Plato’s Cave

Life’s a journey, a battle, a story… I’m musing on the Greek philosopher Plato’s 2,400 year-old allegory of the cave…

Cave: A group of prisoners are chained in a cave; all they can see is a wall in front of them. Behind them there’s a fire. People and puppets pass by the fire, casting their shadows on the wall. All that the prisoners can see are those shadows.

Escape: One day a prisoner frees himself and escapes from the cave. At first, the sun’s too bright; he can’t see anything. His eyes adjust, he sees a new reality, a world of colour… sky, animals, birds, flowers, people…

Return: He returns to the cave, telling everyone what he’s seen. No one believes him. His eyes had adjusted to the sun; now he can’t see the shadows clearly. He tries to free the other prisoners. They tell him he’s crazy, and violently resist…

Musing…

Cave: Recently we’ve questioned political reality, truth… shadows… in Britain, the USA, Russia. Our experiences of COVID… homeless refugees… we question the shadowy values of materialism and consumerism… we’ve seen the chains and shadows of mental ill health… In churches we may question whether we’re only seeing shadows…

Escape: From a restricted vision of shadows we can discover bright sunlight… a rainbow of colours … Listening to friends describing changed lives… those who’ve been through the AA 12 step programme… those who’ve experienced healing from their physical and mental shadows… spiritual conversion…

Return: Those who have only lived in their cave are secure with their reality; they’ve experienced nothing else; anything outside their reality is not only unreal but it’s an unsettling threat.

Musing… from my Christian perspective…

St Paul, using a slightly different image: ‘Now we see in a cloudy mirror, but then we shall see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely…’

Jesus, with clarity: ‘I am the Light… I am the Truth…’

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