Plato conveys his deepest known truths in the Myth of the Cave. The illusions of life in a physical world are shown through this allegory, along with insight on becoming liberated from these chains of beliefs. How many of us go through life unaware of our truest self, oblivious to the abundance of Goodness around us, and awaiting within? Do many of us mistake falseness for reality? Plato asks that we visualize prisoners chained, facing only a wall, unable to see real light, only shadows, knowing nothing of themselves, or each other. Echoes and shadows are mistaken for reality. When one prisoner is finally unchained they look to the source of the shadows, finding it too bright for unaccustomed eyes. A long and rugged ascent is begun, leading eventually to the birthright of the soul as it is finally able to see the eternal sun.
The sun in the Myth of the Cave symbolizes the Good. Plato’s theory is that the whole of Reality is founded upon the Good. The Good is Reality’s source of being, and all knowledge is ultimately knowledge of the Good in Plato’s eyes. “And so with the objects of knowledge: these derive from the Good not only their power of being known, but their very being and reality; and Goodness is not the same thing as being, but even beyond being, surpassing it in dignity and power”. If we dig into these words we see that any creation at all must come from the Good; it takes knowledge to identify an object; the awareness that is a must to know our own beingness must come from the source of all Reality. Xenophanes of Colophon is quoted for stating, “He is all sight, all mind, all ear.” This description of God can be perceived as the awareness that is listening, seeing, and thinking is God. Or you can imagine one infinite being that is only seeing, thinking, and listening, but don’t we consistently find that God is so much more? If all knowledge is ultimately knowledge of the Good, than all contains some Good, because everything alive has some knowledge within its being. A person may not be considered knowledgeable for putting a sock on their foot, but they still know that the sock belongs on a foot, this takes a knowing that is knowledge. Where consciousness lies, knowledge does too.
In Xenophanes view, God cannot be modelled after humans, “There is one God, greatest among gods and men, neither in shape nor in thought like unto mortals…” Can’t humans be modeled after God? This quote of Xenophanes is very similar in comparison to Plato’s description of Goodness- surpassing being in dignity and power, and by being beyond being. The unique essence of each manifested human allows us to perceive and describe the sameness in everything quite differently. I enjoy studying the words of Paramahansa Yogananda, he describes the various takes on religion and God in comparison to many blind kids washing an elephant. They are each scrubbing a specific part of the elephant; insistent that the part of the elephant that they themselves are feeling, while washing, must be the whole elephant; along with believing they know the totality of the elephant; they constantly argue over what the elephant is really like. Many religions worships only certain aspects of God. God is formless and also all forms. Maybe it is in the best interest of humanity to open their hearts and minds to the possibility of expanding personal beliefs to encompass all.
Plato believes this Goodness to be more real than the physical objects we gaze upon daily with our physical eyes. First, let us examine the realness and cycle of the physical nature of objects. “For all things come from the earth, and all things end up by becoming the earth.” Xenophanes is speaking from a manifested, physical point of view here. As we watch life evolve physically we see little seedlings poking out of the ground determined to grow as big, and as strong, as possible. They eventually peak to their individual potential and then proceed into the physical decline as life force slowly leaves the tree, the physicalness of the tree begins to rot; dissolving back into the ground to eventually partake in a new life form once more. This cycle continues through all of nature. Our bones and bodies are made of elements and minerals from the earth herself. When born a human baby is 75% water, by the time adulthood is reached the body will be around 55-60% water. Where does it go? Well, back into Nature is the only place for it to go. And we all know our bones’ eventual destination. They also provide nutrients to new life, and, or become new life, physically speaking. So what is it that keeps these continuous cycles going? What is behind this beautiful evolution of Life? Are we able to perceive it? Let us look to Plato’s all knowledge is recollection theory. “All truth comes from within-from the Soul. One’s immortal soul is born with the Truth, having beheld the Forms in the purity before its embodiment. Birth, or the embodiment of the Soul, is so traumatic that one forgets what one knows and must spend the rest of life plumbing the depths of the Soul to recover what one already knows.” These forms he speaks of are hard-wired into everything, they are Universal, and eternal. Forms exist in the Divine Realm and are manifested outward. Could this be to experience themselves? These eternal Truths that are the source of all reality in Plato’s theory, this Goodness, is the perfect energy to be motivating and driving the cycles of existence; cursing through and behind nature, all at the same time. If we shut our eyes and feel what lies beyond the pulsating blood pumping through our bodies; feel the energy that gives the heart its beating rhythm; and tune into our deepest yearnings; we allow the Soul to reveal Itself, while it expands back to its more real Self. There are things which we can see, and things which we can’t see, but we know we feel. We feel love, and see the results of love, but do we see Love itself? The physical world is easy to see with the eyes of the body. Is what is easy always what is right? The metaphysical world is a larger reality, and felt, unconsciously, or consciously. The view of both philosophers mentioned in this paper can appear different and conflicting at times, however, together they can encompass a larger reality when the perceiver is able to leave the cave and view the light of the Sun.