ONLY ONE IN STEP


Plato's Allegory of the Cave

Plato's Allegory of the Cave


Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is

somehow very ‘Thirties: lots of chaps in

the dark behind high walls; much shadow-play

with unidentifiable voices;

belated, blinding suddenness of light.

The decade’s putative worthies (who all,

by the way, seem to have been chaps) go forth

unknowingly in parallel: e.g.

Hitler in Berchtesgarten, Wittgenstein

(Adolf’s erstwhile peer from Linz) in Cambridge.

Did Wittgenstein walk with Blunt, Philby,

Burgess and Maclean as the fifth man?

Meanwhile, elsewhere at Trinity College,

A.E. Housman tutored Enoch Powell: two

classicist lads from the West Midlands – and

the land of lost and wistful laddishness.

Our Enoch giving chase

Our Enoch giving chase


Our Enoch  – the wife’s second cousin twice

removed – although he always acted the

philosopher-king, indeed believed it,

in Parliament, in uniform, in the

groves of academe – appeared to labour,

tormented, in the dark, poor soul. Always

a solitary, he was chained to the

metaphysics of empire, protocol

and tribe: from the ‘Rivers of blood’ to ‘No

Surrender!’, preferring voluntary

exile to certain public failure. Yet,

see how, the fluent theme has become a

continuo – ‘influx’, ‘deluge’, ‘flood’, how

his acolytes have grown, like dragon’s teeth,

loquacious prisoners in Powell’s teeming,

booming cave of phantasmagoria.


18th century phantasmagoria

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  1. #1 by John Plummer - May 25th, 2010 at 09:22

    I always feel drawn into any discussion about Plato’s Cave because it is such a profound analogy and because its layers of meaning will always elude me.

    The other pieces this month somehow spin in orbit around Plato: for example, the sense of oppression of individuality and the many faced state that still pervades Russia, the obscene contrasts of poverty and wealth/power in the USA and the furies which attend any attempt to intervene, the individual and collective vanities that drive people to seek power and corruptly hold on to it – as our own royals somehow contrive.

    Happy thoughts for our most beautiful month!

  2. #2 by Mary Clark - May 1st, 2017 at 04:34

    ‘The decade’s putative worthies (who all,

    by the way, seem to have been chaps) go forth

    unknowingly in parallel: e.g.

    Hitler in Berchtesgarten, Wittgenstein …’

    This ‘unknowingly’ may be the collective unconscious, continuing the flow of primal archetypes: ghosts, aliens, and others who evoke fear and tales of superheroes. I like to think of the collective unconscious as moving us forward positively, but it has all human experience within it. John Plummer’s note about vanity and corruption is apt as well.

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