Leaving Plato's Cave
What happens when everything you thought was real was just a puppet show? And who are the puppet masters?
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I never read many of the great books when I was in school. I had a mix of public, homeschool, and private Catholic school education, and I finished with a four year degree in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville.
One thing I missed out on entirely was Plato’s work. I’ve often lamented this, along with other important works I missed out on, but heavy reading outside of an educational context when you’ve already got a life full of kids and work and everything else makes it challenging enough that I just didn’t ever get around to picking them up.
But as I was reading through Diana Pasulka’s Encounters, one part really grabbed me, and it was a bit about Plato’s allegorical cave. Please allow me to share a somewhat lengthy excerpt, as I think this is quite significant and deserving of contemplation. Please note - though this appears in the context of a UFO-related book, I think this is a much more universal hermeneutical key, applicable to numerous situations where manipulation and deception of the populace are in play. First, she offers a summary of the allegory, which is useful for those who need a refresher:
The go-to manual for my post-UFO life was Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” which I had read extensively as a graduate student. After a few years within the UFO-research milieu, I decided to take a renewed look at it, and sure enough my experiences had shifted the way in which I interpreted the text.
“The Allegory of the Cave” is perhaps Plato’s most known philosophical text. It is a popular template for many modern movies, plays, and novels. It is a small section in Plato’s Republic, a book in which he speculates about government and what might be the best way to create a “just” society. His goal is to try to arrive at the best form of government. Athens, the Greek city in which Plato lived, is known to have been a democratic society (for Greek citizens—basically wealthy Greek men). I’d always read this text the way it was taught at the university. Briefly, Plato’s teacher, Socrates, has a conversation with Plato’s brother, Glaukon, and Socrates asks Glaukon to envision a cave.
In this cave there are people, citizens, who are tied up and made to look at the wall of the cave. The people who tie them up are never seen by the prisoner-citizens. For all the citizens know, they have always been as they are, tied up. The people who tied them up keep a fire going in back of the prisoners and use puppets to create shadows on the wall of the cave, and the prisoner-citizens believe that these shadows on the cave wall are reality. Because that is all they have ever seen, they don’t question the reality of the shadows.
One day a citizen frees himself and leaves the cave. This person is amazed because now he can see the other, more real world. He goes back to try to free the other prisoners. He is excited to share the news that the other prisoners are tied up and don’t see reality, but only shadows of reality. But the prisoners tell the free citizen that his “eyes are ruined,” and they even threaten him with violence. They don’t want to be freed, and they don’t believe the person who has seen outside the cave.
Socrates: “And if they had the opportunity, do you suppose that they might raise their hands against him and kill this person who is trying to liberate them to a higher plane?”
Glaukon: I’m afraid so.”
At the end of this scene, Socrates suggests a way out of this situation. The way out is a process that Socrates describes to Glaukon and it involves the sharing of information with a friend about the shadows and how to remain free from associating them with reality. Glaukon agrees, and they decide that a worthy goal would be to develop a craft or practice to achieve this goal. One presumes that this practice is the Socratic dialogue, as all of Plato’s books are in dialogue form, and the dialogue was the means whereby Socrates transmitted his knowledge to his disciples.
In philosophy courses, “The Allegory” is taught as a theory of knowledge, with the emphasis being put on the knowledge represented by the sun outside of the cave, as the light that illuminates all things. In popular representations, “The Allegory” is a template for movies like The Matrix (1999), where people are living in a shadow of reality, or a virtual simulation, and they don’t know it. Characters like Neo come along to rescue people from the Matrix, and generally, people in movies today want to be liberated, unlike those in Plato’s time, who threatened to kill or maim the potential liberators.
Many people are at least passingly familiar with the allegory, or at least some of its pop culture adaptations. I picked up a 99-cent Kindle copy of The Allegory of the Cave over the weekend and am working my way through it when I can steal a quiet moment here or there. (No idea if it’s a good translation or not, just needed something fast and cheap.) It’s a much more detailed thought piece than can be summarized in just a few paragraphs, but I’m in a “let’s rough this out” frame of mind, so that’s fine.
The first thing that really hit me was that the plight of the cave escapee felt eerily familiar. Maybe it’s just where I am in my post-Christian “journey,” for lack of a better word, but I keep finding myself drawn back to the same kinds of religious debates I was having as a Catholic, but from my new perspective as someone who has, so to speak, “escaped the cave.” I know those who still believe will quibble about my alleged liberation, but this is my version of things, so I’m sticking with it. And the experience really does map.
I was in a situation (religion) where I had bound my whole life (cradle Catholic) and was only allowed to see the shadows on the wall (indoctrination) and couldn’t conceive of any truth outside of the one that had been shown to me. When I left the cave, the circumstances were exceptional (several acute personal crises coming to a head) which was the only reason I was freed, and my emergence was painful. The light on the other side was blinding. So many possibilities. So many alternative epistemologies. A growing sense of new dimensions of movement and thought and perspective. It felt like I’d been looking at everything in two dimensions and was suddenly thrust into a 3D world.
And of course, I ran back into the cave and started talking about all of it. And at every turn, I have found my efforts frustrated by a nearly absolute and universal unwillingness to look away from the shadows on the wall.
The only other people who seem to be able to hear the story of what I am discovering are fellow escapees, or those seriously considering trying to loose their bonds.
And plenty of people want to destroy me for challenging their conception of reality. For being a guy with the audacity to have been a big promoter of the shadow show, only to come back and say they’re just puppets, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything real out there. We just need to figure out what it is.
Mostly, I get treated as someone to be pitied, or someone who is given over to some secret degeneracy, or who has lost his capacity for reason, or is trying to don a “victim” mantle for explaining the fact that coercive, indoctrinating religious beliefs pressed upon a person from the time they are still in diapers diminishes their agency. I did not make choices I would have otherwise made because I did not believe I had the freedom to make them. I believed that the cave was the whole world, and that to risk venturing out (if out even existed) was to risk suffering beyond measure.
But it’s so critical to get your mind right and know what you believe, instead of always being in the position of trying to force yourself to find ways to accept things they tell you you have to believe.
And this applies, of course, to more than just religion. There are other prominent aspects of public discourse going on right now where those who leave the cave are fighting the battle of their lives to get the cave-dwellers to listen. It is, frankly, why this Norman Rockwell painting (“Freedom of Speech”) has become a hugely popular meme: speaking truth in a time of manipulation and deceit has become an act of courageous rebellion:
Back to Pasulka:
What I never heard mentioned in the university courses about “The Allegory” is the fact that there are puppet masters. Additionally, the text makes explicit that the citizen-prisoners do not want to be liberated. I asked many of my friends, “Why didn’t we take Plato seriously?” and “Why don’t we talk about the puppet masters?” I thought we should, and in doing so, we could arrive at an explanatory framework for, at least, UFO disinformation, if not disinformation on a wider scale. Just like me, my friends had never thought about the text in this almost literal sense. It was, of course, called an “allegory.” But what if the text is coded, and the “allegorical” form was a way to pass on information that was disruptive to the government of Athens? Socrates had been tried in the court of Athens. To make the text even more relevant to UFO cultures, the people who did take me seriously, and even emphatically agreed with my interpretation of the text, were some of the people I knew in the intelligence communities. They were the puppet masters and they believed that the citizen-prisoners didn’t care about the truth. They asked me, “Why do you care? These people are happy with the show on the walls, and we are happy to control their realities.” They told me to forget about the prisoner-citizens, as they got what they wanted. The citizen-prisoners didn’t care to know the truth, anyway, they reminded me.
Obviously, the idea of “puppet masters” is chilling when you stop to think about it. But we “know” this, even if we don’t know it. The MKULTRA program. The Deep State. The COVID-Industrial Complex. The Secret Backers of Jeffrey Epstein. The Names on the Epstein Island Guest List. The Military/Defense folks who were working quietly in an attempt to kill the Schumer-Rounds Amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act (which would have forced more UFO/UAP disclosure) over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Anyone who has been reading me for a long time probably knows I’m extremely allergic to conspiracy theories. I just cannot stand unfalsifiable, skeleton key propositions with no evidentiary basis in discernible fact. “If you just watch this video, it explains so much! 5G towers are activating COVID, they said it at a WEF conference, you just have to play the audio in reverse!”
But that doesn’t mean there ARE no conspiracy theories. Eric Weinstein, founding father of the Intellectual Dark Web and one of my favorite thinkers in the world today, has been pushing for us to understand that despite their stigma, many conspiracies are real. Here he is, talking about how you can’t tell conspiracy theory from conspiracy fact without accepting that even the real thing often sounds too absurd to be true:
Chemtrails sounds pretty stupid, and to be honest, little green men seems pretty dumb to me too, to say nothing of the flat earth, which seems idiotic and preposterous. But if you ask me, the idea of the Tuskegee medical experiment and untreated syphilis sounds dumb. Oh really, the government's going to allow people to go untreated into tertiary syphilis? Or we're actually going to kill Fred Hampton in his bed through COINTELPRO using the Cook County Sheriff's Department? Or we're going to trade drugs for arms with Iranians in the Iran-Contra? All of these things sound dumb to me because they're clearly preposterous. And the concern that I have is that I don't believe in ghosts, and I don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster, and I do believe in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI as an agency filled with evil, targeting ordinary Americans for their political beliefs up to and including their personal destruction and death, including using our free press to plant stories and destroy people.
The history of secret government behavior is not a great history, whether it’s Operation Ajax or Operation Condor, who knows what? And the pressure not to question these things because [it’s a] conspiracy theory really bothers me, because we have a group that is simultaneously engaging in conspiracies and not clearing up things that they could clear up, which does feel that personal destruction is a good way to keep secrets.
Even so, he acknowledges [elsewhere] just how potent the stigma around unproven conspiracy theories can be:
The most efficient way to keep yourself from being investigated — if you are an evil institutional player who needs to do this repeatedly — is to invest in a world in which no one can afford to say the word ‘conspiracy.’ You will notice that there is a special radioactivity around the word 'conspiracy'. We have provable conspiracies. We have admitted to conspiracies. You have been invited to conspiracies. There is no shortage. Conspiracies are everywhere. Some of them are mundane, some of them are like price fixing cartels. You know, or trade groups are generally speaking conspiracies. So the first thing you have to realize is that all of us are under a mimetic complex where you can be taken off the chess board by saying 'conspiracy theorist'. Get done. It's a one-line proof. We don't have to listen to Lex, he said he was a conspiracy theorist on this show.
So when you hear a phrase like “Puppet Masters,” what does it really, actually mean? Who are these people, why do they have so much power, and are we really fine just imbibing the adulterated version of reality they choose to spoon-feed us?
Pasulka has said that the Allegory of the Cave really captivated her once she stopped looking at it as an allegory and started looking at it as an encoded message — in fact, obsessed was the word she actually uses. She talked about this in an interview (see below) that she did last year, and which pre-dates the release of Encounters (which, interestingly, she said was originally entitled The Resurrected). Please don’t feel like you need to watch this 20 minute segment to understand the rest of this post; I just provide it for additional context:
But there really is something to this idea of “Leaving Plato’s Cave” that I can’t get out of my head, either. It’s like those songs we call earworms, but instead of a catchy tune, it’s an idea.
How much are we being manipulated, and by whom? How much time do we spend arguing about the shadows on the cave wall, thinking THAT is the most important thing we can be discussing, instead of realizing that there’s a much larger, epoch-changing meta-narrative that’s happening at a much higher level that we’re ignoring because it’s behind us, casting shadows we mistake for reality?
This is a theme I plan to keep coming back to. But for now, I’d love to hear your thoughts.