Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”

In order to understand such matters as the illusion of reality and what’s secretly going on in the world today, the easiest way is to look at Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. In this, the question is raised: Why do people think philosophy is bullshit? Or, in our case, Why do people believe reality is bullshit?

Now, imagine you are in a cave, with hands, feet and neck chained-up so you can’t turn your body at all. All you can see is the wall in front of you. You’re not alone though, there are others that have been chained-up next to you in the same way so all you can see is the wall in front of you.

You and the others have been chained and staring at this wall for your entire lives. And ever since you can remember, there have been shadows dancing and moving along the wall—made by some unknown beings behind you making shadow puppets using the light of a fire, while also making strange echo noises, but of course, you don’t know any of this.

The shadows and noises are all you or anyone else chained up has seen or heard all of your lives. They’re all you’ve ever known. They are your whole world. In fact, you’ve even gotten pretty good at understanding and figuring out the patterns in the shadow show, and everyone else in chains asks, “How did you know that was going to happen?”

You respond, “Because I pay attention.”

Now, you are known as the smartest in the cave and all those chained revere you. Until, one day someone comes to unchain you and drags your atrophied body out of the cave. You discover a new sense of heightened terror, not knowing who is dragging you or where.

As one last horrific finale, your eyes become blinded by a burning white light. Whatever idea you had of fear before—if there was any—burns to a crisp, light years beyond anything to joke about. You beg for your life; to be brought back into the cave; back to the familiar; back to the safety of the shadows, but you can’t move. You must accept this fear that you’ve allowed to take absolute control of yourself.

You are using your eyes for the very first time. After a few minutes, the burning sensation in your eyes seems to dissipate. Either that, or you start getting used to it and realize it’s not so bad. Especially when they start to focus from becoming accustomed to the light.

Yet, even when you are able to see everything in front of you, whatever fear had faded comes back as you worry that everything you’ve ever thought to be real, wasn’t real at all. You don’t want to believe this and want to go back.

Slowly, you notice more and more things, including the sun. You realize that it is the source of all the light, which allows you to see. Then, something ‘clicks’ in your brain: We can’t see without the sun. You realize that nothing in the cave was real. The fear you felt before was only an illusion. The revelation bears feelings of shame, foolishness, and stupidity, but it’s not your fault, not at all.

After a while, you become excited and you want to go back to the cave to tell everyone about everything you’ve discovered. But once this occurs, everyone that’s chained-up hears your words and believes you’ve gone bat-shit crazy.

“No, no, no,” you respond. “There’s real plants and trees, and they’re green!”

Some look at you dumbfounded, some with eyebrows raised, and the rest look as if they feel sorry for you. Then it’s made clear, when one asks, “What the hell is green?”

You look back at the wall but don’t see anything, so you squint as hard as you can, but still, nothing. Your eyes are used to sunlight and can’t see the shadows anymore.

A few of them begin snickering, and not long after all of them are laughing at you. They then all agree that wherever you went, nobody should ever go because it had made you crazy.

The thing is, you didn’t make-up or imagine the sun or green plants and trees, they were always there. The only way for them to make sense of it is to uncover it for themselves. You can’t force knowledge on to people who aren’t aware or aren’t ready to be aware of such things.

If you want to learn the true knowledge, be prepared for a difficult journey. You will make many mistakes and it’s OK, it’s all part of the process. But true knowledge must be attained the hard way, and you must accept the tragic fact that there are a lot of people who would rather not know.

Sources:

Allegory of the Cave, by Plato from The Republic, 380 BCE

http://www.philosophybro.com. Maranges, Tommy.2010-2019

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