Plato and Confusing and Painful Ascent to Truth
Plato finds the ascent to truth confusing and painful because the ascent is different from what ordinary minds have learned through the experience of reality. According to this parable, the initial mind is in a cave, and what it perceives as reality are only images or shadows of what is real. Plato refers to this enlightenment or ascent. Such minds, accustomed to seeing shadows get confused when they are shown reality. The process of enlightenment is painful because the mind was originally rigid and chained. Chaining symbolizes the state of mind being fixed towards a specific way of thinking. The unchaining process literally involves forcing the man to stand up and his rigid neck to rotate to enable him to see reality. This whole process of enlightenment, according to Plato, involves painful experiences. Such a man, according to Plato, will be confused and baffled so that when he is asked to name the objects, he will name them as images of what he used to see while in the cave.
According to the parable of the cave by Plato, the vision of reality is said to be dangerous to the eyes, “like the sun to the eclipse”. This helps us understand the terror of ascending by making us see the difference between those people who are still chained, only seeing shadows or images of reality, and those that have been liberated and are able to see reality.
Obviously, the liberated mind is intellectually superior to the chained mind, which is still in the cave. According to Plato, liberated minds are those of Rulers, Wiseman, Philosophers, or Kings. Liberated minds have a duty to release minds which are still chained in the cave and help them to see reality.