Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Allegory of the Cave

The Cave which is actually an Allegory referring to Human Nature begins by describing a Dark scene. A group of people have lived in a deep cave since birth, never seeing the Light of Day. These people are bound so that they cannot look to either side or behind them, but only straight ahead. Behind them is a partial wall, and behind the wall is a Fire. On top of the wall are various statues, which are manipulated by another group of unseen people, lying out of sight behind the partial wall. Because of the Fire, the statues cast shadows across the wall that the prisoners are facing. The prisoners watch the stories that these shadows play out, and because these shadows are all they ever get to see, they believe them to be the most real things in the world. When they talk to one another about “men”, “women”, “trees” or “horses”, they are referring to these shadows. One day a prisoner finds that he is freed from his bonds, and although he is scared he forces himself to turn around and see what is behind him. I consider this stage of the simile to correspond with the Masonic Virtue of Faith. Faith is what the Masonic candidate must have when he first knocks on the door of the Lodge without knowing what lies ahead of him.

After an initial period of pain and confusion because of direct exposure of his eyes to the Light of the Fire, the prisoner realizes that what he sees now are things more real than the shadows he has always taken for reality. He understands now how the Fire and the statues together cause the shadows, which are copies of these more real things. He has made contact with real things but as he walks past the Fire and towards the Cave entrance he is not aware that there are things of greater reality, a world beyond his cave. I consider this stage to correspond with the Masonic Virtue of Hope. Hope that the Fellow Craft who has witnessed some of the truths and lessons of Freemasonry will persevere and continue his path towards the East or the “Light”.

Next the prisoner forces himself to walk past the Fire and upwards towards the Greater Light at the mouth of the Cave. At first he is so dazzled by the Light up there that he can only look at the shadows cast by the Sun on the floor, than at the reflections in the water, then finally at the real objects – real trees, flowers and so on. He sees that these things are even more real than the statues were, and that those were only copies of these. He has now reached the cognitive stage of thought. Plato comments that it is the goal of Education to drag every Man as far out of the Cave as possible. “Education should not aim at putting knowledge into the Soul, but at turning the Soul toward right desires”. Once the prisoner has achieved Understanding he turns away from the Light to return to the Shadows to help the other prisoners. This in my opinion corresponds to the Masonic Virtue of Charity. Charity is what the Master Mason shows when he turns to help those behind him find their own path towards the Light.

by: Bro. Steven B. Vitale

1 comment:

San Diego Freemason said...

Hello Brothers,

I just started my own blog and I hope that you don't mind that I linked to your blog.