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A spiritual lesson from Plato’s allegory

From the June 2024 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Originally published in Spanish

While reading the allegory of the Greek philosopher Plato, born about 400 years before the Christian Era, I was able to draw parallels between it and what Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, discovered about God and spiritual man in His image.

In the allegory, found in his influential work The Republic, Plato imagines some prisoners in a cave, who have lived there all their lives. Chained and facing a blank wall, they have never seen the sun. Behind them is a bonfire, and as Shawn Eyer’s translation of the allegory puts it, “between this fire and the captives, a low partition is erected along a path, something like puppeteers use to conceal themselves during their shows. . . . [There are] other people carrying objects back and forth along the partition, things of every kind: images of people and animals, carved in stone and wood and other materials.” These objects cast shadows on the wall in front of the prisoners, who believe they are actual things, not just shadows. 

One of the prisoners, however, is set free. Amazed, he sees the outside world for the first time: landscapes, trees, and animals—living and moving! Vibrant lights, colors, and sounds. He is so impressed by what he sees that he goes back to tell the others what the world is really like. But remarkably, no one believes him. Clinging to a false concept of their particular “world,” imprisoned by their ignorance, these men have for so long accepted limited shadows as their reality, that when someone dares to say that there is something more, something much better, they reject the possibility. They make the choice to remain in ignorance.

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