Escape from Plato’s Cave
If you make people think they think, they will love you. If you make them think, they may hate you.
I LOVE TO THINK CRITICALLY. To be found wanting, and sometimes completely wrong, about what I have believed, especially for years. It helps to distance my sense of identity from my intellect . . . and my human ego, which has been rather large, and troublesome at times. I have a good mind and I enjoy using it correctly. It’s given me much pleasure and service. But I am not my mind.
I invite you to think with me for the length of this post about the current state of humanity . . . honestly . . . and about the way we’ve been going about creating our world. I will use Plato’s allegory of the Cave in order to demystify where we have been in our awareness up until today, when we appear to be emerging from our hypnotic sleep. I hope that you will enjoy the thinking process.
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MOST OF WHAT WE HAVE CREATED in our world has been patterned after reflections from out of the past cast upon our clouded mental lens and filed away in our subconscious mind. Much of it is reflected in the opaque substance of the veil separating human consciousness from Divine Consciousness, blocking inspiration from within.
For example, here in the USA we love our freedom and our democracy that grants us that freedom . . . and we have historically sought to destroy (as in kill) anyone who threatens, or whom we think threatens, that freedom or our democracy. It’s just the way we’ve always done it. History doesn’t repeat itself. We keep reenacting history and stuffing the expansive nature of life into historical molds. Uranda spoke to this “mould” acceptance several decades ago:
Human beings have banded together to accept a mould into which all shall be crowded to smother a consciousness of those powerful inner drives. Society has tried to crowd the individual into an arbitrary mould; and to whatever degree one accepts that mould, he is “good.” To whatever degree one resists that, he is “bad.” Doing bad things is almost always the result of a misapplication of the principles of living in the early life of the individual, which has set up a pattern of internal conflict. We need to emerge out of the prison that has been established by these arbitrary moulds. In the world of humanity it is conceived that the only safe place for any good person is in “prison.”
The Master Jesus saw this condition in his day and sought to free the people from their culture of hate for the suppressive and persecuting Romans. His teaching to “Love your enemies; do good to those that hate you” did nothing for his popularity. On the contrary, he was hated by the Scribes and Pharisees who kept the faithful imprisoned by the Law of Moses: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you teach the Law of Moses, but you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” We have our own Scribes and Pharisees today continuing to keep the faithful from entering the kingdom of heaven before death takes them Home, and refraining from entering themselves. Religion is big business — as are wars . . . and the politics of both.
WARS CAST THEIR SHADOWS OF FEAR AND HATRED
As my friend on the other side of the pond reminded me, the English still hate and fear the “Hun”— a derogatory term for the Germans in WWI who crushed neutral nations and imposed brutal rule upon conquered peoples. More recently the British suffered the destruction of much of England by Hitler’s German forces. Hatred and fear of tyrants in neighboring countries continue to ignite and fuel confrontations and wars. The past tends to condition our perception and the way we handle our affairs in the present, as well as our expectancy of the future, clouding inspired vision of new possibilities and ways forward without fear and hatred, and absolutely without war.
The saving and redeeming grace is that what separates also connects. Cleaning up our mental lens, both conscious and subconscious . . . and purifying the veil of our hearts connecting us with the Divine . . . is the only way to see what IS rather than what we have been taught and deeply programmed to BELIEVE. Love alone casts out fear and purifies the heart.
Our future arises from out of what we do now; the seeds we plant in the soil of the present moment. We chose to pattern it after the way things have always been. It’s time we let go of the past entirely . . . and let the dead bury the dead.
Waking up out of our hypnotic stupor, we may be bedazzled by the beauty that’s always been there under our noses, so-to-speak, but covered over by our dark projections.
The following story came to me today as I read from blogs that I follow. I won’t reveal whose blog this came from so as not to arouse any bias that might get in the way of seeing and realizing what is being implied by this allegory. Suffice it to say he’s a very reliable and trustworthy blogger. It’s an old story that still holds sway in today’s world. It demonstrates, for one thing, the wise saw that says it’s easier to fool people than to convince them they’ve been fooled. Here’s the story.
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About 2,400 years ago, the Athenian philosopher Plato (student of Socrates, mentor of Aristotle) described the Allegory of the Cave, writing while using the voice of his martyred mentor Socrates. Socrates is most famous for his powerful logical approach for avoiding hubris, beginning all philosophical and logical quests for truth with the position that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing”.
In his political masterwork “The Republic”, Plato uses the Allegory of the Cave to justify his core political thesis that the ideal ruler is the “Philosopher King”, essentially a wise philosopher-dictator who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are collectively wise enough to choose a good master. Modern readers can immediately detect the conflict of interest which lies at the heart of this Platonic ideal, that being that Plato (and by inference Socrates) are basically nominating themselves as authoritarian rulers over Athens. Personally, I find the logic that the Cave allegory justifies the philosopher-dictator as the ideal leader both a bit contrived and circular. However, I suggest that the Allegory of the Cave is a profound and immortal insight into a fundamental aspect of human society which is at the center of the observations of both 20th century political philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor Hannah Arendt as well as her 21st century intellectual successor Dr. Mattias Desmet.
The Cave is essentially a metaphorical thought experiment which uses a literary device similar to those employed in Aesop’s Fables, in which stories of talking animals are used to bypass the human mental defense mechanisms that can make it so hard for each of us to accept observations and critiques concerning fundamental behaviors. The Cave relates a fundamental, prototypic human myth. It tells the story of the inevitable coupling of human discovery with the tribal rejection which all true innovative pioneers, all dissenters, all paradigm shifters know far too well.
The setting for the Allegory of the Cave is a hypothetical dark cavern inhabited by a group of prisoners who are all bound hand and foot facing the same wall. The prisoners have been there since birth; they have grown up together, and this is the only reality that they know. Behind them is a burning fire maintained by the rulers of the cave. The rulers have different objects and puppets which they hold up so that the prisoners can see the shadows cast by the objects as they interrupt the light of the fire, and the rulers make sounds and generate echoes for the prisoners to hear. These rulers of the cave are the puppet masters, able to control the reality which the prisoners are able to experience. As these shadows and sounds are all that the prisoners have experienced since birth, they do not question and do not know anything different from this shadow reality. They think that this is what life is, a reality of shadow, sound and echo.
The prisoners compose and share names for the shadows, develop competitions to determine who is best able to guess which shadow will turn up next, and give each other awards and praise for the ones with the most accurate predictions. From their standpoint, this is life.
One day, one of the prisoners gets loose. His chains break, and in a confused state he stands for the first time, looks around, and sees the fire. Lying on the ground next to the fire he sees the puppets and objects which correspond to the shadows on the wall. In a great leap of insight, he concludes that the shadows came from these objects, and that the puppets and fire represent a greater reality than that which he had previously known.
Feeling empowered and energized like never before, he begins to explore the cave, finds his way to the entrance, and leaves the shadowy fire-lit confines. The bright sun burns his eyes causing great pain, so he shields them with his hands. Gradually his eyes adjust to this new environment. He drops his hands and opens his eyes fully, seeing for the first time the greater world outside the cave. He sees color, sun, trees, animals, grass, mountains, and has yet another epiphany that he has become able to see the true nature of the world for the first time. The shadows had been mere surrogates of this greater truth. There was much more to life than he had ever imagined. Filled with joy over this new experience, he feels a wave of gratitude and awe as awareness dawns that he has become able to directly perceive the true nature of the real world.
Then he remembers his fellow prisoners, the people he had shared his entire life with. He pities them for being trapped in their limited understanding of reality, for their ignorance of the larger real truth which they are neither able to experience nor perceive. Overwhelmed with waves of pity, empathy, and anger at the puppet masters who have imprisoned and manipulated the reality of those that he has grown up and spent his entire life with, he returns to the cave determined to share what he has learned and help the prisoners see the larger reality, and to help free them from their bondage by the puppet masters.
The freed prisoner returns to the cave and his friends, hoping to enlighten and free them from their chains. But they cannot understand what he is saying and trying to do. He tries to explain the greater reality that he has seen and experienced, but they cannot even begin to understand what he is trying to describe. Imprisonment in the cave is the only reality they have ever known, and they cannot understand anything else. They notice that the eyes of the freed prisoner have changed due to exposure to the sun, and that he now has trouble seeing, naming and interpreting the shadows. They laugh at him, and all concerned agree that leaving the cave is a waste of time. They then threaten to kill both the escaped prisoner as well as anyone else who dares to break their bonds and leave the cave.
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Human beings defend their beliefs, often with their life blood . . . and with the life blood of their fellow man. We as a race have yet to unshackle ourselves and come out of Plato’s cave? We are still held prisoners of our past . . . and we appear to feel safe and comfortable in our state of deception . . . too comfortable. Thankfully, some of us have felt uncomfortable with our comfort, as many have awakened . . . or been awakened by one global crisis or another, and the politics thereof . . . and masses of protesters are begging and eager for the leaders of our nations to stop making war with one another . . . and to please do something about banning assault rifles on the streets again, as they were banned between 1994 and 2004, thank you then President Bill Clinton! And that’s all I’ve got to say about that!
Returning to the first line of this post, without critical thinking and extensive research, one is not likely to see the profiteering and manipulative politics churning beneath the deceiving surface play of events. One has to turn away from the news media and peer through the smoke screens to see the puppeteers controlling what we see and hear about what’s going on in the world . . . the cave wall. Then throw off the shackles and leave the cave, without taking up battle with the puppeteers. Bask in the sunlight and breathe the fresh air of the beautiful world of Mother Nature. As one enlightened soul commented on Facebook on the R.E.M song lyrics “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”. . .“Mostly I have such a deep appreciation of Life with all of its sides. Gratitude seems to give me a door to bring love to the scene.” Now that’s what’s real . . . and peacefully comforting. Until my next post,
Be love. Be loved.