Plato was a Greek philosopher, who along with Aristotle, is considered to have laid the foundations of Western Philosophy.
In his work, “Republic”, he writes about the famous “Allegory of the Cave.”
The Allegory begins with an imagination of a cave, where people have been imprisoned from birth.
>> These prisoners are chained so that their legs and necks are fixed, forcing them to gaze at the wall in front of them and not look around at the cave, each other, or themselves.
Behind the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway with a low wall…
… behind which people walk carrying objects or puppets “of men and other living things”.
The prisoners are only able to see the shadows cast upon the cave wall in front of them.
>> The sounds of the people talking echo off the walls, and the prisoners believe these sounds come from the shadows.
For the prisoners, the shadows are reality, because they have never seen anything else.
>> They do not realize that what they see are shadows of objects in front of a fire, much less that these objects are inspired by real things outside the cave.
The allegory then invites us to suppose that one prisoner is freed.
>> This “freed” prisoner would look around and see the fire.
The light would hurt his eyes and make it difficult for him to see the objects casting the shadows.
>> He would escape from this struggle by turning away to the things which he was able to look at…
… and these he would believe to be clearer than what was being shown to him.
Now suppose that someone should drag him…the steep way up, into the light of the sun.
>> The prisoner would be angry and in pain.
However, slowly, his eyes would adjust to the light of the sun.
>> First he sees only the shadows.
>> Gradually he sees the reflections of people and things in water and then later see the people and things themselves.
>> Eventually, he is able to look at the stars and moon at night until finally he can look upon the sun itself.
He would make an Upward movement – towards faith and trust!
The allegory goes on to say that the freed prisoner “would feel blessed for the change”, and pity the other prisoners…
… and would want to bring his fellow cave dwellers out of the cave and into the sunlight.
The returning prisoner, whose eyes have become accustomed to the sunlight, would be blind when he re-enters the cave…
… just as he was when he was first exposed to the sun.
The prisoners, inside however, would infer from the returning man’s blindness, that the journey out of the cave had harmed him and that they should not undertake a similar journey.
>> These chained prisoners would be “filled with anger and antagonism” and resist the truth!
In fact, if they, were able, would even reach out and kill anyone who attempted to take them out of the cave.
They would make a Downward movement – towards scepticism and unbelief!
This allegory very beautifully speaks of a similar situation in the Gospel of the Day…
… a man – who was imprisoned by blindness – “feeling blessed” in having encountered Jesus, the Sun
… other men – who remained chained in ignorance and darkness – “filled with anger and antagonism” – resisting the Truth!
Chapter 9 of the Gospel of St John is a story of “blindness” encountering Light- with contrasting effects:
>> A man who is “born blind”, touched by the Light of the World, experiences healing
>> Other people “remain blind”, by opposing the Light of the World, emitting hostility.
We thus see, in this long yet beautiful passage contrasting movements:
>> An Upward movement – towards faith and trust – of the man who was born blind
>> A Downward movement – towards scepticism and unbelief – of the people who clung to prejudices
1. The Upward movement – towards faith and trust – of the man who was born blind
Jesus declares that the blindness of the man was an occasion for “the glory of God to be revealed” (Jn 9: 3)
This revelation of the Glory of God comes about with Jesus doing a unique action…
… “spitting on the ground, making clay with the saliva and smearing the clay in the eyes” of the man born blind (Jn:6)
>> This action of the Son would remind us of the action done by His Father, who at the beginning of creation, would reveal His Glory, by “forming man out of the clay of the ground, and blowing in his nostrils, the breath of life!” (Gen2:7)
This act of the revelation of God would trigger the upward movement- of faith and trust- of the blind man…
a. Initially he on being asked about Jesus, he would say, “I don’t know” (Jn 9:12)
b. Then, he would say how Jesus is “a prophet” (Jn 9: 17)
c. Then, he would get defensive about Jesus and say that “if He is not from God, He would not be able to do anything” (Jn 9: 33)
d. Finally, after realising that Jesus is the Son of God, he would worship Him and say, “I do believe, Lord!” (Jn 9: 38)
2. A Downward movement – towards scepticism and unbelief – of the people who clung to prejudices
An act of goodness always gathers detractors and critics…
… and Jesus, the Perfection of Goodness greatly experienced it.
a. Initially, the Pharisees pointed to the violation of the Sabbath Law, to prove that He is not from God: “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath” (Jn 9: 16)
b. Then, they would question the parents of the man, because they thought, he had not been blind from birth: “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How does he now see?” (Jn 9: 19)
c. Then, they would defend their arguments basing on their loyalty to the authenticity of Moses, the law-giver: “We know that God spoke to Moses, but we do not know where this One is from” (Jn 9: 29)
d. Finally, they would engage into a direct dispute with the Lord Himself: “Surely, we are not also blind, are we?” (Jn 9: 40)
Jesus perfectly sums up…
>> The Upward Movement- towards faith and trust
>> The Downward Movement – towards scepticism and unbelief…
… by saying: ” I came into this world, for judgment, so that those who DO NOT SEE MIGHT SEE… and those WHO DO SEE MIGHT BECOME BLIND” (Jn 9: 39)
We need to ask ourselves:
“What is the direction of my Spiritual Life…
… is it having an Upward Movement, towards Faith and trust?
… or is it having a Downward Movement, towards, Scepticism and Unbelief?”
St Paul says, that we need to “live as children of Light, for Light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth” (Eph 5: 8-9)
The Lord, in our every day of life, uses a number of occasions – pleasant and unpleasant situations – to “reveal His glory”
>> Do we remain open to His Light in order to have an upward movement into deeper faith and trust?
>> Or do we get closed in darkness and thus make a downward movement into deeper scepticism and unbelief?
As in the “Allegory of the Cave”…
… let us not remain chained in ignorance and darkness – “filled with anger and antagonism” – resisting the Truth
>> Instead, allow ourselves to be led into the light and thus “feel blessed” in having encountered Jesus, the Sun!
God Bless! Live Jesus!