"The allegory describes a group of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to ascribe forms to these shadows. (Plato called this state of mind ‘eikasia’. An ‘eikon’ is an image or likeness. Plato uses the word in connection with the lowest level of understanding. The prisoners take the images at face value.)
One of the prisoners manages to break free. The experience is uncomfortable. The prisoner is torn between looking beyond the fire and returning to the comfort of the shadows projected against the back wall. The journey out of the cave is not without its hardships. Once outside he finds it difficult to focus. It takes time but eventually he is able to see things as they actually are. For the first time in his life he realises that what he has seen up to that point is not reality but merely poorly cast shadows. Much of what he has understood as being reality is really folly. The conversations he had had with his fellow prisoners were meaningless nonsense, guesswork at what the shadows could be.
The prisoner feels compelled to return and tell his fellow prisoners what he has seen. However, on his return he finds it difficult to adjust to the darkness. The poorly lit shadows appear worse than before. His fellow prisoners laugh at him. They point out that his journey beyond the fire has in effect made his ability to see the shadows worse. They have no incentive to escape and see the outside world for themselves. The prisoners, ignorant of the world behind them, would see the freed man with his corrupted eyes and be afraid of anything but what they already know. Philosophers analyzing the allegory argue that the prisoners would ironically find the freed man stupid due to the current state of his eyes and temporarily not being able to see the shadows which are the world to the prisoners."
I thought this topic would be perfect for a first post because I feel like a huge part in my journey has been waking up and seeing the world we live in from the side. The prisoners in Plato's cave spent every second of their lives in the confinement of that cave, their field of "view" was narrowed to a wall and all they saw were the shadows on that wall. They didn't know any better, to them that was what the world was, what it looked like and there wasn't anything beyond it. Now lets take a look at us...sure we might not be chained and held prisoner in the literal sense, but societal views, beliefs, rules, laws, have greatly constricted how we experience life and have completely hid away knowledge about the true nature of reality. Once I began watching documentaries and reading books and articles that challenged our societal understandings, I began to step out of the cave. I was so curious and hungry for more, I kept reading and reading, listening and listening. In the beginning it was too much for me, I didn't want to believe in the information that was seeping into my nearly set mind, eventually I decided that "ignorance is bliss" and set it all aside. I didn't want to alienate myself from the people around me, and besides, who knew if the information that I was reading/listening to was even valid? That was my biggest obstacle, trying to decide what the truth was. But some good advice changed my mind...
I was talking to my boyfriend one day on the phone and told him that I didn't know what to believe in anymore, I was reading about alternative history, medicine, beliefs, and spirituality that to me felt much, much more pure than what I was continuously hit over the head with since I was a kid, but there seemed to be so many people arguing against it all. My boyfriend told me to tune out all the sceptics and to believe in what felt right to me. That's when I knew what beliefs I was going to adopt and what topics I was going to continue exploring. I believe that we have two layers: the shallow, society conditioned outer later and the natural, pure layer in the very core of our "selves" that no conditioning can puncture or effect, that's where we feel the truth even if we don't know what the truth is. It was with that inherited, natural inner wisdom that I knew exactly what was right.
"For the first time in his life he realises that what he has seen up to that point is not reality but merely poorly cast shadows. Much of what he has understood as being reality is really folly. The conversations he had had with his fellow prisoners were meaningless nonsense, guesswork at what the shadows could be." This perfectly describes what I'm currently going through. Maybe I haven't yet stood directly under the entirety of this "light", but I do feel like I've "seen" enough of it to feel a space between our society and myself. I was afraid that I was going to feel alienated, but instead I feel grateful.