Shadows & Reflections


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In his Allegory of the Cave Plato likens material reality to shadows cast on a cave wall by an unperceived fire implying that most of us are ignorant both of our true nature and the source of the light. The allegory would hold true equally had he described images reflected in a pond. In fact, in an earlier book he speaks of the relationship of shadow and reflection to the “real” world. Plato’s allegory suggests that if those viewing the shadows were to break their shackles and turn away from what they have always perceived as “real,” that they would see the fire, become accustomed to its brightness, discover the cave, and eventually see beyond to the cave’s mouth which leads to Ultimate Reality.

The shackles which hold us facing the cave wall may be defined as Ego. Men and women who succeed in breaking free and glimpsing the path to ultimate reality tend to be viewed by their shackled brothers and sisters as either inspired or insane. Either we pity, kill, or incarcerate them; or do the reverse and hold them in such high esteem that we translate their teachings into the language of our shadow world, labeling these teachings as Koran, Bible, Vedas, Tao Te Ching. We think ourselves most wise for having done this. But rarely do we find the courage to turn around.

In Book 6 of the Republic Plato compared Shadows and Reflections to the “real” world. View these images as a reminder that what we take to be “real” is only an agreed upon interpretation of an agreed upon reality.