Now we come to a second
the Parable of the Cave, to its secret dialectics.
(The fact that the philosopher later returns into the cave does not detract from the unambiguity of the direction inasmuch as his return has the sole purpose of liberating those who remained behind so that they might proceed to the ascent to the higher truth, too.)
For Plato the ascent is the movement from the initial given condition to a distant higher goal. For us, however, things look very different. We have just made clear that Plato presents as the initial state is anything but the initial state. It is the distortion of the real initial state, its reversal into the opposite.
For us the real opposition between the old and the truly new does not fall between the one and the other world within the Parable of the Cave, i.e., not between the cave and the world of the sun. For us it falls between the traditional being-in-the-world outside the philosophical cave and before the rise of reflection on the one hand, and the whole Parable of the Cave fantasy itself with its two worlds on the other. The image of the cave and of man's existence in the cave with which the narration begins, itself the true revolution.
The revolution does not
lie in the about-turn that happens in the course of the narrated
action. What for Plato is the given starting point from which he
wants to push off to something newly discovered is in truth even a
veritable utopia, although admittedly one that does not present
itself, nor know of itself, as a vision of the future.
In the fire burning in the cave we recognize the early form of the projector lamp and in the sculptured objects that are carried along the wall (which separates the auditorium from the projection room) the equivalent of the moving filmstrip; in the back wall of the cave we can easily recognize the projection screen and in the shadow images the exciting or emotionally gripping movie itself that the people tied-up in the auditorium are watching gefesselt (lit. "tied-up", but then also "captivated", "enthralled").
In this movie they do by no means see merely physical projections or light effects (which is what they of course are, in a positivistic understanding), but they believe to have before their eyes the drama of reality itself, true life, probably even a life that is more significant than their own personal, banal existence.
And it is of course
essential that contrary to expectation, the tied-up people in the
cave do not experience their imprisonment as misery, but as joy and
pleasure, which is also why they absolutely refuse to be freed.
What he is concerned with when he designs his image is to put the entire being-in-the-world and the essence of men ontologically or logically on a new foundation.
By placing man in the
cave (the cave as now designed by him), Plato conceives, far ahead
of his time, the idea of human existence as a "cinema" existence. In
Plato, people thus do not go to the movies, e.g., on Friday night.
They have been born in the "cinema." The cave or the "cinema" is
here the definition of man.
This redefinition (over against the former "definition" of man as initiate and initiated) is indeed utopian.
Even if at Plato's immediate time much had changed
with respect to the world experience informed by myth and ritual,
factual life and the thinking of people was nevertheless still far
too much grounded in the former world and in traditions that still
granted substance for it to be comprehended as an existence that
defines itself, and orients itself in the world, in terms of the
external input of a flood of images and information, i.e., in terms
of "show" and "infotainment".
What I just described was certainly not what Plato intended. He is struggling with an entirely different problem, the pressing problem of truth that had come up through the falling apart of all values in the course of the Sophistic enlightenment, which in turn is the result of a superficial apperception of the new mode of being-in-the-world, the mode of thought and reflection.
And his answer, as far as the Parable of the Cave is concerned, comes out most clearly in the about-turn that he subjects the would-be philosopher to. With this about-turn and the ensuing ascent finally up to the clear awareness of the sun, the new stance in the world (reflection) finally comes home to itself. It is not really an entirely new position that Plato establishes.
Rather, he draws the inherent consequences of the Philosophical orientation in the world, consequences that had not been drawn before. The Parable of the Cave with its about-turn presents merely the unfolding of the full logic of reflection (reflected being-in-the-world). In Plato's parable, thought, as it were, finally sees through to itself, thinks itself though.
Plato discovers that the revolutionary shift from the initiatory cave to the philosophical cave established, to be sure, the stance of reflection, but that this was only the first immediacy of reflection.
And so it became necessary to apply this original revolutionary shift once more to its result (this is the about-turn in the story) and to thereby realize reflection as completed reflection, namely as the unity of, as we might say, the intention recta (the tied-up mind watching the shadow images in front of itself: immediate reflection) and the intention obliqua (the reflection of what a priori structures experience from behind: reflected reflection).
Reflection, to be true reflection, cannot only reflect "the world" and the things in it; it must also reflect itself. What reflection did to the mythically experienced world it must also apply to itself.
This is Plato's discovery. The about-turn within the story reflects, and necessarily has to reflect, that about-turn as which the stance of reflection exists. To push off from the immediacy of the mythic-ritualistic stance is only one half of a real pushing off. The price for pushing off form something is that this pushing off has to be performed once more against this pushing off itself.
Why? Because reflection
is the sublation of immediacy or innocence, and reflection,
as the simple pushing off from something, is itself only the
innocent first immediacy of itself.
But for us it is, as I said, only the unfolding of the logic that has been inherent in the new, post-mythological stance of "thought" or "reflection" all along and had merely not been seen by Plato's predecessors and particularly not by Sophists, who completely naively "acted out" the new stance of reflection.
The unfolding of the full logic of reflection as the realization of the necessity to become aware of what is in the back of the thinking mind as its own a priori, is undoubtedly a major achievement and move ahead. But it is an advance within the same logic of thought as such, within the same single stance in the world, the stance of reflected being.
It is the completion of
this already prevailing new stance and not a true revolutionizing of
the mode of being-in-the-world, as the move from Mythos to Logos had
Here we would be imagining (picturing in the mind) the parable and taking the movement it describes at face value, literalized, as a sequence of individual events.
While in this way the narrative would so to speak take us by the hand and lead us onwards, in our understanding we would at the same time try to stay true to what Plato intended (regardless of whether it be Plato as auctorial author or "Plato" as a mere signature under this text).
Interpretation would here
be an attempted exegesis (elucidation of the text) in the sprit of
Much like Anaximander comprehended in one single glance "the All" and thus had risen to the concept of "the All", we would see in the parable one single whole. We would leave the immediate impressions created by the story behind and, abstracting from them, now reflect the story of discovery of reflection itself, that is to say try to rise to the concept of it.
At the same time it means
that we would go by what it in fact is, says, and does, and not by
what it was intended to mean: this would now no longer be an
interpretation in the sense of exegesis, but one a little more in
the sense of how the psychoanalyst "interprets" the statements and
behavior of his patient: making the hidden, avoided, or repressed
underside of the manifest conscious.
Apart from the fact that I think that the break with myth was lying in a distant past that the Parable of the Cave had long left behind and was not still the reference point for an attempt to compensate for its loss, I also think that to see in the internal movement of this story a movement from the, as it were, nihilism of the Sophists to the higher meaning, firm values and "principles" of what later would be called metaphysics only makes sense if one stays stuck in the first sense of interpretation, i.e., if one "falls for" the intended meaning of this Parable.
If however one thinks this story, then the alleged movement of the parable is not one from out of Sophistic sensualism and subjectivism to objective "higher ideals".
Rather, it is no more than the attempt to go seriously all the way through with the new situation of "reflected being" and to overcome its first immediacy, its naïveté that found its purest expression in the Sophists. The overcoming refers only to the naïveté of the Sophists' standpoint, but not to their standpoint per se. With his ascent, Plato overcame only the half measure of the Sophists' thinking and deepened (reflected, interiorized) it into its own truth, but he did not literally transcend it.
The Sophists were
dependent on the Sun (the Idea of the Good), too; they had only
systematically kept it behind their backs, so that they remained
absolutely unconscious of it.
They did not long for liberation. They felt absolutely free. It is the philosopher who sees and posits the fetters that do not exist for the people concerned. Conversely, the about-turn, rather then undoing the fetters and leaving them behind, does no such thing. The philosopher is not the freed man.
He does not get truly out of the cave at all. His getting out is only how it appears to the literal narrative-imaginal view. In reality the philosopher stays tied to the cave situation as his beginnings throughout.
The cave is his archē, and as an archē it rules over everything that follows. The philosopher as the apparently freed and tuned-around man takes his origin as tied-up cave man along with him even to the contemplation of the sun outside the cave. His upward-looking to the sun owes its perspective to and reaffirms this origin.
For thought, his not getting out happens, to be sure not within the empirical cave of the narrative or imagination, but certainly within the whole structure or logic of the cave. This whole structure is never left.
The ascent amounts merely
to an unfolding of the internal dialectic of the fetters, leading
deeper into the logic of fixity.
Rather, to think the parable amounts to having to reflect the whole structure, both the original situation of being tied up and the reflection of this situation through the about-turn, in other words, to reflect the relation itself of the two moments of the narrative.
And in this sense thought has so to speak stepped outside the narrative and along with it outside the cave (much like Anaximander had stepped out of his containment in the immediacy of earthly existence), and thought is in fact the only way to truly leave the cave. By looking at the relation of cave and sun, the thinking mind no longer looks up to the sun as the philosopher, as the freed cave man, inevitably does.
For the reflection of the
whole relation, the sun has been reduced to one moment of and within
the story and is thus logically (syntactically) on the same footing
with the other moment (the shadows in the cave), although it is of
course qualitatively (semantically, in content) radically different,
indeed opposite to it.
The hermeneutic reading would treat it as an expression of ideas.
As psychologists we no loner simply read it as a text in the history of ideas or intellectual history, but as an event in the history or alchemy of the soul. As a "text" it is the written articulation of somebody's views (meaning, intention, theories, opinions).
As "event" it is
something real in its own right, a hard fact, a "substance", a
"prime matter", and as such it objectively intrudes into and
possibly alters the world.
Now it is of course strange that Plato does precisely not give out his utopia as a program to realized, but characterized it as something that needs to be overcome through a radical about-turn. The program for Plato is ascent to the Ideas, requiring the violent departure, indeed exit, from the "movie world" of the cave, which in his version is furthermore depicted as the naturally given original state.
This contradiction needs
to be explained.
They get stuck in a powerless "ought". All the actions performed for the purpose of their realization may of course empirically alter reality in many regards, but what had actually been aspired to with the utopian program, namely the inner spiritual-mental transformation of society, the transformation of the logic of existence, they are precisely not able to bring about by force.
So utopias are by nature
compelled to remain what they had been from the outset: unreal. The
utopian vision that is explicitly and directly supposed to be
realized ipso facto keeps constantly putting this realization off
into the future. This is inherent in the logic of utopias.
Because that which as utopia or distant goal is, for Plato and the times after him, actually something like ceiling still high above oneself (namely the cave as the "the cinema") is set up as self-evident ground or basis from which one is supposed to have to push oneself off to the explicit goal (namely the world outside the cave and "the sun"), consciousness unwittingly really settles in the utopia.
The more consciousness endeavors to get out of the cave and the more it longs and strives to get the sun, the more it turns for the first time the (actually utopian) cave into the real starting point of this striving, into the real basis from which to push off, which, being an imaginary story invention, it had precisely not been by origin.
By and by and ever more
firmly, with ever more binding force, consciousness is placed on the
basis of the utopia. It sees it as its basis, actually pushes off
from it as its basis, and thereby it slowly turns it in fact into a
To perform this
contradictory feat is only possible on the ground of Logos, on the
ground of language.
Only because it was and remained a real secret, only because the soul really strove with honest conviction and deepest fervor to get out of the cave and to attain to the Ideas in the heights, did it succeed in totally extricating itself from its rootedness in the mythic experience of the world and in establishing the cave as its new dwelling place.
This is the dialectic of
the goal. If the goal character of the cave had been conscious to
the soul (and this means first of all to Plato), if it had been
presented as the goal, then this goal would inevitably have been
continually put off into the future and would never have become
real, just as with the utopias of our century.
What is really existing remains outside his narrative of the ideal.
Because empirical reality (as what is obsolete) and the ideal aspired to (as something in the future) remain logically toto coelo separated, the utopia is condemned to stay stuck in the status of being utopian; it has to be this way because there is no logical connection between the initial real situation and the dream of the aimed at situation.
The utopian striving is itself the wedge driven into reality as the present. It bursts apart and continually holds apart its (this present's) moments (namely, reality and truth) as obsoleteness and futurity. Therefore the latter cannot help but be constantly put off to the future, since the logical break between reality and idea is always reconfirmed.
The modern utopian has
his standing in the dilemma between both, and all his efforts only
promote this dilemma, not as he hopes, the one side of this dilemma,
the goal aspired to.
This means that Plato has already in fact broken with the factually given as such; he has left behind himself the break, as something that has logically been executed long ago, but sort of in return he carried along the logical character of "actual givennes" or "reality" and incorporated it into the utopia itself.
The about-turn that lies in between the utopia and factually existing reality is not left behind as something outside the parable. Plato is not himself the wedge systematically holding apart the moments of being (reality and truth). Rather his Parable of the Cave can also account for the moment of reality (the cave, the world of the senses), along with the moment of truth (sun, Ideas).
In this way the narrative
has truly appropriated the radical break, integrated it into its own
inventory, so that the break now returns within the Parable of the
Cave as an explicit motif and sublated moment in the form of
the utopia-internal about-turn.
Other then the modern explicit utopia, it can thus no longer be bothered or threatened from outside by the dilemma, threatened in the sense of proven to be a lie:
Whit respect to its logical form it is closed within itself, self-sufficient, comprising all reality. Even the revolution that occurs within this story remains internal to one and the same utopia.
Contrary to the appearance within the narrative, this revolution does not really break out from some initial state (cave existence) and arrive at something totally different (the upper world outside the cave). In this sense the ascent out of the cave is not a locomotion. There is no real motion at all.
The ascent is merely the open demonstration, the external, sensible image of that internal logical self-contradiction as which the Parable of the Cave exists, the self-contradiction between the two sides of this one utopia.
With its about-turn, consciousness therefore only becomes more and more set on this self-contradictory fantasy, only digs itself deeper and deeper into it and its contradiction.
In this sense it is the fact that the
reality aspect has been incorporated into the fantastic-utopian
narrative which from the outset given this utopia the strength to
For us, however, the decisive break lies between the traditional being-in-the-world informed by myth and ritual on the one hand and the entire relation of cave and sun on the other hand. The whole of cave and sun is, first, one single utopia so that within the Parable of the Cave there is no possible getting out of the cave.
And, secondly, the about-turn has been integrated into the utopian narrative itself as its internal motif and moment, instead of having been left outside as its origin, between the utopia (the Parable of the Cave as a whole) and that which precedes it. Because of these two facts, the sense of the ascent to the Ideas is reversed.
As with a treadmill, consciousness thinks that it is advancing toward the sun "out there" as its goal and that it is in the process of moving "out" of the cave, while in truth it is solely the ground as a whole that is moved ahead under the runner's feet, namely from out of the old into a new truth, without that runner getting away from anything and coming close to something else.
What is intended and presented as a linear locomotion in empirical, almost geographical space proves to be the "locomotion" or rather transformation of "space" itself, namely the transformation of the whole logical constitution of existence. Within the new truth, that truth that could be called the "world of the Parable of the Cave (as a whole)" there is no movement forward, because the new truth is a priori, as we have seen, the unity of cave and sun.
The deeper your are in the cave, the more you intensify the truth of the sun.
As Heraclitus knew, the way up is in itself the way down. Only where, as in the case of the modern literal utopias, the starting situation as an empirically real condition and the utopia as the ideal are toto coelo separated (dissociated) can there be a movement forward from here to there. But precisely because it is a locomotion forward from here to there, that is to say a "spatial" movement (even if "spatial" only in a metaphorical sense), everything will logically remain the way it was, inevitably so.
demonstrates its own absurdity. Conversely, the movement of the
Parable of the Cave, which is a movement that stays put without
getting anywhere, in fact reaches its goal precisely.
A second factor is that the logic of this ascent is characterized by the contradiction of a pushing off from that which is conceived as an already given, existing basis, whereas in truth it is the ceiling hovering high above us. Because these two factors were operative at the same time, the Parable of the Cave itself turned into a psychological engine or motor.
The narrative of the Parable of the Cave is a logical (not empirical) engine for the absorption and utilization of human (or better, soul) energy. By breaking out of the cave, the soul pushes off form the image of a future freely posited by itself. Into what does it push off? Into this future as a real one.
The image of the cave is a satellite, shot off from the earth into outer space, a satellite that serves as the Archimedean point from which the earth could be in fact unhinged. The energies of the soul mobilized by the Parable of the Cave do not transport man, as in the case of the literal utopia, in a straight line from here to there endlessly farther.
Rather, the energies
employed for (as conscious intention sees it) the transport toward,
and for the arrival at, the highest Idea were in fact, even if
secretly, diverted by the (psycho-) logical engine called "Parable
of the Cave" and harnessed for the work upon the fundamental
transformation of the ground of existence (or the logical
constitution of existence).
On the contrary, it is first of all their nature, as innocent narratives, to spend or waste themselves, much like flowers bloom in order to blossom, simply unfolding their beauty and never minding that to bloom means to whither.
Secondly, they do not want to push off from anything and do not want to get anywhere.
They always start out, if one wants to word it in this way, from the very "goal", from their long having arrived at the "goal". They simply are the self-display of, and have their place in, the "ever-present origin" (Jean Gebser, Ursprung and Gegenwart) or at least individual aspects of it.
This is the fundamental difference between the mythic tale and the Parable of the Cave.
But this difference is of
course at the same time the expression of the difference between
pre-reflected being-in-the-world and re-flected being-in-the-world.
But what then is the whole world outside the cave, the world of the sun, including the sun itself? If we stay within the image, then the sun is the transcendent principle of the light form which the empirical light of the projection lamp in the cave receives it potency to shine in the first place.
For Plato himself the world outside the cave is the realm of Ideas with the sun as the highest Ideas, the Idea of Good. We could also say: the realm of what is valid on principle. The Ideas are also the standards for everything that is true, good, and beautiful. Thus they are also, in modern terms, the "values", and the Idea of Good, which is behind all the other Ideas or values and given them their strength, is the Idea of the value per se, the value of all values.
What does this mean if we
insert it into objective reality (the reality of "things")? What
corresponds to the Idea of Good in that world in the same way that
the "cinema" corresponds to the cave? It is Money.
While the audience, oblivious to the world, is totally absorbed by the experience of the movie action and believes to be participating in the drama of real life, to be witnessing the truth of being, the movie is at the same time a multimillion-dollar business of big concerns or investors, whose only interest in the movie is their profit.
The movie itself, its content and level, its artistic quality, its message are of no concern for the motion picture and distribution industries; the movie is for them just some commodity like all ordinary commodities, too, and the only thing that counts is that the financial investment pays.
The qualities of the
movie are, if at all, significant only inasmuch as on them may
depend whether the movie will go down well with the public and thus
be a financial success or not. In other words, these qualities are
at most significant as means to an end, as bait in the service of
the marketing of the movie, as the sum that it brings in, which is
the true goal.
So that the money can multiply, countless people must sit tied to their chairs in the cave and must have not only the projection room, but also the financial circles that financed the movie behind their backs. That is to say, they must totally abstract themselves from the money aspect. They must devotedly take the illusory picture that they are offered for the truth.
It is thus the money aspect itself that demands that it be abstracted from, that it remain completely unconscious - because otherwise there would be no cashing in. Conversely, the illusory world of the movie is completely dependent on the money of the financiers. Without them there would be no movies.
But above all, the reason why the movie, even the horror movie, can only be "nothing but" cinema or Hollywood, i.e., serve the non-committal entertainment during one's Frei-Zeit (leisure time, lit. free(d) time, time released, unmoored from all attachments and binding commitments); it does not really horrify; it does not have a committing message for human existence, because it is inherent in its logic that it is known that as financed and projected show it is nothing but illusion and by no means an epiphany manifesting of its own accord.
Thus we are confronted with the contradiction that Money as that which makes the movie possible has to be at once ignored (abstracted from) and nevertheless truly acknowledged as the ultimate source of the projection, although acknowledged in a scotomized fashion.
If both aspects do not
come together, the whole thing does not "work".
The violence which is supposed to hold the darkness of the cave and the sunlight, sol et eius umbra, apart, points to the internal contradiction or the incompatibility of the two sides. The about-turn at the beginning and the return back into the cave at the end of the story point to the indispensable unity or identity of the two sides.
The irrevocable unity has of course its ground in the fact that the Parable of the Cave is the unfolding and dissociation of one single truth. The division occurs within the primary unity, which therefore leaves its trace in the dissociated result in the form of the hidden identity of two extremes.
The show of the shadow
play in the cave and the vision/contemplation of the Idea of the
Good are two extremes of this One truth. Both are the same (namely
show), although not alike.
Rather, it is only the narrative-imaginal mode of Plato's story that divides into two separate figures what in actuality is one and the same human stance in the world (or one and the same being-in-the-world), one stance that is at once fixated on the Shein in the first sense of a show of shadows to be experienced and on the same Shein in the other sense as the absolutely abstract, empty and naked value of Money, but of course in such a way what its both sides are dissociated from one another and the left hand is ignorant of what the right hand is doing.
Therefore, in empirical
reality just as in our narrative, the One self-contradictory truth
can be acted out in such a way that the different logical moments
are concretized as distinct behaviors or roles that in turn are
allotted to different people, a fact that can, for example, in
practical reality lead to vehement conflict between the artistic
interests of the movie maker as entertainer and the financial
interests of the producer.
While this is certainly a terrible exaggeration and unfair to the great original achievements of many later philosophers, it rightly points to the enormous, even overarching significance of Plato for everything that followed him in philosophy. What from a psychological point of view, however, is particularly wrong with the "footnote" idea is that it tends to construe "Plato" as a "text" only and thus as the property of the intellect - of "professional" philosophers, philologists, interpreters, historians of ideas.
But as I already indicated, we have to appreciate the Parable of the Cave as a reality in its own right, an event in the history or alchemy of the soul, and not only as a philosophical conception.
The nature of this event is that is was,
Since that time the Occident stood objectively under the (unspoken, unconscious) behest to make the Parable of the Cave and its logic "real".
The great, secret project had been to transpose reality as a whole from out of the logical status of substantial being into the status of reflection and illusory being. The task had been to perform the patient work of the step-by-step abrasion of "nature" (as a logical or psychological category).
Or it had been to
recreate the world as illusory being, as posited, reflected, as a
world of shadows. We could also say: it had been the necessity of
pulling all reality into the cave and to regain it there as a
"reality" that was no longer a world of natural experience, but of
For this project the Occidental soul had been harnessed for 2,500 years; by it, it had been passionately captivated. Its whole energy, its deepest intelligence had been applied to this task.
The greatest minds of the
Occident stood under the spell and were - wittingly or unwittingly -
in the service of it with all their creative energy and with ardent
This would imply
separateness, our being overshadowed by some other outside. No, we
are and have "a priori" been inside the Parable of the Cave; it is
all around us as our cosmos or horizon. It is not something that we
have vis-à-vis ourselves like a theory or an option. Inasmuch as the
Parable of the Cave has the logic of an engine, it has always
already dragged us as laborers into the treadmill that it is.
These "egoic" designs for the future have indeed their entire realness outside themselves, as a mere ought or hope. In sharp contrast to these types of programs we must base our understanding of "program" here on the sense that is used in electronic and computer technology or in genetics.
The program of a washing machine or a word processor and the program encoded in genes have their realness in themselves. They are a priori finished, in the status of the perfect tense.
They are like an
algorithm. Such a program must therefore not still be realized. It
is free of any ought. Rather then making this program real you
merely "run" it as that which is complete within itself from the
being "made real" therefore consists in the "running" of it,
unreservedly and for so long, so often, and on ever more subtle
levels of reality, until there is no reality left any more and
anywhere that would not already have been subjected of the
processing of this engine, a processing which turns being into
illusory being and produces from out of the raw material called
"natural reality" (mythically experienced reality) a virtual
He merely articulated the "algorithm" that was inherent in the soul's revolutionary shift from mythos to logos, and had already unwittingly been at work for a few centuries since that shift prior to Plato. Thus it is the soul's program, and what the Parable of the Cave is about both antedates Plato and extends its reaches beyond him way into the future, into our time.
Plato is merely the point where it, as it were, surfaces, comes to light. In responding to the immediate problem that had become virulent and pressing at his own time, Plato at the same time and unwittingly happened to articulate with his Parable of the Cave something that does not belong merely to his time, nor only to the philosophy of classical antiquity as a whole, nor even merely to philosophy proper and the history of ideas at large, but to the history of man's real, concrete being-in-the-world as such.
In the Parable of the
Cave, the innermost truth, the blueprint, and the logic of
operation informing the whole world characterized by "thought"
(reflected being) become explicit, a truth and logic that had
implicitly already been operative ever since the world-shattering
shift from mythos to logos.
Logically it is indeed a
cut, sudden, abrupt, absolute, like black and white without grey
tones in between, without a gradual transition from the one to the
other. But in empirical history, this cut takes time. It happens
like geological upheavals and ruptures happen in geological time.
The many different operations that were executed during this process (separation, putrefactio, mundificatio, sublimatio, evaporatio, distillatio, etc.) as well as all the different concrete movements in intellectual and economic history, each with its own specific contribution to the opus, through which these operations upon the prima materia were performed (Christianization, Scholasticism, Renaissance, Enlightenment, modern science and technology, industrialization, the rise of capitalism and consumerism, to give only a few general examples) will not be our topic here.
Rather, we will turn
directly to the result of this millennia-encompassing alchemical
work, as far as it has become visible in our time.
This I will try to
suggest by pointing, rather superficially, to major characteristic
aspects of and developments in our time, in the hope that through
their enumeration a sense of the inner truth of the present form of
The Logic of the
Present Time as the Reality of Illusory Being
However, these phenomena must be understood merely as small empirical signs or symptoms of the fact that in the depth the logic of illusory being itself has long begun to permeate our reality and now surfaces congealing in concretized forms.
It will not always be possible to clearly decide whether a particular phenomenon belongs more to the one or the other group. They are of course all interlocked, being moments of one and the same radical change.
Each phenomenon at least
indirectly implies and involves all the others.
It is reality as fundamentally sublated. This can be seen precisely from the modern status that very epitome of substantiality and corporeality is in, the human body as viewed by modern medicine. To the extent that it is truly modern, medicine apperceives the body no longer in its sensible presence nor by means of sensory perception.
Where it still does this, it continues old traditional modes of medicine. But where it is truly modern, it relates to the body as it is simulated through computer images, but how it could never be seen by the unarmed human eye.
Frequently, the colors on
the screen do not represent visible objective colors, but are freely
chosen, artificially posited. In other words, what becomes visible
is the already reflected, thought body, not the one that is
The image is not simple,
innocent image, but starts out as one that has already gone through
reflection and conceptual thought. It comes as interpreted.
One can change the facial expression (the mood shown) on the faces of people or eliminate persons from or insert them into a scene.
All this means that the
notion of truth itself (in the sense of a correspondence) is
objectively decomposed. It has become meaningless. From now on it is
objectively clear for the soul that a photographic picture cannot
ipso facto have the status of proof. The image is simply by
definition not the image of something real. It only shows itself. It
is show, presentation. The concept of truth and reality is sublated.
The figure is essentially an organic whole, a unity in such a way that all its details are animated by this unity. Of course, dream images do not come as pixels or digital data. But for the soul, today's reality of the logic of the image also fundamentally undermines the reality of the archetypal image.
Only the naïve, easily
impressible ego might succumb to the suggestive power that the inner
images as show still have and believe that they remain immune to
such changes. But the soul knows better. It has lost this innocence.
But the point is that just as the flight simulator imitates the real situation, the situation in a real cockpit has also become similar to that in the flight simulator. Both situations are not really distinguishable. The real cockpit as well as the flight simulator are small replicas of the Platonic cave.
They pull the external
world around them into a small interior space and reproduce it here
in the sublated form of "shadows": as computer images or signals
form information-providing devices.
This is why there is on
television an indiscriminate array of soap operas, news about war
casualties, talk show, the latest statistics of the number of
unemployed, quiz shows, earthquake disasters, etc.
They have their logical or psychological place not really in reality, but in the cave of their image, of public opinion, of the show they have to present. Small wonder that actors and media moguls can become heads of state.
It is questionable
whether we are still living in democracies or not much rather in
The same computer software can be offered by the producing company for a very high or a very low price; the price decision is made not according to the real value of the product, but tactically according to marketing considerations.
In the case of electronic products the idea of the factual value of an item has been altogether decomposed anyway, because in view of the immense development cost on the one hand and the possibility to copy the once-developed product a million times without considerable expense on the other hand, the price of the individual item is a priori artificial; it has to be artificially set because it is impossible to say that it is worth.
Electronic products no
longer have their being in their material, substantial existence
(e.g. in the diskette on which a software is purchased), but they
are through and through of an ideal nature. Which is of course also
the reason why one only buys a license to use the program and not
the software itself.
Then there is the fact underlining the same aspect that the commodities also belong into the world of the modern throw-away society.
Even more fundamental (because it does not merely refer to the use of the finished merchandise, but to its very origin) is the fact that in an ecologically oriented society the recyclables and safe disposability of products has to be taken into consideration prior to the production process.
If the idea of waste disposal stands at the beginning of the production process, it means that the products are also produced as future waste. The idea of waste and trash is a primary and comprehensive perspective, which demonstrates that the solid substantiality of the products is sublated.
In their true logical
status, the commodities are a priori waste (and thus in the last
analysis worthless) even when they come fresh from the factory and
are still in their shiny original wrapping.
Although this interest in
"getting rid" is of course demanded by practical empirical
necessities, it is also indicative of the psychological changes in
the constitution of being in our age and helps to inscribe into
consciousness the soul's project of the decomposition of the reality
character and substantiality of reality as such.
Advertising is all-present and permeates almost all of modern life. Its task, too, is to translate all reality into the status of shadow and to bring this shadow character out into the open for everyone to see:
...all come up in advertising, are given back to us by it, but precisely only as something fundamentally depleted, devalued, cheapened.
It is hardly possible to
still appreciate the Mona Lisa for example; this picture has been
spoiled for us, worn out.
The association of a product with any of these celebrated values, feelings or realities is usually completely arbitrary. There is no intrinsic connection, e.g., between freedom and adventure on the one hand and a brand of cigarettes on the other hand.
The values, emotions, ideals, human desires, as they appear in advertising, are totally detached from any real substrate, totally free-floating, self-satisfied, and only as such free-floating, as what the Medieval nominalists called a flatus vocis, are they by association and suggestion artificially connected with a product.
Freud distinguished between a taking possession with the purpose of the destruction or the preservation of the object. Similarly, we can also distinguish between a celebration of something with either the one or the other purpose. And then we would have to say that advertising celebrates what it touches for the (hidden) purpose of destroying (logically decomposing it, i.e., draining it of all inherent substantial meaning and dignity).
The institution of
advertising is a great mincing machine.
The truth of advertising
is the presentation of reality as illusory being and of illusory
being as illusory being and thus the production of absolute
In support of this view
one might today been absorbed by the advertising industry. But this
does not alter the fact that whatever has entered the world of
advertising is, as that reality that it once had been, annihilated,
This tendency has become objectified in the existence of presentations, layout, and image processing programs. In this way and in combination with modern laser or inkjet printers, powerful tools are made available to the ordinary layman to create fancy documents without much effort and without special training. This shifts the emphasis away from the substantial content, which often is rather poor, to the visible form.
The same is true in schools, where the production of fancy presentations by pupils is sometimes more important than the ideas and the information that the presentation is about. Much energy goes into the design, and graphic artists often dictate a format that is contrary to practical needs or to logical meaning. The optical impression triumphs.
The mind loses out. Book
covers, it seems, must now have a picture on them, regardless of
whether the picture has an intrinsic relation to the content and
makes a real contribution to it or is merely stuck on as an
eye-catcher. The wrapping not only makes itself independent of the
content, it also seems to gain superiority over it.
The big sports events, watched by thousands or millions of people either live or on television, demonstrate to everyone who has eyes to see that man has in his essence been reduced to being a living advertising billboard. The excitement of the games or competitions is here, too, only the sprat to catch the mackerel with.
One should not let oneself be fooled by the intensity of the emotions, which of course get our primary attention. Psychologically something else is important: champion sportsmen and sportswomen and the excitement they cause exist for the sake of advertising, advertising is not just a negligible accessory to the all-important sports achievement and the excitement it causes.
Furthermore, the fact
that top soccer players are literally sold and bought by the various
clubs should not be seen as an isolated phenomenon restricted to one
limited area of life, spots. It is an isolated sign of the general
truth about the essence of man, namely that he, too, has logically
become merchandise, even if not empirically.
Even where, as in show
business, the personality of show masters is essential for their
success, this personality is merely an asset or tool to do his
business with, not his inner substance. Not that feature through
which such persons stand out, but the sensational aspect of their
standing out is what counts.
They are forced to live the life of shadows. We must here not make the mistake of seeing only the superficial aspect, namely that this affects only one particular area of life, that it is only an external factual event that does not touch who and what they are, and that, even though out of a job, they nevertheless gain one advantage, the advantage of having lots of free time to spend on other worthwhile things.
All this is empirically
true, but logically, psychologically the empirical reality of having
been made redundant is the visible sign of the true status of the
people concerned, and not only of their status. What happens to the
still relatively small percentage of the whole population is the
display of the revolutionary fact that the nature of man itself has
taken on shadow character.
The question what a truly human life is does not count. Life does not have a content or substance or goal, it is reduced to the formality or "mechanism" of being alive.
This becomes especially apparent in two powerful shifts
in our world, first the concentration of so much passion on the
issue of abortion (no matter whether it be pro or contra), secondly
the factual development of modern medicine that makes the
transplantation of organs, artificial procreation, perhaps even
Since the objects of sightseeing have their fixed location and cannot travel, the "audience" of the "show" travels to them and recreates them on location as elements of the show. The expression "reality TV" and the phenomenon designated by this name make it unmistakably clear that reality, i.e., the realness of reality itself, is being pulled into television.
The logical essence of reality changes. Reality no longer has its logical place in reality. It emigrated from itself and settled in illusory being, in virtuality.
It becomes reality in the new sense only once it has been reborn in television and as show. Adjusting a famous statement of St. Augustine to our topic (i.e., inverting it), we can say: Noli in te ipsum ire. In repraesentationes redi.
In interiore televisione habitat veritas ("Don't go into yourself. Turn around to 'representations' [or show]. Truth resides inside television").
And his vanitas foris,
veritas intus, we would likewise have to turn around: truth
is not inside, it is precisely in the very vanitas, in
illusory being, where, however, these terms always have to be taken
in their logical or ontological dimension, not in their immediate
empirical or personalistic-psychological senses.
Now politicians and captains of industry can be found guilty corruption or serious finance crimes (for which often thousands of workers have to pay the price), but that does not put them beyond the pale nor stop them from perhaps cashing in on what they did, by appearing in talk shows and the like, which has of course its counterpart in, and is supported by, a public eager for disclosures and treasuring sensational qualities far higher then moral standards.
Inasmuch as today "honor" is a word without meaning, just an empty combination of sounds, it becomes clear to what extent man has his essence no longer in himself as his inner substance.
Precisely because honor
was a fiction, an invisible inner value that was nevertheless
publicly considered to be a sine qua non[k5] of being human (or at
leas a respectable member of society), it was one way the sense of
man's essence as an inner substance was both acknowledged and held
Language is both in practice and in linguistic theory reduced to its partial limited function as a tool for communicating information. This, too, is a fundamental exteriorization. The place of words, we could say, has been taken by linguistic signals. Language in its innermost nature is transformed into the shadow form of itself.
Also, the nature of speaking has changed.
Actually, the typical
thing is that people do not just speak any more, expressing
themselves or their opinion, but produce calculated statements a
priori (although often unconsciously) aimed at having a certain
effect on the public. Speech is a reflected reality from the outset.
Whereas formerly the year was structured by holidays, which assured that time had a qualitative character, the depletion of holidays of their substantial (metaphysical, religious) significance to nothing but days off from work and time for fun deprives time also of this remnant of its qualitative substance.
Even more significant is
the sublation of space and time through modern communications
technology. Because information has become digitized and turned into
an electronic impulse, it can be spread over the globe at the speed
of light. In effect, it can be at once at all and any places on
earth ("telepresence"). This demonstrates that time and space, both
as empirical experience and as Kantian transcendental forms of
intuition, have been sublated.
It is obviously a case of "illusory being" that the fax is a letter. With a real letter, something passed materially from the writer to the recipient. This sheet of paper my friend, my beloved herself, had held in her hand.
This is her handwriting and it still shows me some of her emotion. Here a tear of hers fell onto the paper, and the paper still emits a trace of the scent of her perfume. All this sensory reality has been filtered out in the case of a fax. The sensible presence that a fax letter can have is always one provided by the recipient himself who supplies his own paper and printer.
Sender and addressee
remain each on their own side. The fax letter has its place
exclusively in the medium of abstract universal, "information", into
which both the writher and the addressee "logged in", and this is
what gives the illusory impression of there having been a
Plato oriented himself on the earth by looking up to the everlasting Ideas, which were the successor figurations of the gods or the sublated gods (planets). We seemingly again orient ourselves by looking up to heavenly bodies, namely to communications, television and spy satellites which are the sensible-objectified representation of Plato's supersensible Ideas.
But precisely because
they seemingly are the return to the Homeric mode of orientation,
they are now the explicit representation of the sublatedness of the
planets or gods, their representation as illusory being or as
virtual reality, whereas Plato's Ideas were to be sure this
sublation, but only implicitly [an sich] or for us, but not
yet in such a way that they themselves would have made this
All these qualities of space have been sublated into the indifference and simultaneity of (owing to the speed of light) universally present "information". And along with these qualities, the corresponding feeling such as devotion and awe are finished, indeed, the words for them have lost their meaning; they are now only sounds.
Today our life (our real
life, i.e., our logical life) therefore neither takes place in
empirically real space, nor in metaphysical space, but decidedly in
that sublated space that is called "information" or cyberspace.
Consciousness gains through these means the possibility to become abducted from out of the real world and to be totally, although only temporarily, pulled into and captivated by an artificial world.
Throughout the ages at least since late Antiquity there have been adventure stories of diverse kinds with heroes, knights, monsters and dangers to be overcome, unheard of miracles, etc. To go off into fantasy land has been an age-old pleasure for the mind.
But if one looks at he Hellenistic novels, the romances of the Middle Ages, the picaresque novels of 16th and 17th centuries, to mention only these examples, one is stuck by the slow pace of the action, the broad epic descriptions, the relative comfortableness, harmlessness, and naïveté of the plots.
They had their eager readers, too, but that kind of captivating power that our modern thrillers have and are meant to have one seeks in vain in them, and it was probably not intended either. It is something truly new. And what is new is that the main purpose is to enthrall the mind, to hold it captive.
The plot and the action
are secondary, mere means to the end of suspense. Consciousness
demands the objective reified representations of its truth of being
logically tied up, and it demands opportunities for literally
celebrating this its logical status for certain times, and
periodically again and again.
Their immediate purpose for the persons concerned is, just as with the thrilling novels and movies, their being abducted from out of real life.
The addicts are only a
small percentage of the whole population, but what they do with
their addiction they (unwittingly and unintentionally) also do for
all those who are not addicted, for society at large. Through their
literally acting out a general logical character of modern man's
being-in-the-world, they visibly demonstrate to all of us one aspect
of the soul's truth today.
The violence practiced by
some members of fun clubs in connection with such events is not only
a consequence of the disinhibiting effect of too much alcohol drunk
by them; it is above all a means for getting more absolutely
intensive high feelings. Major sports events belong today to the
logic of panem et circenses , earlier known in our history only
from later Roman times.
Entertainment happens in and presupposes Freizeit, "leisure time", in the strict logical sense of free(d) time, time unmoored form any attachments and binding obligations, but it serves the converse purpose of radically captivating consciousness and of thereby visibly displaying the soul's already prevailing logical status as tied-up soul. The absolute unmooring of time and the status of being tied up belong together.
This is the dialectic of "being tied up". Anything that has the power to excite, to stir up passions, to give people a kick is welcome as a means to create concrete literal instances of enthrallment and thus (at least temporary) of mindlessness. The entertainment industry therefore has to appeal primarily to the lower instincts and needs, to the senses and sensuality.
Violated taboos, nudity, sexuality, cruel crimes, natural disasters, scandals, spectacular news, sensations are most helpful in this connection.
This is also why the absolute newness of news becomes so important. The media want to be the first to break the news, and the audience wants to have the illusory feeling of being almost present live while something is happening. Instantaneousness both of reporting and of receiving the news becomes of prime importance, although in most cases it would not make any real difference if one learned about these news items a day or a week later. Not the intrinsic importance of news, but their "newsworthiness", i.e., its power to excite, it what makes it important.
This is why "important"
does not really mean important in the sense of lasting significance
- tomorrow it may already be forgotten- , but only important now.
And often, when nothing happened that was really exciting or
sensational, television broadcasting stations help making it at
least look like a sensation by postponing the regular program and
inserting a special program about an event to inflate it a bit
simply by giving it so much special attention.
The tied-up audience needs to be constantly fed with sensations in order to stay tied up.
The sensations and the
like are the fuel with which to light the fire of the emotions
constantly afresh. The ties, as we have seen, are not literal
fetters, but performative. And this is why, e.g., Heidegger could
consider "boredom" and entrance gate to philosophy, because
boredom is the opposite and enemy of a state of being captivated by
Another possible means is anesthetization. Here the dullness and stupidity of certain television quiz shows can be mentioned. They have a stupefying effect. They lull, not the audience but the thinking mind of audience, into a dazed state because of their triviality.
Whereby the triviality at
the same time beautifully reconfirms once more the character of cave
time as absolutely unmoored, indifferent time. The deafening noise
in discotheques or walkman music also serves the purpose of dulling
the waking mind.
So it is not primarily the issues that make me mention such events in this context, but the very mass character of the events, in other words, their form aspect. Although mass events can evoke strong affects, too. This is not the point to be made here in connection with them.
I am thinking of an effect that applies also to events of this nature even when they go on very quietly. This effect is the creation of an unconscious herd feeling, of the illusion of being amidst thousands of like-minded people.
This, the form (and actually experienced feeling) of being contained in the fold of the like-minded, is, it seems to me, what gives them their true importance, whereas the explicit issues and topics become secondary, in the last analysis merely the fuel for creating the warm feeling of belonging, for which they are used up. In this sense of belonging, the free(d) time - the time cut out from normal life with all its restraints - is made real again; and at the same time the immediacy of the feeling of belonging is a most captivating experience.
Another aspect of such
mass happenings is one's immediate participation in their show
character. Either one is gets perhaps an opportunity for one's
self-presentation if one is allowed to speak to the audience through
The Salzburg or Bayreuth Festivals cannot, of course, be compared with the trivialities of television quiz show or with football games. But logically they are entertainment in just the same sense as those events. It is merely entertainment for a different taste, of a more sophisticated level, and often for a different social class.
What counts in our
context is that the freed-time aspect and the being tied up are
celebrated here, too.
The viewing figures and
top ratings of television programs, but also the profit made with
movies in the cinemas and the sales figures of bestsellers can be
interpreted as a kind of objective measure of the captivating power.
For more and more we are
already looking into the world and into life through the
perspectives imparted to us by television, even when we are not
literally watching television.
The inside room of the
cave is not just like any interior. It is that special interior that
has pulled the whole external world and reality into itself,
appropriated it, so as to reproduce it there in miniaturized shadowy
form as its own property. We could use for this movement the
psychological term "introjection", although in a not psychic, but
Another one is Disneyland. It is a limited, fenced-in area which has the purpose to recapitulate within itself the large real world in toy model size. The toy model character reveals what is shown of the world as being fundamentally sublated. The enormous fascination of Disneyland is probably based on the fact that it offers to the imagination a real sensible aid and support for experiencing the great Occidental project of the realization of the cave.
Disneyland is of course in empirical regards by no means a complete representation of the world. It cannot drag the world as a whole into itself in order to let it reemerge there anew. But this is also not necessary.
All the soul needs is "to get the idea", to see the ideas representatively realized in symbolic form. By demonstrating through a sufficient number of examples this miniaturized reproduction of (aspects of) the world within a well-circumscribed interior space, the imagination is enabled to complete the intended picture that is factually merely suggested (the picture of the successful introjection of the world at large) and so to logically experience and celebrate in Disneyland the cave as realized in sensory reality.
This fulfills the soul of modern man (who for the most part has not heard of Plato's cave and is unsuspecting about the cave as the grand project of the Occident) with great satisfaction and gratification, the external manifestation of which is this fascination (of the ego). The project of the Occident is not individual people's project or the project of consciousness.
It is the project of the
unconscious soul, a project that asserts itself and prevails even in
sprite of consciousness.
In an airtight glass structure of 1.3 hectare areas, a mini-world with a tropical rain forest, a desert, a savanna, arable land and an ocean has been constructed and people, who are supposed to move into it for a limited time only, have to live in it under self-sufficient conditions.
The idea is that this might also serve the preparation and as a test for the creation of a space station into which life on earth and man could possibly withdraw as if into a kind of Noah's ark, if life on earth should in the future have become uninhabitable through a nuclear or environmental catastrophe.
This idea, which had
already been expressed in numerous science fiction novels and
movies, show symbolically or symptomatically to what extent the soul
has already made itself at home in the idea of an exodus from the
real world and of its immurement in a cave, and how fascinating this
idea is for it.
In it the consumer
experiences the sublatedness of the real world, which is returned to
him as a illusory (virtual) world of the infinite variety of
consumer goods and of the complete gratification of needs. Soothing
music is supposed to lull him into an artificial feeling of comfort
and happiness. In addition to the literal shopping malls, whole
inner city areas are being stylized in the direction of shopping
malls through pedestrian zones and remodeled stores.
The person with a walkman seems to move through the real world; he is sitting in a tram, he does his homework, he is jogging through nature, and yet in actuality he is totally enwrapped in the music coming at deadening volume from his walkman and, as far as the soul (not the ego) is concerned, shielded from the external world.
This, too, is an interior world. One must not be misled by the external impression that the person with a walkman is in the outside world an as ego may be fully aware of it. In truth, i.e., psychologically, logically, he is inside the hermetically sealed world of sound, swallowed by it and unable to hear anything outside, while from the point of view of the ego he is merely listening to it and in control of it.
Walkmans are instruments
for the voluntary self-introjection of people into the interiority
of the cave, here a "subtle-body" cave of music.
But whereas the earlier children's games were played "out there" in the real world, with the result that the imagination animated this real world and the real players with archetypal meanings, fantasy now resides inside the screen or the computer and conversely pulls man's consciousness out of the world and into the interior of "the computer".
The computer games no
longer open up "World", the shut consciousness inside their interior
worlds. Another even more intensive version of "cave" related to
that of the computer games in the hi-tech cyberspace or virtual
reality installations where, similarly to flight simulators, a
person as "cybernaut" is equipped with communication prostheses
(data gloves, data suit, monitor glasses, etc.) and a set of
artificial senses so that he can in fact enter an artificial
computer-produced reality, move around in it and experience it and
his own movement within it including all the tactile and acoustic
sensations produced by his moving in it.
But by turning inwards into the cave of his own interiority and of his memory, the whole outside world, inasmuch as it is part of his experience or fantasy, and his own real life out there (his biography) is reborn (to some extent even recreated, reinvented) in shadow form from within this cave, as memory images.
One's own life experience with all its real events, conflicts and relations to others and one's own true nature is supposed to be recapitulated and viewed in a mirror ("reflected").
Real life is
systematically translated into a secondary world of images given out
as the primary reality.
While for the most part still living and working in the real external world, he establishes, through this ritual, his true essence, figuratively speaking, in the interiority of the consulting room, and, in truth, in "the interior of the personality", or in "his own unconscious".
consulting room is the objective visualization or ritualistic
concretization of the unconscious as "the inner", and the idea of
"the unconscious" is conversely the consulting room evaporated and
distilled into the form of a mental conception, the consulting room
incorporated into man's self-understanding and as his
The cave is in us, but we
are really inside this cave that we harbor in ourselves, as its
tired-up inmates, who are exposed to and often helplessly subject to
the images produced by it. This is the dialectic of "the
unconscious". It is a self-contradictory notion.
The cave has become
all-comprehensive. It now includes and encompasses even the
spiritual reality of human existence, the former world of
metaphysics and religion.
In fundamentalism, the soul cocoons itself in a given religious creed, political ideology, or world view taken over as a ready-made positivity. In contrast to "the unconscious" this is not a logical move in the sense of a real redefinition of man, but a subjective or ego move that requires some degree of constraint and thus "violence" toward oneself. In the case of fundamentalism, it is the immurement aspect itself (the activity of immuring oneself) which is at the center and which is "acted out" rather then the cave as that into which one immures oneself (which is more or less exchangeable).
In the case of the unconscious, however, what counts is the simple result of a translocation, "the cave" as a logical locus (psychotherapy is a ritual that transforms the logic of being-in-the-world). Perhaps one could say that fundamentalism is a constant having to cross a threshold, while psychology in fact settles on the other side of the threshold.
And this is why fundamentalism needs a constant vigilance and effort of the will to uphold this immurement; it is easy to see why it is often paired with a kind of fanaticism.
The cave remains here without, as a given doctrine (a positivity!) in which one settles, whereas the idea of the interior of man and the psychotherapeutic work based on this ideas have logically interiorized and distilled the cave (although, of course, not yet all the way: not into the pure concept of interiority, but still imagined inner space).
The interior of man is an
image informing one's way of seeing, the style of one's
self-conception, not a literal (positive) place and not, like
belief-systems, a positivity, either.
The one works by
providing a ready-made structure for the mind, thereby depriving man
of the necessity to think actively, the other by providing
With your unconscious you still know to have the real world all around your. Disneyland and shopping malls are special places that you go to at times and that need your special activity of going there for you to be in them; they are not around you all the time and regardless of whether you want to be there or not.
They are essentially temporary, partial, and dependent on your subjective moves. Therefore they all are strong symbolizations of the cave, individual specific visualizations of what the cave reality is about, namely the real world's having been introjected into a small interior, enclosed room, and reality's having been translated into the form of illusory being or virtuality.
But they are not
themselves this reality of the cave as that which has truly
swallowed and encompassed the real world within the confines of its
inner space. And they are not this encasement as an objective
reality that is no longer dependent on subjective doings and
And indeed, the gigantic project of a total networking spanning all the world and of the connection by cable (or wireless technology) of all households and institutions, businesses, even all apparatuses in households and businesses is the project of the objective realization of the cave itself in its full form and as the truth of existence.
The words "Internet" and "World Wide Web" perfectly reveal what they are about. With total networking, human existence is totally placed inside a closed net or web. Information and communication are the spiders spinning their web around mankind and the world, and they are at the same time themselves this web in which man and world are caught.
This web is the cave having come real and true. It is both the materialized Platonic cave and yet, as Platonic, a fundamentally subtle-bodied cave ("information", "communication").
Its walls are not made of rock. Now it is really true: the frontier is closed. The "web" is all-inclusive, it does not have anything outside itself. It is there all the time and governs our lives even without our personally having to log into it. I am in the web, even if I refuse to own a computer.
The open "World", which
was "World" because it originated through, and permanently existed
as, the separation of the mythic parents Heaven and Earth, has
finally closed. The information and communication cave is the
rescinding and undoing of the Heaven-Earth-separation and instead
the installation of positivity.
Sense organs and sense (mens) were simply the interfaces between both the real human being and the real world, which thus in fact met. In the cave, however, what before had been means and mediator (organ for experiencing the world) has turned into something in its own right. It has obtained an independent reality and has become explicit as its own end.
This means that what had been in the middle has now been turned inside out to the position of the periphery around us, and along with it what had been outside and what it had been the mediation for, the world, has been pulled inside, into the middle. The world as what it once has been has, to be sure, dropped out altogether out of this game. Man now does not face it, the world, but only sense data, information, stimuli (the Platonic shadows).
It is to them that he now
relates, rather than relating through them and through his reason,
which used to connect him with the divine, to what had been outside
him, the world. However, between this new "outside" (the flood of
sensible stimuli and of the input of information) and man, there
arises, as a new middle, that successor figuration of the "World"
that is called virtual reality or illusory being. This is the
reversal of the relation of man and world.
Although sense and information data come to him as input from outside, he is no longer vis-à-vis them the way he was formerly vis-à-vis the world because as sensible-physical being he is reached by them immediately, without distance.
This is the very nature of stimuli. He turns logically, not necessarily empirically into the object of this input, into an appendage of the whole system of data.
Just as in a literal
virtual-reality setup the human being is, through his data suit
etc., enclosed into the virtual-reality equipment and hooked up to
it, absorbed into it, so he has also in his logical essence as a
cave dweller turned into a technical component within a large
information and communication machine, namely into a receiver and a
Whereas the three other moments discussed so far are part of the immediate existence in the cave and thus of the cave as the story-internal image, the sun is, within the story, the cave's radical other, indeed its own opposite, accessible only through an about-turn and through leaving the cave, although, as we have seen above, it is part of the whole cave reality in the wider sense, namely as the cave's truth.
The Platonic cave made real is the entire relation of "the cave itself" as the system of entertainment and being cocooned within the great web of information and communication on the one hand and of Money as the truth of this system.
This relation is a dissociated one (which in Plato's narrative is represented by the motif of the about-turn).
"Dissociated" does not simply mean split, cut into two.
It means the contradiction of at once mutually excluding one another and of nevertheless being fundamentally inseparable, even dependent on one another, the one side being the truth of the other and the other the precondition of this truth, but of course in such a way that neither side is allowed to be conscious of the other (completely dissociated relation of the infotainment side and the Money side of the cave reality as a whole can be visualized best with a mandala drawing by Jakob Bohme (which already Jung pointed to), at least as far as the purely structural relationship is concerned.
Bohme drew two
half-circles back to back within a large circle (see Fig.1).
That Money is in all the aspects so far discussed the ultimately decisive force and that Money is all-present and all-mighty, inasmuch as nearly everything can be "sold" and everything, even people, are venal, does not really need to be shown. One just has to keep in mind the incredible sums that are paid for the television rights for big sports events or the proceeds for video games and the like.
From the outside perspective it is possible to see through the sentimentalism, the underlying nostalgia, the hollowness of the experience inside the cave and to also become aware of the captivation or addiction aspect.
The naked glance at the financial forces underlying "the cave" may well appear as cynical because it mercilessly reveals the emptiness and shadow nature of the entertainment world, which here includes also the "higher" entertainments such as the ones called "the search for meaning" or "indulging in a sense of meaning".
It even includes the sciences, which can no longer be upheld as the form of truth in the innocent sense of the world, being themselves to the highest degree dependent on Money and being in the process of getting commercialized. And it includes everything of the "life world" in Husserl's sense, just as of the educational systems, health systems, etc.
It is all reduced to Money, to the bottom line. It can be seen that Money has gained a preponderance over against the still so-called real, which in turn is seen though as illusory being. But Money is also the means for pulling the real more and more into virtuality. Again I must warn the reader against mistaking a logical analysis for a moral judgment.
To reveal mercilessly the
emptiness and shadow nature of the entertainment world is here a
description of its character and status, not a verdict.
circenses are not opposites, the one pointing to and belonging
in the cave, the other representing the reality outside the cave.
Both panis and circenses together are abbreviations
for the cave existence, and both have their truth outside the cave,
in the Money that finances them.
The description and compilation of many of the examples given may evoke emotions that go into the direction of cultural criticism, feelings of a loss, decline, and degeneration that need to be bemoaned, or even in the direction of moral condemnation. But this would be a wrong assessment, at least one not appropriate to and inherent in my psychological argument.
What happened is not an unexplainable catastrophe that befalls us a kind of accident, even where, for the moment and as the first immediacy of something new, it shown in the form of excess or pathology. It is the (beginning) conclusion of a project of the soul that began almost 3000 years ago and this means a goal pursued by it with fervor.
The goal is, as shown, to expel human existence from "nature," that is, from the immediacy of the human being-in-the-world, and its transportation into the logic of reflection or reflected being-in-the-world. Such a fundamental change cannot merely happen in mente, as a mental one, because it would happen only subjectively, as a personal attitude or belief.
It must happen in the alchemy of the soul, that is to say, in the "material" medium of concrete life. Any real transformation must be an objective change in and of the real world and manifest in its transformation, in order to be fully real, just as according to Jung any spiritual truth is gradually reified.
It is therefore to be
assumed that this process will not come to an end until all
remainders of the "natural" status of human reality have been
completely abraded and transported into the status of illusory being
This development toward a
virtual reality concerns only one side of the Parable of the Cave,
the world of show or the cave itself. But for its other side, the
light of the sun, the same is true. The continually moving and
self-accelerating system as with Money exists cannot really be
checked or its development stopped. The financial system rules over
us, not we over it. It has a momentum of its own.
But truly completed it
will only be if the fulfilled cave can be in fact realized to have
been, and to be, no more than the first immediacy of the absolute
interiority of the soul, the still positivized, concretized form of
this interiority, and if this interiority of the soul can be
released into its own and from its being held down in the state of
But he identified the (for modern consciousness) inescapable "knowledge that there is a soul" with that he called the "discovery" of the unconscious, and particularly that unconscious that was the sublated spiritual past and that one was supposed to turn to in order to regain an access to the divine.
But the unconscious and
the inner are themselves forms of the cave (in the narrower sense).
This is why Jung's marvelous insight into the absolute revolution of
our being-in-the-world ("no culture before ours was ever… ")
miscarried. The wind was taken out of its sails. It lost its very
point, was domesticated, safely encased and held down in a
compartmental aspect of life in the world.
It has been turned inside out, from its unobtrusive mediating (not really background!) position to an external and explicit position as the successor figuration to the former heaven with its gods or God, so that it turns into an object and focus of attention.
The real revolution is that from medium to object of consciousness.
The soul as "language" (as the medium as such) is all around us.
And Money is the way I
described it, as world-encompassing incessant motion and liquidity
above our heads, is the objective representation of the soul as
"language", however "language" in still positivized or literal form,
still held down in the form of "letter" (Lacan), of "writing" and "gramma"
(Derrida), not yet released into its form as soul: absolute-negative
interiority. Modern man as cave man is he who has in principle
realized to be inside mediality, inescapably enwrapped by it.
For this realization to become possible, the slow passage all the way through metaphysics in all its stages to its final conclusion had been necessary. But a full realization of it would consist in its full sublation, in the complete abrasion of its "letter" or "writing" form.
The historical phenomenon of Occidental thought can now be realized to have been the project of the revolutionary transposition of human existence from man's interiority in the world ("nature", myth) into his interiority in mediality, i.e. in interiority per se: