I have been working on an epic poem in blank verse about scientists that I call Hermead. So far I have written about 16,000 lines covering some of the early Greeks, from Asklepios and Thales to Demokritos. I am working now on the story of Aristokles, better known as Platon, nickname bestowed by his wrestling coach because of his "broad" shoulders.
The following is an excerpt from my epyllion about Plato Aristokles where he discusses the allegory of the cave. I wrote this while reading his version in the Republic which was a dialog between Socrates and Glaucon Athenokles, brother of Plato, while I here present it as a lecture from Plato to his students at the Academy years later.
Ideas of Aristokles
Hermead of Surazeus
Allegory of the Cave
Aristokles Platon, sage with broad mind,
presides on marble seat by fruit tree grove
in Garden of Akademos near stream
of babbling waves where morning sunlight gleams,
and relates conversation about good,
between Sokrates and Athenokles,
framed in metaphors of sunlight and cave
of shadows, so eager students may learn
to analyze aspects that consist things
existing or persisting in two worlds,
world of sense and world of intelligence.
"My heart delights to talk with human souls
for eager questions spark visions of thoughts
inspiring me to see mysteries of life
and explain in normal progress of logic
confusing concepts revealed with clear words.
Listening to Athenokles, my dear brother
whose owl eyes guide my thoughts above this world
to see ordered Kosmos with open eyes,
inspired my tongue to heights of eloquence,
so I articulate with light of reason
thoughts that lurked in mist of honest desire
to apprehend Ideas that shape real world.
Through dialog between wise Sokrates
and my brother owl-eyed Athenokles,
who conversed years ago when I was young,
I will relate youthful experience
when we attended initiation rites
of Eleusinia Mysteria, rebirth
to transcendent wisdom after sad death,
following Demeter through underworld
to rescue Persephone from dark cave,
where our eyes were opened in lightless gloom
to perceive higher world of perfect forms
when vision of light flashed before our eyes.
Light of truth, that illustrates foggy way
through maze of illusions, beams from my words
so I can lead you all to paradise
of wisdom, where we feast on fruit of love
revealing essence of beauty and love.
Athenokles asked our wise gentle teacher,
Sokrates, to explain meaning of good,
while we sat together in gloomy cave,
attending visions from Persephone
who taught us dream of sun and shadow cave,
so Sokrates asked questions to find truth.
Opinions divided from knowledge lack
graceful beauty that attracts noble minds,
rather blinding even best men to truth,
since fools who hold opinion that is true
are same as blind men who follow right way.
Wise men who question to understand truth
avoid things that are ugly, blind, and crooked,
preferring discussions with other men
who share thoughts about their investigations
to contemplate things luminous and fair.
Approaching goal to uncover real truth,
I will never hesitate to explain
nature of justice treating every man
as equal with reward and punishment
in opportunities to build and grow
by avoiding wine that clouds open eyes
and thus maintain sober intelligence,
advancing up steep slope of virtues bold
to build defensive wall of alert sight
and preserve health of our bodies till death.
I fear my mental power to explain good
may fail when I leap over binding wall
of truth that endures crushing wheel of time,
and people laugh at my clumsy attempt,
so rather than explain deep vine of good
I would discuss ripe grapes that spring from good,
providing nourishment to eager minds
who thirst for knowledge of our universe,
and what behavior may result in health
and success avoiding death till right time.
Tending vines of truth with water-fresh words,
I seek abundant growth of virtuous good
in ripe grapes that result from quest for truth,
so I may give you all fresh fruits of wisdom
that you receive interest compound in wealth
from seeds of hope I sow in fertile ears,
but stay alert to progress of wise thoughts
so you are not deceived by leaping logic.
We describe state of many things to be
beautiful to see and good to relate,
and urge action to create not destroy,
defining them with value through skilled speech.
We speak of things with inner beauty blessed
and good that fills subjects with natural force,
so we position many similar things
in one class that describes construct and function
with single name, gathering all things that match,
then merge them all to describe single type
in aspect of one image, and combine
features they all share that designs idea,
assuming unity of cognate things
and label them with true eternal name.
Assembled in one class these many things
we say can be seen with eyes but not thought,
while ideas can be thought but not seen.
Through sight of these two globes inside our heads
we see visible things that furnish space
of mountains and valleys and river plains.
Through hearing of shell-shaped ears on our heads
we hear noises of water waves and wind
and clear voices of animals and humans.
Through taste of moist tongue we delight in food,
knowing what food will nourish our soul-flesh
by delicious taste of good, and what food
will destroy us by foul disgusting taste.
Through smell of beaked nose we inhale all scents
of flowers, fruit, lakes, and food women cook.
Through touch of fingers we caress and grasp,
by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain
to stimulate with passion or cure wounds.
We perceive this world through senses of flesh
and generate thoughts about solid things
through clear images preserved in our minds
that record memories in patterns of pictures.
Highest over all other senses lord
is vision that allows our minds to see
shapes and colors defined by spoken words.
How great in value from expense of wealth
creator of senses lavished on process
of ability to see and be seen,
bestowing rich respect on watching eyes.
Hearing and voice need no other medium
for people to hear and be heard in speech,
for neither requires some third element
that absent will leave people mute and dumb,
unless unseen vibrations convey sounds.
Observation shows that vision of eyes
and visible things need third element
to transmit image from object to mind.
Though vision operates machine of eyes
and possessor endeavors to perceive,
and though color tinctures objects and souls,
yet without third element as medium
adapted by nature for visual purpose,
vision sees no colors or shapes in darkness.
Beams of light flowing down from sphere of fire
reflect shape and color of solid things,
bestowing substance in light-shrouded forms.
Light is third element and medium
that helps our eyes to perceive complex world.
Bond that yokes visibility and vision
is far more precious and important force
than media that unite senses and sensed,
like hearing and heard, taste and tasted, smell
and smelled, touch and touched, for sight is best sense
that employs light to exercise its power.
What bright divine power of heaven is author
and cause of light that enables our vision
to see things and inherent qualities
that fulfill design features of first types,
but huge sun that illuminates our world,
so when our eyes perceive specific thing
our minds analyze nature of its being
to label it with name we all agree
defines that class containing many types.
Yet neither act of vision nor its wagon,
this rolling optic wheel we call our eye
that bears beams of light to our dreaming mind,
are same objects equal to shining sun,
for though that huge blazing ball of hot fire
resembles this eye encased in our heads,
that great eye beams light while this eye receives.
Though our eye, of all instruments of sense,
is most like bright sun that enables sight,
fooling our fathers to think sphere of fire
has observant conscience like our own minds,
so they endowed sun with character style
of mortal man who established empire
of power, preserved in our tales about Zeus.
How miraculous this instrument of sense,
little globe swiveling in mask of our face,
which possesses power to receive influx
of shimmering light that pours from beaming sun,
like silver grails that water pitchers fill.
Great sun dispenses light on flowing rays
while small eyes receive waterfall of light
in pools of vision, helping us perceive
substance in furniture of cosmic world.
While truth reveals sun itself is not vision,
yet sun light causes vision in our eyes.
Now follow trail of my logic to see
and understand bright meaning of my words
that rich offspring of good which good begot
stand in proportion to reflect result,
like good shines on vale of intelligence
illuminating truth with light of reason,
so sun shines on world of sensible things
revealing substance of existing shapes.
When we walk in realm of objects we sense
our eyes perceive colors and shapes of things
through medium of light, in clear beaming rays,
that emanates from bright luminous Sun.
When we think in realm of concepts we dream
our mind perceives reasons and right of truth
through medium of Ideas, in pattern shapes,
that emanates from gentle loving Good.
Sun is source of light and organic life
in our cluttered world of physical shapes,
so Good is source of bright intelligence
and perception of knowledge for our minds
in dreaming world of ideas and thoughts.
Remember in awareness of night dreams,
when your eyes gaze at things no longer lit
in gleaming day, or colored by bright sun,
shaping edge of things are blunted and smeared
by dim night luminaries, moon and stars,
and we seem almost blind, squinting our eyes
to better see shapes we expect to see,
as if grail of eyes were empty of vision.
But when we direct keen gaze of our eyes
toward objects and creatures of ordered world
that glow with colors defining shape edge
in shining beams of rays from blazing sun,
our eyes obtain vision with sharp detail.
Apply this comparison in same way
to our souls, when we fix gaze of our minds
firm on domain where reality and truth
shine resplendent from attention of light,
our minds apprehend knowledge and see facts
and appear to possess reason that guides
action and speech to create good with love.
But when our minds incline to region dimmed
in darkness of fear, where creatures of flesh
grope for sweet pleasure with grasping desire
in world of becoming and passing away,
our minds clutch blind at simple explanations,
and opine dogmas about how things work
that followers of sages teach as firm truth
and threaten violent attack to harm those
who refuse to believe and obey laws,
for edge of wisdom is blunted by fear,
and such minds shift opinion back and forth,
lacking rudder of reason to guide boat
of mind straight on river of rational light,
so action and speech destroy good with hate.
While bright sun beams solid things visible,
it also sparks generation and growth,
nurturing health and life of organic souls,
but sun itself is not force of generation.
Reflecting this process like sun on water
pure good reveals formal objects of knowledge
to discerning minds, so vital existence
derives essence from vibrant force of good
though good is not essence that emanates
from things, but transcends essence in bright power.
Conceive these two entities, good and sun,
one ruling order and region of thought
where intelligible concepts persist,
and other ruling world of our eye ball,
that reflects power of that glowing sky ball.
Apprehend two types of worlds we perceive,
intelligible of mind revealed by good,
and visible of eyes revealed by sun.
Represent two worlds divided by line
in two unequal sections, marked by light,
when rising sun slides rays over hill edge
gliding over plain to beam edge of dawn,
and cut each section again in same ratio
from visible and intelligible orders,
then compare expression of balanced ratio
between their clarity and obscurity
to perceive sections of visible world
as images of forms, patterns of things
in shadows cast by light of good and sun,
reflections on water that project shapes
of things with surfaces illuminated
to promulgate texture dense, smooth, and bright,
so all examples of one kind alike
appear variants of universal type
thus we apprehend its eternal form
by noting aspects they in common share.
First section is intelligible things
formed from normal patterns we apprehend
in dreaming thoughts revealed by light of good.
Second section is visible things we see
shaped by surface and limited in space
reflecting light of sun our eyes perceive,
solid image of concepts our minds dream,
animals, plants, and objects made by man.
Division of reality and truth
opposing illusion, falsehood, and lies,
expresses proportion of contrast clear
between thoughts based on opinion of hope
and knowledge of observation and sight,
and between image reflected from a thing
and thing that beams image to sensing minds.
Intelligent soul of our sensing minds
drives compelled to investigate distinction
between objects reflecting light we see
and image of objects that form idea,
so thinking process from assumption starts
and proceeds to conclusion of opinion,
yet rather we should transcend our assumptions
and start at beginning on principle
of true concept based on changeless idea
then progress straight to develop system
of knowledge, not on illusions, but facts.
Students of geometry and reckoning
first postulate odd and even for numbers
in points, lines, planes, and shapes that form figures
from three kinds of angles for polygons,
then starting with fundamental principles
they regard as right absolute assumptions
known by all who participate in science,
but never deign to delve deeper in truths,
or render further account in detail,
taking it for granted long-founded facts
are obvious to every discerning mind,
then pursue inquiry from basic point
in consistent steps of logical thought
to conclude facts they should investigate.
They will draw and discuss visible forms,
thinking about things rather than images,
inquiring about diagonal and square,
but things they mold and draw are mere shadows
and reflections of things on water beamed,
but shapes they draw are more than images
of solid objects, for they reveal forms
of existing things that persist in thought,
so we should seek insight to apprehend
real truths of things seen only in our minds.
We need to extricate our minds from mire
of solid objects that reflect sunlight,
and rise above assumptions based on words,
though our souls, bound by eye sight, are compelled
to employ assumptions of defined words,
so minds eager to investigate truth
proceed from first principles of ideas
to look beyond images of sensed objects
and see universal class that defines
timeless form so we understand its essence.
Using power of dialog we conduct
discourse through question and answer to seek
truth behind concepts embedded in words
to treat assumptions not as point to start,
rather posit hypothesis to suppose
solid stepping stone that guides our progress
to stand on firm springboard of principle
and leap forward beyond pale of our knowledge,
explore new thoughts based on pattern ideas,
then dive into conclusion of deep truth
where we may swim in pool of pure ideas
and stand on solid shore of sunlit truth.
We must distinguish between solid things
outside our bodies that we comprehend
through sense perception to create ideas
from images our intellect perceives,
and those concepts of thought clear in our minds,
like special tree that grows by river stream
and image of tree that shines in our minds,
our mind imagines from experience.
We will understand clear concept of tree
through power of dialog to discuss tree
as perfect idea that persists more true
than object that grows and decays in change,
measured by right tools of science and art,
by leaving assumptions as starting points
to contemplate nature with mind not senses,
so our vision of this world grows complete
from opinion to reason over bridge
of understanding straight to comprehension.
Four affections occur in learning souls,
reason to understand cause and effect,
understanding why and how things occur,
belief about what thoughts are true and false,
and conjecture on what is good and bad,
thinking ideas, concepts, rules, and pictures
by arranging growth process in proportion
so our minds use ideas as building tools.
Compare nature of our ability
to perceive reality through respect
to how we educate young minds to learn.
Picture men dwelling in long narrow cave,
entire length open to glow of sunlight,
since childhood arms and necks fettered by chains
so they sit bound to same spot all their lives,
looking ever forward, not side or back,
prevented from turning their heads to see.
Picture fire behind them beaming bright light,
and between fire and men chained by assumptions
arches bridge road lined by low waist-high wall,
like puppet masters place partition walls
to hide themselves so only puppets show.
Picture men walking on bridge behind wall,
bearing implements and tools of all kinds,
and leading animals that pull wagon loads
heaped high with wood, stone, and baskets of food,
while some are talking and others are silent.
Suppose these men bound by fetters of words
never saw anything we know exists
except themselves and shadows cast by fire
on cave wall that glows before their eyes,
since they could never move their heads to see
beyond shadows, strange shapes that make no sense.
If they could talk and discuss what they see,
they would think names for shadows they invent
would also name real objects shades reflect.
If their cave echoed from opposite wall
when person passing by uttered clear sound,
they would think shadows could speak voices heard.
Such men bound in cave of shadows would deem
real world nothing more than dim shadows
they could see, unaware shadows are caused
by things more real than they can comprehend.
Consider now manner of quick release
and healing from bonds that fettered their souls,
that would reveal folly of shadow view,
if in course of nature one man was freed
from fetters, and compelled to stand and turn
his head around and walk down tunnel cave
and lift his eyes up to gleaming of light,
but pain of glittering light would dazzle blind
his eyes so he could not discern clear shapes
of things that cast shadows he thought were real.
How would he object by belligerent answer
if someone told him what he saw before
was grand illusion that cheated his sense,
but that now he faces real world of forms,
that passing people with things he perceives
cast those shadows, that objects he sees now
are more real than shadows on cavern wall.
If he were compelled to look straight at light,
at blazing sun that illuminates world
far brighter than he ever saw in dim cave,
would not light pierce his eyes with dazzling pain,
and would he then not turn away and flee
back to moving shadows he could discern,
and regard their shapes and actions more clear
and real that solid objects he was told
cast those shadows, believing illusion
more real than real things he thinks are illusion.
If someone were to drag him back by force
from cave of gloom up rough and steep ascent,
and not release his arm from grip until
shadow-blinded man was drawn into light
of blazing sun, he would chafe haled at pain
of glaring light rays that would pierce his eyes,
blinding him so he could not even see
things we call real, unable to discern
clear shapes and movements of sensible things.
His eyes, long adjusted to atmosphere
of dim gloom, perceiving by feeble rays
of light, would need time to adjust to glare,
constricting circle of sight to constrain
amount of rays that beam into eyeball.
At first he could discern shadows of things,
and images of men and other things
reflected in water, while shading eyes
with trembling hand to block out rays of light,
yet shapes and colors of things would emerge
from blinding glare, reflecting back more clear
men and animals and plants and landscape,
and from this cluttered world of solid things
he would lift up his eyes to contemplate
appearance of heaven, planets and stars,
and bright glowing sun, and shape-shifting moon.
He would see things more clear in soft moonlight,
more equal condition to gloomy glow
in cave of shadows, subtle to his eyes,
than radiant light from dazzling sun by day.
Then after his eyes adjust to sunlight
he could look straight at globe of glowing flame
and see its true nature as burning sphere,
like bot-belly stove stoked with writhing fire,
not by reflection in water, or image
painted on wood, or phantasm of ghost
reflected from round brass shield of gate guards,
comprehend sun and things in their own place
to better relate process he perceives.
Then shadow-blinded cave man would infer
that sun manages heat and cold of seasons,
cycling process of life and death in spin
of changing years, and conclude radiant sun
beams brightening light that causes eyes to see
shapes and processes in visible region,
and construe at last how sun causes flux
of surging life to nourish fertile world.
Recalling first habitation in dark cave,
weird wisdom they devised to surmise truth,
and people still fettered by ignorance,
he would proclaim his happiness to find
truth substantial supporting complex world
in new wisdom based on discovering good,
and pity men still bound in blinding gloom.
Then if enlightened man went down again,
returning to ignorance he escaped,
his eyes would blink, blinded in lightless gloom,
descending from sunlight in sudden plunge.
Then standing before companions still bound
by fetters of fear, required to contend
with belief-blinded prisoners in cave
of shadows, before his enlightened eyes
could see shapes again, how shadows are false,
illusions cast by light beaming past things,
his words would provoke wild mocking laughter,
harsh shouts that his eyes were ruined by light,
that ascent from comforting cave was vain,
until ignorant slaves of darkness would grab
teacher of lies who tried to teach them truth
and lead them from darkness, and bind his hands
and kill him for blasphemy against faith
that reflected shadows comprise real world.
Extend this weird experience of blind man
emerging from gloom to become enlightened
for people emerging from superstition
about supernatural gods that control
programs of nature in spiteful revenge
to learn how our universe operates
when they apprehend universal forms.
Region revealed by sunlight through eye sight
consider same as prison of that cave,
and sunlight illuminating sensed objects
same as fire casting shadows of real things
on wall of our minds, where we perceive shapes.
Ascent from dim cavern of illusions
and contemplation of higher concepts
is same as ascension of growing soul
to transcendent region of ideal thoughts
where intelligence perceives perfect forms
that provide patterns for existing things.
When we walk this Kosmos cluttered with things,
ordered by creator in natural woods
and organized by men in civil towns,
most elusive from eye and hand of man
flies idea of good, yet when questing mind
discovers good permeates our universe,
in sparkling water, in refreshing air,
in nurturing fruit, in helpful animals,
through honest reason we conclude that good
causes all that is beautiful and right,
giving birth in visible world to light,
and author of light in world of ideas
springs authentic source of reason and truth
which guides wise actions in private or public
of every man who envisions this truth.
When you feel urge to rise above your station,
and seek deeper truths of our universe,
follow yearning to quest beyond stone walls
of knowledge, to leave dark cavern of fear,
and climb high mountain of transcendent truth
to gain wider view of our Kosmic home.
Once you attain knowledge of higher truths,
how strange if you return from mountain top
of divine contemplations in pure light
to slog muddy road of petty concerns
where men burdened by weight of miseries
stumble blind groping for paradise lost
in divine comedy of tragic love.
How humorous if, still blinking through gloom,
and before clear eyes adjust to dark sorrows,
seeker for wisdom is compelled by threat
of punishment to attend in courtrooms
or markets to contend through arguments
about shadows of justice, or images
that cast shadows deceiving open eyes,
and wrangle in debate about firm notions
of justice with men who never see justice.
Sensible man would remember our eyes
are blinded by shift of darkness to light
and light to darkness in progress for truth,
and our souls will encounter same ordeal
shifting from mundane affairs of plain life
to celestial musing on higher truths,
when he encounters souls perturbed and blind,
unable to discern transcendent concepts,
and would not snicker in mocking contempt,
but observe current progress of their quest,
whether vision is obscured in descent
from brighter life of studious contemplation
or dazzled in ascent from deeper dark
of ignorance into luminous world
growing to transcend animal desires
by seeking to perform constructive deeds,
thus feel compassion to aid their quest right.
Power of our souls to apprehend deep truth
beams luminous from instrument of sight,
so we must rotate this organ of knowledge,
converting desire from darkness to light,
away from world of becoming and dying,
shifting entire soul on wheels of thought,
like scene-shifting triangle stage on wheels
turns to reveal new scene in theater show,
until frail soul is able to endure
contemplation of essence that supports
brightest valley of fresh fruit where we dwell
after journey from cave to paradise.
I descended into cavern of shadows
naive youth eager to learn ancient truth
how Demeter saved sweet Persephone,
myself playing role of innocent soul,
and when I ascended into bright light
and blinked, blinded by glaring rays, I saw
vision where Sokrates explained to me
how sun reveals substance of transient world
while good reveals persistence of true world.
My eyes glow with light of eternal truth."