Twenty-four centuries ago, Plato, one of history’s most famous philosophers, compared the life of individuals solely having opinions and no actual knowledge. In Allegory of the Cave, there are three prisoners tied to a rock that can only look at a stone wall. Behind them is a fire that casts shadows of figures moving onto that stone wall. One day, one of the prisoners escapes and explores outside of the cave. This leads him to new experiences which formulate a new reality apart from the isolation he once knew in the cave.
He then goes back to the cave to tell the other prisoners about his new experiences. Once the others hear what he says, they do not believe him and revolt. Essentially, Plato is trying to convey an allegory about staying in one’s mental cave. People imprisoned in this symbolic cave believe only in what they see or hear. However, when these people leave this cave, they gain knowledge and enlightenment. Everyone has a personal cave which is comfortable and can lead to unintentional ignorance. One needs to leave this cave to reach enlightenment. Through the ideas of Plato, Bohm, and Hiner, getting out of one’s cave and reaching enlightenment is a complete comprehension of an individual’s realm of thought and of the physical world.
Enlightenment is defined differently by writers, philosophers, even by misalliance people on the street. The term enlightenment has been around for centuries and to me, enlightenment is defined as a personal understanding of one’s self and others around them. Being enlightened is to be free of one’s inner demons influence and, as a consequence, to experience happiness and harmony with the world. In some religions, enlightenment is the end goal of one’s existence.
Religious definitions of enlightenment vary by denomination and traditions. In Buddhism, it is said one reaches enlightenment by taking the middle way, which is a part of the eightfold path that leads to liberation of the soul. Then in Hinduism, enlightenment is called the Devine which is when one reaches enlightenment and their individual soul examines the truth of all beings though the Brahman. As a way for me to expel myself from one of my personal caves, I realize the importance of knowing different cultures. I came from a very small town in Indiana and went to a predominantly white high school.
Because of this, it is a goal of mine to free myself of prejudice thoughts and be friends with all different types of backgrounds. Although the Buddhist and Hindu religion offer compelling definitions of paths to enlightenment, in order for me to leave my personal cave, I believe I need to be open-minded, accepting of all backgrounds, and put ego aside when dealing with people. This would eventually aid me in my unique journey towards becoming an individual who is more in tune with their mental processes and the world around them.
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is an example of a story that lets the reader better understand the process of enlightenment. The readers must fully comprehend the allegory to understand what Plato is conveying. The cave itself represents society. The prisoners living in the cave, fixed in the same place, with their necks and legs fettered, able to only see in front of them, represent ignorant people in society (Plato 1). They believe the truth is the shadows that they see until one of them escapes and goes outside the cave to see the sun, filling his eyes (Plato 20). This is a metaphor for seeing the light, which represents knowledge.
He is leaving his cave of ignorance and seeing the absolute truth about the world. However, when the man goes back to the cave, his eyes- coming suddenly out of the sun like that- be filled with darkness (Plato 32). Therefore, the man has a new perspective of the world that is different from his previous one of ignorance in the cave. So, Plato’s definition of enlightenment is through advancing the forms of human perception. Through this, a person must know and understand the Absolute Truth. Also, enlightened people must share their knowledge with less enlightened people.
Hence the return of the man to the cave to tell the others in the cave of his experience. Plato’s definition of enlightenment is on a philosophical level. Plato’s definition compares to my definition by being open-minded. Both definitions put an individual through new challenges in life and to stay out of this mental cave they need to be open-minded. However, knowing the Absolute Truth is a common theme in other philosophers’ and writers’ definition of enlightenment.