Plato’s allegory has us contemplate ourselves as prisoners chained in darkness from birth, only related to the shadows cast of one another, removed from eachothers’ essence, unable to inhabit our own essence for reasons that cannot be named or put into words. We hold onto the life boats of habit, routine, self important busyness and honors, problems and crises, etc. that give us a purpose and an identity. We wait for a sign, some direction to something more, of course with assurances of our safe arrival. An escort would be nice.
When Plato’s prisoner leaves the cave his sensorium is overwhelmed, in great distress and disorganized, so much so that he would be distrusting of his experience and compelled to quickly return to the familiar cave. Plato imagines the prisoner “reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he is forced into the presence of the sun himself”, literally holding him against his will that seeks to return to his familiar cave, at least until he is restored in the light.
“He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day? Certainly. Last of all he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.”1
Plato imagines the prisoner returning to release the others only to be met with doubt and murderous rage against anyone that would try to convince them to go to the upper world. Why? Because they have no way, no model of consciously understanding the temporary blindness of the returned prisoner, of suffering, as anything but punishment. This is the archetype of the “negative mother,” the wailing of the unconscious feminine. This is patriarchal bondage to the shadow over light, to punishment over forgiveness, to slavery mentality over freedom, to sentimentality over love, to egoic pride over love.
- Plato. The Republic: Color Illustrated, Formatted for E-Readers (Unabridged Version) (Kindle Locations 4533-4539). Classic Books Publisher. Kindle Edition