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Peter Baksa

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Are You Still Renting Space in Plato's Cave?

Posted: 06/01/2012 1:00 pm

Last week we discussed the concept of god and how we may exist in a biocentric universe that contains many parallel universes. A perspective where material form and space is an accepted illusion and TOE (Theory of Everything) is being sought. The story I wrote and the thoughtful discussion that the article evoked from my readers made me think of Plato's Cave.

Plato realizes that the general run of humankind can have thoughts, communicate, interpret, etc., without any awareness of true form. The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this. Plato likens people as unaware/unschooled in the Theory of Forms. He compares them to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see. Like the reflections of light or photons perceived by our retina, the objects and surfaces we see as reality, the idea of happiness, all illusions and just like the prisoners in Plato's cave, we stand blind. So blind that we will stand in righteous indignation, rebelling against any data coming in from any other ego or channel that suggests that the shadows and echoes are just that.

Just like human beings living in the year 2012, the prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. When the prisoners would talk, what would they talk about? If an object -- a book -- is carried past behind them, and it casts a shadow on the wall, and a prisoner says "I see a book," what is he talking about?

When we look out at our reality and we think we see an opposing viewpoint that threatens our ego's existence, when we see another standing in the way of our success or our happiness, is this just like when the prisoner thinks he is talking about a book? He is talking about a shadow and echo but he uses the word "book" to describe his reality. We use the term G-d to describe an entity, a force that is all knowing and omnipotent. What if the term G-d is just like the shadow? What if our idea of happiness is merely an echo? If a prisoner says "That's a book," he thinks that the word "book" refers to the thing he is looking at. He is wrong... yes? It is only a shadow. To see the "real book" he would have to turn his head around and look at the puppeteer holding the "real book."

The general terminology used to describe physical objects are not the names of the physical objects that we can see. They are the names of things we cannot see. Things that we can only grasp with the mind. In fact, in Plato's cave when the prisoners are released they can turn their heads and see the real objects and realize their error. Plato overturns stones for us in his Republic and illustrates what is necessary to achieve this reflective state. But even without the suggested introspection and mindfulness it remains true that our very ability to think and speak depends on the forms (as shadows and echoes).

It is the forms (illusions) and the process of naming them that allow our language to have meaning. The prisoners may learn what a book is via their experience with shadows of books. However, they would be mistaken if they thought the word book refers to something they have seen. Just like the word honey has no true meaning until and after one tastes or "experiences" the flavor of honey. It is then the taste along with the word that make up the meaning of the word honey, but even this is a perception not a truth. We will continue to acquire concepts by our perceptual experience of physical objects. However, we, like the prisoners in Plato's cave, will be terribly mistaken if we think that the concepts that we are able to fully grasp are on the same level as the things we perceive as reality. Observe your thinking and be sure to evaluate this difference. Whatever we end up thinking becomes our reality. Believe it or not.

"The wound is the place where the Light enters you." -- Rumi

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Copyright 2011, 2012.

 
 
 

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