our physiology is still.  Heart, pulse, and breath rate reach lower levels than even sleep.  This provides deep rest to the neuro-physiology, so one "comes back to life" with renewed energy and alertness.
Produced such outstanding thinkers as Aristotle, his pupil Alexander the Great, Democritus, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Parmenides, Xenophanes, Socrates, Plato, Speusippus, Xenocrates, Polemo, Crates, and Crantor

Produced such outstanding thinkers as John Hagelin, Tony Nader, Bevan Morris, Jonathan Shear, Deepak Chopra, and John Gray.

Maximum Coherence

Plato's philosophy as a whole is an attempt to analyze the significance to life and knowledge of the same transcendental field of consciousness that we can now experience for ourselves through the techniques of the Transcendental Meditation® program, and that we can now study objectively through the procedures of the Science of Creative Intelligence developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Plato SCI - Science of Creative Intelligence
1. (Unity) Plato's dialogues have provided the foundation for almost all subsequent philosophical investigations in the West. But some passages in his dialogues have proven very difficult to interpret. And there is no consensus as to what exactly his position on many key issues was, or whether he even maintained a consistent or constant position throughout his dialogues. The experiences and objectively validated results of the T.M. program, especially when organized according to the theoretical map of the states, structures and dynamics of consciousness by Maharishi in the Science of Creative Intelligence allow us to give a straightforward and literal interpretation of many of the most difficult and most important passages in Plato's dialogues.
2. (Epistemology) Plato distinguishes four stages of cognitive development, each with its own objects, types of knowledge and means of cognition. True knowledge and wisdom require transcending the realm of thought and logical mathematical analysis and gaining direct knowledge, described in experiential terms as "The Good" and in terms of structures of intelligence as "The Forms." As consciousness develops, it goes through phase transitions of increasing integration, and the knowledge that it is capable of comprehending becomes progressively more integrated and complete. Repeated and then stabilized experience of the transcendental source and structures of consciousness, results, according to Maharishi, in the fully integrated state of enlightenment characterized by true knowledge and wisdom.
3. (Methodology) We find four distinct descriptions of the process of gaining transcendental knowledge in Plato's works.
1) Question and answer method, in the Symposium;
2) Dialectic, in the Republic;
3) Practicing death, in the Phaedo; and
4) Repetition of a special Epados or word, in the Charmides.
Gaining this level of knowledge by means of these methods is repeatedly characterized as the main theme, the essential task and program of true philosophy.
The techniques of the T.M. program are easy, natural, require no special abilities, and allow ordinary people to gain repeatable experience of the transcendental source and structures of consciousness, quickly and repeatably. We can now gain experiences described by Plato by means of techniques fulfilling the logic described by him, and this allows us to give literal significance to the most important epistemological passages in his works.
4. (Self-Knowledge) Self-knowledge was central to Plato's conception of philosophy. Purification of the Self or soul was the prerequisite for gaining true knowledge. And Plato suggested that proper use of an Epados would produce that Self-knowledge which is the criterion for all knowledge. The techniques of the T.M. program allow one to experience the pure nature of the Self in the state of transcendental pure consciousness, and to experience it and its unmanifest structures as the basis of all of our articulated knowledge and experience in higher states of consciousness.
5. (Truth) In the absence of any method of gaining transcendental experiences for themselves, scholars have generally regarded Plato's descriptions of the transcendental source and structures of consciousness and the enormous bliss associated with these experiences as fanciful theoretical constructions and literary devices invented by Plato for various logical and pedagogical reasons.

SCI allows us to recognize Plato's work as reflecting the same transcendental field of life that we can now easily experience.

Book Review"The Inner Dimension: Philosophy of Enlightenment, Self Development and Spiritual Growth through the Ages" by Jonathan Shear, PhD

1997 Theory and Review
Responses to Authors

All through history experiences of deep structures of consciousness have been reported by some of the greatest thinkers and artists in each age. Despite their repeated occurrence, these reports have usually been discarded by the modern scientific tradition that focuses on experiences that are common. In contrast to this scientific view, the cultures of the East have emphasized them, and held them to be at the basis of their culture.

Jonathan Shear begins his work by focusing on how these experiences of the deep structures of consciousness are contained in Plato's Republic. For hundreds of years Plato's works have given direction to Western society. Despite the fact that his influence is profound, many of his statements remain unclear. When Plato talks about the highest form of knowledge, his universal archetypes or "Forms", he is speaking of a level that is poorly understood. Plato also discusses a means of gaining knowledge that is clearly different from the "dialogues" that comprise so much of his work. He describes this method of understanding to be comprised of:

a) turning the mind in the opposite direction
b) employing a different faculty
c) having different objects
d) producing a different kind of knowledge

This description of the dialectic is central to Plato's understanding of the world. Many of Plato's discussions of the Good and pure Being are based on these experiences in the dialectic.

 Modern scientists generally avoid discussions of subjective means of gaining knowledge because they consider them to be unreliable. However, all human knowledge is subjective because it exists inside our minds. Somewhere deep inside us are mental structures that govern reliable knowledge. By turning awareness inward through meditation techniques the ancients discovered a method to allow the excitations of the mind to settle down so they could see the silent structures of the mind. Once the excitations of thought settles, the seers could watch the first excitations of the mind begin to arise, and it was by probing these fine excitations that they mapped out the structures of the mind.

Plato is not the only thinker to describe these experiences, and Shear's book describes how experiences similar to Plato's dialectic appear in almost every culture. They are especially prevalent in the far East where meditative experiences are deliberately cultured by religious seekers. For example in the Vedic tradition, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras stand out as one of the primary textbooks on such experiences. Patanjali goes on to describe how there are threads of consciousness that can be developed by specific meditation practices. These threads, or sidhis, are designed to enliven all the different characteristics of mind and body. There are sidhis to develop the mind, the intellect, the heart, mind-body coordination, and to gain knowledge about the structure of the environment.

Know thyself was a refrain that was picked up by Descartes as well as by Hume and Kant. It has formed one of the central themes of western philosophy. Shear's work brings out and illuminates these different threads in philosophy. One of his contributions is to show how each of these thinkers were describing the same reality.

One of the theoretical backdrops that Shear's work arose from was his own personal experience. Shear learned the Transcendental Meditation technique, and directly experienced what these great thinkers had been describing in his own experience. On that basis he was able to integrate these different ideas in philosophy. For anyone who is interested in exploring the roots of modern philosophy this book is must reading.


Plato, The RepublicGlaucon 6, Glaucon 7 (Allegory of the Cave and description of dialectic)

"Maharishi, Plato and the TM-Sidhi Program on Innate Structures of Consciousness"
Vol. 12, No. 1, January 1981
Jonathan Shear, PhD

MetaphilosophyJShearDialecticTM.pdf  (Adobe PDF)


I. The Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) has been developed by Maharishi as an empirical discipline to study the various aspects of consciousness, both as it exists in itself and as it unfolds in thought and action.  Of particular interest to philosophy is its claim that there exists a systematic technology (embodied in the techniques of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) program) to explore the nature of the mind from its surface activity to its inner source, a technology which allows us, independently of all prior belief and expectation, first to discover and then to corroborate intersubjectively the existence of specific states, structures, and processes of consciousness. If this claim is true SCI offers philosophy the prospect of being able to evaluate major philosophical questions from an expanded base of empirical data.   This paper will examine some new empirical data produced by research on one of the advanced techniques of the TM program and analyze it in terms of its significance for the traditional philosophical question of the existence of innate structure of mind.

II. Twenty-three hundred years ago Plato articulated the first and most influential Western theory of innate knowledge.  He held that the mind has inborn knowledge of fundamental archetypes, the Forms.  According to Plato's theory we are born with this knowledge in a latent potential form; experience can activate these potentials; and it is the activation of these potentials which underlies all our subsequent knowledge.  Two major aspects of Plato's theory of Forms can readily be distinguished: (1) the existence of an innate, non-learned basis for linguistic competence and discursive knowledge, and (2) the existence of innate, non-learned archetypes or structures of consciousness which can be activated and experienced. Both of these aspects of Plato's theory have been influential throughout the history of Western philosophy and psychology.  Both have had modern proponents: Chomsky argue for something like (1) above, and Jung for (2).

Jonathan Shear, PhD
j s h e a r @ t m . org
Former email addresses:  j c s @ i n f i o n l i n e . n e t  and j s h e a r @ v c u . n e t

Dr. Shear's Google Scholar Profile currently shows 4656 Citations and Hirsch Index = 18

Jonathan Shear received a BA in Philosophy and Mathematics summa cum laude from Brandeis University, and was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, where he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy

While a Fulbright Scholar in Karl Popper’s Philosophy of Science Department at the London School of Economics, Dr. Shear became interested in Eastern accounts of mind not ordinarily discussed by Western philosophers and psychologists. This led to examination of how Eastern experiential procedures could provide an expanded empirical base for our Western theories of mind, knowledge and values, as well as regular practice of such procedures themselves. The significance of such procedures and the experiences they produce has remained the focus of Professor Shear's work for nearly forty years.

He is author of "The Inner Dimension: Philosophy and the Experience of Consciousness" (Peter Lang), coeditor of "The View from Within: First-Person Methodologies" (Imprint Academic), coeditor of "Models of the Self" (Imprint Academic), and editor of "Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem" (MIT). Professor Shear is also a founding Editor of the peer-reviewed multi-disciplinary Journal of Consciousness Studies.

He is an internationally known expert on meditation experiences, publishing and lecturing widely throughout India, China and the West.

Professor Shear is an Affiliated Associate Professor of philosophy at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he has taught Philosophy since 1987.  He was a founding faculty member of Maharishi University of Management from 1971 to 1986.


The Inner Dimension: Philosophy and the Experience of Consciousness, Shear, J. (1993)

The View from Within: First-person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness (Consciousness Studies) by Francisco J Varela Ph.D. and Jonathan Shear Ph.D. (May 1, 1999)

Models of the Self by Jonathan Shear Ph.D. and Shaun Gallagher (May 16, 2000)

Explaining Consciousness: the Hard Problem,editor (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997).

The Inner Dimension: Philosophy and the Experience of Consciousness(New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1990).

The Experience of Meditation: Experts Introduce the Major Systems, editor (Paragon House, 2006).

Articles and Book Chapters

“Converging on the Self: Western Philosophy, Eastern Meditation, Scientific Research,” in Looking Within: Essays on Self and Awareness, edited by Menon, Sinha and Sreekantan (Springer, in press).

“State-Enlivening and Practice-Makes-Perfect Approaches to Meditation,” in Biofeedback: A Clinical Journal, Summer 2011, V. 39, No. 2.

“Eastern Approaches to Altered States of Consciousness,” in Altering Consciousness: A Multidisciplinary Perspective, edited by Etzel Cardeña and Michael Winkleman (Praeger, in press).

“Meditation as First-Person Methodology: Real Promise—and Problems,” in Meditation: Neuroscientific Approaches and Philosophical Explanations (Springer, in press).

“Reply to Josipovic: Duality and non-duality in meditation research,” (co-author) in Consciousness and Cognition, V. 19, Issue 4, Dec. 2010.

“Focused Attention, Open Monitoring and Automatic Self-Transcending: Categories to Organize Meditations from Vedic, Buddhist and Chinese Traditions” (coauthor), in Consciousness and Cognition, V. 19, Issue 4, Dec. 2010.

“Spirituality, Ethics and Inner Awareness,” in Spirituality and Science of Consciousness (Kolkata, India: Vedanta Press – Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, in press).

"Reflections on Embodiment" (Bangalore, India: National Institute of Advanced Studies, in press).

"The Challenge of Success," in The Concept of Ultimate Reality (Pune, India: IFFGRPR, 2008).

"The Depths of Inner Awareness: Scientific Knowledge and Research Problems," in Consciousness: A Deeper Scientific Search (Kolkata, India: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2007).

"Eastern Methods of Investigating Consciousness," in The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness, edited by Max Velmans and Susan Schneider (Blackwell Publishing, 2007).

"Ethics, Meditation and the Development of Consciousness," in Understanding Consciousness: Recent Advances (Kolkata, India: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2006).

"Indian Traditions and the Emerging Science of Consciousness," in Life, Mind and Consciousness (Kolkata, India: Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, 2004).

"Mysticism and Scientific Naturalism," Sophia, V. 43, No. 1, May 2004, and reprinted in Traditions of Science: Cross-cultural Perspectives, Essays in Honour of Dr. B. B. Suggarayappa, edited by Purushottama Bilimoria and M. K. Sridhar (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, in press).

"Consciousness and Reality: The Paradox of Objective Knowledge," in Rabindranath Tagore: Universality and Tradition, edited by Patrick Colm Hogan, et. al. (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003).

"Morality in the Scientific Era: Inner Awareness and Dogma-Independent Values," in Thoughts on Synthesis of Science and Religion, edited by T.D. Singh and S. Bandopadhyay (Bhaktivedanta Press: Calcutta, 2001).

"Ethics and the Experience of Happiness," in Crossing Boundaries: Essays on the Ethical Status of Mysticism, edited by G. William Barnard and Jeffrey J. Kirpal (Seven Bridges Press/Chatham House, 2001).

"Experimental Studies of Meditation and Consciousness," inReligion and Psychology: Mapping the Terrain, edited by Diane Jonte-Pace and William Parsons (New York: Routledge, 2001).

"Pure Consciousness: Scientific Exploration of Meditation Techniques," (co-author), J. of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 6, No. 2-3, 1999 and reprinted in The View From Within: First-Person Approaches to the Study of Consciousness, coeditor (Lawrence, KS: Imprint Academic, 1999).

"Experiential Clarification of the Problem of Self," J. of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 4. No. 5/6, 1998, reprinted in Models of the Self, edited by Shawn Gallagher and Jonathen Shear (Exeter, UK: Imprint Academic, 1999) and reprinted in Toward a Science of Consciousness III, edited by A.W. Kaszniak, D.J. Chalmers and S.R. Hameroff (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1999).

"Back and forth with Huston Smith," Sufi, Autumn 1996.

"On a Culture-Independent Core Component of Self," East-West Encounters in Philosophy and Religion, edited by Ninian Smart and B. Srinivasa Murthy (Long Beach: Long Beach Publications, 1996).

"The Hard Problem: Closing the Empirical Gap," J. of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1996.

"Editor's Introduction," J. of Consciousness Studies special issue, "Explaining Consciousness: the Hard Problem," Vol. 2, No. 3, 1995.

"Mystical Knowledge?" Sufi, Autumn 1995.

"On Mystical Experiences as Empirical Support for the Perennial Philosophy," J. of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. LXII, No. 2, Summer 1994.

"Mystical Experience, Hermeneutics, and Rationality," International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. XXX, No. 4, December 1990.

"The Philosopher, the Yogi, and Enlightenment: Plato's Symposium and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras," Darshana International (International Philosophical Quarterly, India), Vol. XXX, No. 1, January 1990.

"Differential Effects of Relaxation Techniques on Trait Anxiety: A Meta-Analysis," J. of Clinical Psychology (co-author, Vol. 45, No. 6, November 1989).

"Plato, Piaget, and Maharishi on the Stages of Cognitive Development," in Piagetian Theory: Developmental Perspectives in Adult Development, Daniel W. Kee, Gerald I. Lubin, and Marie K. Paulsen, editors, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1984.

"The Experience of Pure Consciousness: A New Perspective for Theories of Self," Metaphilosophy, Vol. 14, No. 1, January 1983.

"The Universal Structures and Dynamics of Creativity," J. of Creative Behavior, Vol. 16, No. 3, Third Quarter, 1982.

"Maharishi, Plato and the TM-Sidhi Program on Innate Structures of Consciousness," Metaphilosophy, Vol. 12, No. 1, January 1981.

"The Conscious Source of Thought," J. of Creative Intelligence, Vol. 1, No. 1, January, 1972.