Emerging from the Cave

Humans, history says, emerged from a cave. We drew pictures of animals on the walls around us.

A great thinker, Plato, told a story about a man in a cave. This man is bound. Unable to see anything except the shadows cast upon the wall in front of him. He perceives these shadows to be the sum total of reality.

As Plato’s story goes, the man one day escapes his bonds, leaves his cave, and goes out in broad daylight for the first time in his memory. The bright sunlight blinds him. He needs a guide to discern this place, this reality.

The man’s eyes adjust to the sunlight. He finds his way. And he decides to reenter the cave and tell the others still in bondage there what he has discovered. They are only looking at shadows.

They are missing all that is real.

But they are content. They call him a lunatic. They know what is real. It is right in front of them. Plain as day. They stew in the darkness of the cave.

Emerging from the cave makes a difference. We move from darkness into light. Into a blinding light to which the eyes of our souls must adjust.

British writer G.K. Chesterton pointed out that one man who was born in a cave grew up to an unjust death. Then He emerged from his cave tomb. At no point did his eyes need to acclimate to the light. He had created it. He spoke it real and it became reality. The man’s birth in a cave, and His emergence from another, marks a division in the history of humanity. In this “second half of history”:

“There is even a shadow of such a fancy in the fact that animals were again present; for it was a cave used as a stable. . . . It was here that a homeless couple had crept underground with the cattle when the doors . . . had been shut in their faces; and it was here beneath the very feet of the passers-by, in a cellar under the very floor of the world, that Jesus Christ was born. . . . God also was a Cave-Man, and had also traced strange shapes of creatures, curiously coloured, upon the wall of the world; but the pictures that he made had come to life.”

We are all creatures of a cave–a cave in which we hide from truth or an empty cave from which we have emerged. Every person we encounter is someone who has discovered reality, or is still in a cave, or has come out but cannot yet fully discern through blinding light.

Chesterton again: “Man is the microcosm; man is the measure of all things; man is the image of God. These are the only real lessons to be learnt in the cave, and it is time to leave it for the open road.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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Reposted from December 15, 2016

30 Replies to “Emerging from the Cave”

  1. Love this! That’s from Chesterton’s ‘The Everlasting Man,’ isn’t it? It’s been some time since I read it.

    I’m in the middle of drafting a post using some quotes from Chesterton myself. 🙂

  2. Terrific blog Nancy. I love the Plato story and can really relate to it in terms of our faith. So often, people do look at us as if we are crazy when we share what we see in Christ.

  3. Hi Nancy. This is a compelling image. “…a cave in which we hide from truth or an empty cave from which we have emerged.” I hope many will come out of the cave this Christmas season and welcome a light to shine bright in their hearts and from their lives.

  4. Reflective words in a reflective season! Intricate piece – find myself examining my own perspective. Love what Chesterton wrote and how you wove everything together!

  5. I love this, Nancy. I was recently reading John 3 and realized, like Nicodemus, we can easily not understand the truth because all we know is our current reality. So this was yet another reminder to focus on God’s truth and not just look at and trust in what I know from the world around me.

  6. I love this post, Nancy! “Plato’s Cave” is such an excellent analogy of the human condition. Until we see the light of Christ, we do exist in a cave-like state, not seeing all that exists.

    I found myself thinking of Christ’s tomb, too, in the same analogy. He was in a cave, and by the power of God, the stone was rolled away, and out came a new being, a Resurrected Lord, the first of many to come one day.

    So much can be said of these powerful truths.

    I just checked out Chesterton’s Everlasting Man book from the library, but now I think I will need to buy a copy and keep it for future reference!

    1. Thank you, Lisa! It’s definitely one you want to have on the shelf. I love Plato because he figured out so much truth. And Chesterton is a wonderful guide into the light. God bless!

  7. I like this powerful analogy, Nancy. I agree, we’ve all emerged from a cave and know reality or still blinded to full truth or hiding the truth in the shadows of a cave.

  8. What a beautiful post, Nancy! Absolutely beautiful comparisons about the cave of darkness, the cave of Christ’s Birth, and the cave from which Christ emerged iblinding light. The mention of the animals, too, was touching. You write beautifully, and I think this is the most beautiful piece of yours that I’ve read.

    This is so kind: “We are all creatures of a cave–a cave in which we hide from truth or an empty cave from which we have emerged. Every person we encounter is someone who has discovered reality, or is still in a cave, or has come out but cannot yet fully discern through blinding light.” There’s so much grace in those statements.

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