01 October 2009
from Klikot Website



Material extracted from Chapter 9 of

"Technology and the Soul"

by Wolfgang Giegrich















Part I

The Cave as Utopia

So far we were concerned with the difference between a simple description of the initial condition of human being-in-the-world and violent distortion and reinterpretation through which thought pushes off from a given condition to a fundamentally new world condition.


Now we come to a second aspect of the Parable of the Cave, to its secret dialectics.

For Plato there is an unambiguous direction for the movement in his story, the direction of the way up, which is viewed as an ascent from delusion, or from untruth to truth.


(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.

The utopian character becomes perhaps a little more accessible to the imagination if we take into account what it is that Plato at bottom designed with his image of the cave existence. It is nothing else but the mental picture (represented with the still primitive technical means of his time) of the model or principle of the "cinema".


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.

Almost two and a half millennia before anybody was able to conceive of the technical realization of the "cinema", Plato unwittingly produced the model of it. To be sure, he is not concerned, on the ontic and technical-empirical level, with the literal movie-house as a special institution within existence as a whole.


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.

Man is a troglodyte or movie-watcher.


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".



Imagination Versus Thought, Hermeneutics Versus Psychology

I said that Plato unwittingly produced the model of the "cinema".


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.

What does it mean, what does it amount to, that reflection has come home to itself, by turning against its own first immediacy and fulfilling itself as the unity of intention recta and intention obliqua or as completed reflection? The answer is: the Parable of the Cave is the event in which thought or reflection realized that it has to be inevitably "metaphysical" (avant la lettre), if it goes all the way through with itself.

Within the cave story, if one is oneself captivated ("tied up") by the imaginary world it creates and takes its starting point, sight unseen, for granted, the ascent is a radically new development, a dangerous, unheard-of move forward, indeed a literal revolution.


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 indeed been.

So there can be two very different readings of this story. We can stay inside it and go along with the development described in the narrative, thus in a way "sympathetically" letting ourselves first be tied up, too, and then participating in the experience of the fellow who was forcefully turned around and had to suffer one painful shock after another.


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 conventional hermeneutics.

But we can also think the Parable of the Cave itself, think the thought that it is, a thought, however, that is presented only in the naïve form of a narrative and image rather then in the form of thought. What to the former style of reading appeared as a sequence of several events we would now comprehend as the internal moments of the logic of one single event, one stance in the world.


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.

According to Walter Brocher, for one, Plato is supposed to have tried, with his ascent to the Ideas, to provide a new meaning (or to rescue some of the old sense of meaning) after the loss of meaning that myth once upon a time had provided.


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.

Within the narrative and for the picturing mind there is a real about-turn that goes along with a real liberation from the fetters of the cave people. But thought sees through to the fact that it is the ascent that establishes the fetters of the cave people for the first time. The people in the cave, and the Sophists in reality, did not feel tied up and imprisoned.


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.

The second moment in the story (the about-turn and the ascent) is the reflection of the first moment in the story (the original cave situation). But to think the Parable of the Cave means more than letting one moment within the text reflect another one of its moments.


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.

A further aspect:

thinking the Parable of the Cave is the prerequisite for our becoming able to give it a psychological rather then a hermeneutic reading.

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.



The Dialectic of Utopia and Realization

The Parable of the Cave as event is, as we have seen, the establishment of a utopia, the utopia of the definition of man as a troglodyte in the "cinema", where he is bombarded with a flood of images and information.


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.

Our century[1] can perhaps be called the century of utopias. But we have had to watch how one after another, major social utopias, whether from the left or from the right, failed miserably, even when the greatest efforts had been made to render them real. I surmise that this is above all because utopias that are consciously and explicitly declared and set up as programs for action remain merely subjective, mere contents of consciousness and for this reason are not able to logically reach reality.


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.

The situation in Plato is totally different. For him, the cave is precisely not a utopia or goal. The cave is for him the real starting condition from which on has to move away in order to get to something that represents the actual goal. This, and only this, is what makes it possible for Plato's utopia to in fact logically reach reality.


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 reality.

Apparently it is the power of the mind to be able to bring about what is empirically impossible: both to pull itself up by its bootstraps, and the reverse: to push off from something which for the time being is precisely still totally out of one's reach. Although it still lies in the future or hovers high above one's head, it is nevertheless treated as if it were a basis on which on is already standing, so that one can push off form it.


To perform this contradictory feat is only possible on the ground of Logos, on the ground of language.

It is the secret of the Parable of the Cave (a secret even for Plato himself!) that what it endeavors to get away from is its actual goal. To settle human existence in the cave is what the soul is concerned with by creating this parable, contrary to the conscious intention.


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.

Plato himself is a case in point. When he tried to put his explicit utopia of the ideal state into practice at the court of Dionysius I in Syracuse, this turned out to be a disaster.

The modern utopian is standing between an empirically given social condition and his utopian dream of the ideal society. He has what is real behind his back, because he has logically broken with it and is now oriented totally toward his utopia and the future. For him the actual about-turn lies between what is already there in contrast to the utopia, and this utopia itself.


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.

In Plato, the idea of the actual state (i.e., that which is portrayed as and claimed to be the actual state) has been drawn into the fantastic narrative itself. It ipso facto becomes a component of the utopia itself. It becomes itself fantastic (the secret desired state).


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.

For this reason Plato's Parable of the Cave no longer has anything outside of itself and behind it - precisely because it has left the actual break or dilemma absolutely behind as fully accomplished.


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:

because it has "the lie" (its counterfactual utopian character) fundamentally within itself or is it.

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 become reality.



The Transformation of the Locomotion into "Work"

From the point of view of the Parable of the Cave itself, the actual difference is between the cave and the world out there in sunlight.


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.


This locomotion 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.

The Parable of the Cave was able to mobilize and concentrate all the energies of the Occidental soul for an ascent to Ideas. This is one factor.


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).

As an aside, I want to mention that mythic tales were by no means psycho-logical engines in this way. They did not try to harness the soul's energy and utilize it for some future purpose.


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.

"The rose it without why; it flowers because [or while] it flowers,

It pays no heed of itself, does not ask whether it is seen".

Angelus Silesius


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.



The Unity of Cave and Sun or the Truth of the Appearance [2]

If ascent to the sun is descent into the cave, then cave and sun are two sides of one and the same thing. What the world of the cave is we have already elaborated. In an objectifying view it is the "cinema".


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.

The truth of the cinema is a dual one: the unity of exciting experience (or show) and Big Business.


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.

Money is the actual truth of the cinema. But that does not by any means imply that the emotional experience aspect, the movie as representation of life - even more so, as seeming appearance (self-manifestation) of the truth of life - would be nothing but an untruth over against Money. Rather, both together represent the whole truth of the cinema in its dialectically contradictory nature.


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 two sides constitute together the One grand truth that is called Schein (illusory being) or reflection. We already know that Plato's Parable of the Cave, too, is the unfolding and division of One truth onto its two sides, cave and sunlight, and now we can add that it is the truth of the logic of illusory being. Plato's parable at the same time indirectly shows the internal dialectic of this truth.


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.

In the same way, the tied-up cave man and the philosopher, having ascended to the light of the sun, are in logical regards by no means two separate beings.


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.

The Parable of the Cave, as a narrative and image, is the still naively presented picture of the logic of illusory being or the logic of reflection, a logic that receives its own logical analysis above all in the "Doctrine of Essence" part of Hegel's Science of Logic, but partly also in the work of Karl Marx.





[1] This essay was written in 1994.

[2] "Appearance": German Shein, which means both illusory being (mere appearance, semblance) and appearance as radiance, manifestation.


Part II
Occidental History as the Process of the Cave's Realization




Occidental History as an Alchemical Laboratory

Whitehead is the author of that statement according to which the whole of Western philosophy consists merely of footnotes to Plato.[1]


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,

(a) the articulation of a program or task

(b) that since then this task had been imposed on Occidental mankind

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 artificial projection.

In this connection we may also recall the important insight expressed by C.G. Jung that,

"every spiritual truth is gradually reified and turns into a substance or tool in the hand of man".[2]

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 devotion.

This is so because the cave of the Parable of the Cave was precisely not presented as a utopia that is continually pushed off into the future. Rather, it has always already won man over for itself, dragged him into itself and settled him in itself. It is not, as Whitehead stated, that Plato's "shadow falls over all of Western thought".


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.

For this reason my speaking of the Parable of the Cave as a "program", that had to be "realized", can easily be misunderstood. It should not be taken in that sense in which we speak of a "party program" or a "five-year plan".


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 outset.

It is in this sense that the Parable of the Cave is a program.


Its 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 reality.

It would therefore be totally wrong to think that Plato had prescribed this program to Occidental mankind. He is not its author or inventor at all.


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[3] 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.

But the revolutionary shift from mythos to logos is precisely not a single, one-time event like a cut that occurred way back in the historical past and at one blow expelled human existence from mythos and transported it into logos. Or rather, it is this single cut, but this event that cut is happening as an ongoing process, as that one great extended event that we call the history of the last 3000 years or so. It is, in other words, a cut that as a cut has nevertheless the character of a prolonged alchemical opus.


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.

In this sense, Occidental history is to be comprehended as the alchemical laboratory in which the prima materia (the logic of the world and of human existence in the world) are being worked and transformed, transformed, as it were, from the stage of the unio naturalis into the stage of unio mentalis.


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.

Today we seem to have entered the exciting age in which the process or the realization of the cave as the new logical locus of human existence or man's being-in-the-world seems to draw to its (beginning) fulfillment.


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 existence emerges.

Four moments make up the essential reality of the cave existence or of the logic of illusory being.

  • The shadow as the empty, vain illusion, as the mere reflectedness of a formerly substantial being.

  • The being tied up, that is, the powerful fascination by beautiful, uplifting, captivating illusions ("illusory being") such as show, glamour, entertainment, attractions providing free-floating pleasure[4].

  • The cave as a narrow, tight inside-room cut off from the real world, which however presents itself as the new (illusory, virtual) world in miniature, that is, as the new all-comprehensive notion of all reality.

  • The sun (or the Idea of the Good, i.e. Money) as the split-off, isolated ultimate truth of illusory being and as its spiritus rector - or as the new form of God.[5]




The Logic of the Present Time as the Reality of Illusory Being

I will try to illustrate the four moments just mentioned by means of concrete phenomena from the world of positive things.


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.



Shadow Reality

The status of shadow implies that the real is reflected, desubstantialized, derealized, and is only as derealized still real.


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 immediately given.

In a similar way satellite images of our earth or of weather processes do not represent what is sensibly perceptible. It is not what the human eye would see, if it were up there, not even what the eye armed with telescopes would see. What they show is an always already processed image, the result of computer calculations.


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.

Formerly one could assume that a photograph was the picture of something and in this sense had the status of a document (proof). Nowadays, in the age of digitized image and image processing, the meaning of "photography" has fundamentally changed. Photos can be manipulated at will, without leaving a trace as a manual retouching would.


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.

Also, the fact that an image is optically composed of so many pixels and in reality of a series of zeros and ones undermines the very notion of "images", "figure", Gestalt.


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.

Flight captains once upon a time oriented themselves by their immediate perception of the weather conditions outside the aircraft's windows. The modern captain is largely cut off from direct sensory perception. He receives his information via sensors and computer screens. We have nowadays flight simulators that have the purpose of imitating real flight situations.


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.

Quite obviously the living room has today taken on the character of a cave. We sit for hours, tied to our armchairs, in front of our television sets, and the world comes to us into our living rooms in sublated form via the television screens, as show, image, shadows of immediate reality. Everything presented on television has ipso facto been sublated in the absolute indifference of "anything goes".


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.

It is also well known that politics, real politics, has to a large extent become a show and is more and more drawn into the world of television. Not only are elections lost and won through television, the politicians, too, are largely only the Platonic shadows of real politicians, a priori reflected; they are illusory being, inasmuch as they perceive themselves and reality via the image that they and the political issues present in the media and that they wish to present.


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 mediacracy.

War correspondents are nowadays equipped with portable satellite receivers, so that they are constantly informed about the general reporting in the media and public opinion. They thus do not see that happens during the war that they witness directly through their own eyes alone. Their seeing is already informed by the trends and by the categories inherent in those views. Television swallows up the real world and gives birth to it again as a reflected, illusory one.

We all experience that the exchange or market value has indeed taken the place of the utility value of object. Pocket calculators and electronic watches are often given away for a few dollars. Price and value have been dissociated.


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.

But ordinary products and commodities have also been annihilated as far as their logical status as "substantial being" and their own dignity is concerned: first very generally through their incorporation into the world of a consumer society, in which, through their consumption, their logical vanity is revealed.


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.

Whereas former civilizations were concerned with producing their major cultural products for eternity (both in the sense of sub specie aeternitatis[k3] and in the sense "that they might last forever") - their pyramids, temples, cathedrals, parchment books - we have to note that one of the most pressing concerns of our civilization is how to dispose of nuclear as well as more ordinary waste.


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.

When we think of "classical modern" art, the art of the Cubists and the movements following them, we see that natural reality was portrayed as one whose substantial intactness had already been decomposed. The Cubists did not try to paint the sensibly given any more, but the concept or essence (one might almost be tempted to say: the Platonic Idea) of the sensible object. The natural world had been seen through as being shadows.

Extremely important and characteristic of our age is the institution of advertising.


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:

  • great works of art like Leonardo's Mona Lisa or Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

  • architectural treasures of mankind like the pyramids or Greek temples

  • the beauty and virginal wilderness of tropical forests

  • spectacular landscapes like that of the Grand Canyon

  • elegant cheetahs, funny apes, and domesticated animals

  • the sensual appeal of the human body

  • highest spiritual, emotional, moral goals and values like love, freedom, happiness, adventure, coziness, purity, peace,

...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.

It cannot be overlooked that advertising often makes use of (quasi) archetypal ideas for its purposes. Advertising celebrates (this word can here be taken in its full religious meaning) everything that belongs to natural reality and to the world of man, but precisely only as empty form, as external design, a cliché without any substantial content. And it celebrates all this only for the purpose of adoring the advertised product with the abstract value of the celebrated reality.


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 sole real relation to reality of advertising - its objective purpose of profit maximization and the subjective interest of the advertising agency in getting income - belongs already to the sphere of illusory being in its highest form as Money. It is not profit that is the truth of advertising. Profit is only the sprat with which to catch the mackerel, the bait by which man is lured into pushing ahead the alchemical opus of the translation of all reality into illusory being.


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 virtuality (Sсhein).

Advertising often produces pictures of the highest technical expertise and highest esthetic perfection, so that one might feel tempted to ask whether it could not perhaps be that the greatest and most authentic works of art of our time are created in the advertising industry (provided one is willing to narrow down one's notion of art and of beauty to mere formalism).


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, sublated.

Highly significant and revealing is also the feature of our time that it is a time of absolute presentation - absolute presentation because it is (and is meant to be) the presentation of nothing. The packaging, the show, the image in PR-sense of the word are ends unto themselves. What is presented is the presentation per se.


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.

Another striking example for this exteriorization, now on home ground, namely the essence of man, is to be found in sports.


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 royalties are commercially exploited, just as actors and other celebrities, but also ordinary people, sell themselves by exposing themselves and intimate details of their lives in magazines, talk shows, or reality TV. The essence of man is pulled into show business. Man no longer has his essence in himself as his substance, has personality.


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.

A noteworthy spectacle is how through "lean production" and other efficiency measures in industry jobs are rationalized away for the purpose of a company's becoming competitive on the world market. For thousands of people this is vivid proof of their having become redundant, superfluous, worthless and in this way ejected from out or reality altogether.


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.

Even the very concept of life is depleted of its substantial content and transformed into the abstract-formal notion of life as the functioning of organs and as merely biological life (vegetating, naked life) as something that needs to be preserved at all cost.


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 cloning possible.

The counterpart to this is that the very idea of life in a substantial sense, in the sense of a human life for something and out of a source (a tradition, a religion, a social or spiritual commitment), which has not disappeared altogether, had been translated into its formalistic or "shadow" form in the "life-style" idea.

Tourism is another way in which a formerly real world is turned into a virtual one and pulled into "show".


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").[6]


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.

Around 1900 there still existed a concept of honor as a living power. Honor was that idea or fiction that bestowed upon a person his or her substantial being. Most blatantly this is seen from the fact that a person who had the misfortune of going bankrupt was more or less obligated to shoot himself in order to restore his honor.


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 alive.

Perhaps the most fundamental feature to be at least mentioned in this context is the decomposition of language. Abbreviations and acronyms take the place of words or expressions that have a soul (a meaning, feeling tones, and intralinguistic associations).


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.

So far I listed mainly examples for the sublation of the substantial nature of the world of things and beings. The translation of reality from being into illusory being also shows in something else: in the sublation of space and time, in their being deprived of their sensible reality. Modern means of transportation (car, intercity express trains, airplanes, rockets) relativize the limitations of space and time. Electric light suspends the difference between day and night, a time-honored difference of mythological dignity.


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.

In a telefax latter I positively hold the sublatedness of the sensory, substantial reality of the letter in my hands.


It is obviously a case of "illusory being" that the fax is a letter.[7] 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 communication.

In Homer, people (e.g., Odysseus in his travels) oriented themselves on the earth through looking at the stars and planets, which were gods.


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 explicitly visible.

As late as for Kant there was a distinction of metaphysical significance between above and below. He was able to look up, with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, to the "starry heaven above me." Today there is no longer an above and a below, just as the "in me" of the moral law, revered by Kant simultaneously with the heaven above, as well as the Augustinian veritas that resided in interiore homine are gone.


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.

In cyberspace, the real space with its distances has simply been dropped. The technologies of virtual reality make it possible that for conferences, people from all continents can (seemingly) directly come together in the here and now (i.e., in the "telepresence") or a virtual space.



Being Tied up

What first may come to mind when thinking about the second moment of the Parable of the Cave, that of being tied up, is the emergence and continual perfection of the "captivating", enthralling novels (and later movies) during modernity:

detective stories, mysteries, thrillers.

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.

Another type of objective representation of this need of the modern soul is drug abuse and all sorts of addictions. The addictions are the perfect empirical-experiential demonstration of the logical character of being tied up, inescapably captivated.


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.

Sports events, such as the Olympics or football and soccer games have a similar function. They have their psychological right to exist in that they produce immediate, live suspense, stir up passionate emotions and in this way take consciousness totally prisoner for themselves for as long as they and their effects last.


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.

Circenses is a keyword in general, perhaps best translated into our modern language by "entertainment industry", or by "opium for the people" (Karl Marx).[8]


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.

It is the excitement that turns a show into a show in the first place. The shadow play in the cave presupposes the tied-up audience, and it so happens that the fetters consist in the stirred-up emotions that blind the mind. This is why investigative journalism is so important: the hunt for new sensations.


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[9], because boredom is the opposite and enemy of a state of being captivated by stirred-up emotions.

Thrill and excitement [10] are but one mode of celebrating the soul's logical status of being captivated.


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.

A third important tool for celebrating the psychological status of being tied-up is certain mass events, such as demonstrations, pop concerts, mass Church congresses (Kirchentage). The subjects or contents can be truly important ideals, such as justice, human rights, freedom, religious faith.


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 a microphone.

What today goes under the rubric of "culture" (the way this word is understood in our time) belongs to the same logical sphere of entertainment as television, sports and other sensational events, although admittedly it belongs in empirical, semantical regards to an altogether different class.


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.

Nevertheless, television is probably the major way in which the second moment of the cave existence realizes itself. When one considers that millions of people spend hours in front of television every day, and furthermore, that children frequently grow up watching television (if they do not grow up, so to speak, "within" it, encompassed by it), the enormous power of the state of being tied up becomes apparent.


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.

And yet it is not just the fact that we sit so regularly and for so long in front of our television sets that reveals the captivating power of television. This power shows much more in something far less noticeable, namely in the fact that we do not merely, not really, sit vis-à-vis television, as it first appeared, but in actuality inside it.


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.





[1] "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato". Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality (New York: Free Press, 1979), p.39.

[2] CW 13 & 302, trans. modified.

[3] The engine character.

[4] It is to be noted that the being tied up consists in free-floatingness (abstractness, indifference, arbitrariness). Being tied up presupposes or implies Frei-Zeit ("free(d) time", leisure time).

[5] The God of Schein (illusory being) is, as a matter of course, only a Schein god (a seeming or illusory god).

[6] Augustine has said: Noli foras ire; in te ipsum redi: in interiore homine habitat veritas ["Don't go outside; turn back (or around) into yourself: truth resides inside man"], (De vera religione 39, 72).

[7] E-mail, which became so popular after his paper was written, would be an even better case in point. (Note add 2006).

[8] Marx used this phrase with respect to religion. But it fits all sorts of entertainment, not only that "higher" and "inner, spiritual" entertainment called religion.

[9] Cf. Martin Heidegger, Die Grundbegriffe der Metaphysik. Welt - Endilichkeit - Einsamkeit, Gesamtausgabe vol. 29/30 (Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 1983), esp. Part One.

[10] As David Miller pointed out in a letter to me, the addiction to pornography on the computer and in hotel cinema (where actual touching cannot take place: shadow reality!) could be mentioned as an additional instance, especially if one considers that the gross monetary take on pornography now exceeds that of both professional football and professional basketball in USA. (Note added 2006.)


Part III
The Occidental Soul's Self-Immurement in Plato's Cave



The Cave World

The third moment of the cave existence is the self-enclosed interior room of the cave itself.


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 logical sense.

There are a number of impressive real examples in which the cave receives visible objective representations and which therefore can serve as so many individual images for the cave. We already mentioned the cinema and television (the living room with its television set).


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.

Very expressive as an image is also the project names "Biosphere 2", an experiment planned in America and designed to last one hundred years. A number of people are supposed to live in a hermetically closed artificial world, which however is supposed to simulate the real world in miniature.


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.

A further image of powerful realness is the shopping mall. Whereas stores are particular rooms which are clearly in and part of the real world and into which one enters for special purposes, the shopping mall is a priori conceived as a self-sufficient world of its own. It is an interior room into which - pars pro toto and at least according to the underlying idea - the whole world has withdrawn.


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.

In very different, more metaphorical or sublimated ways the immurement of the soul in the cave takes place through the so-called walkman.


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.

Another sublimated way of encasing oneself in a pure interior world, an idios kosmos, is obviously the use of those drugs that are often (mis)named "mind-expanding".

Slot machines, gameboys, computer games, all of which can totally enthrall people for hours (which is part of "being tied up"), are similarly ways how consciousness voluntarily cocoons itself in the cave (again in its sublimated form), namely in a sublated, simulated reality. In many of the computer games it is a question of fighting against monsters, evil powers and intruders from outer space, in other words, of themes that are not in principle different from the topics of tales about the tasks of mythic heroes and from the fantasy games played by children of former times, such as "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and Indians".


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.

The psychotherapeutic consulting room is another significant illustration of the realized Platonic cave, now an illustration with the emphasis on the experiential and existential side of human existence itself. It is a closed inner room, a temenos 'cut out' of the ordinary real world, in which the patient, by entering it, leaves the real world outside, turns his back to it, "forgets" it, in order to truly turn inwards.


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").[1]


Real life is systematically translated into a secondary world of images given out as the primary reality.

Psychotherapy is the astounding ritual in which man logically immures himself in the (Platonic) cave, more then that: redefines himself as cave man, by translocating his essence and his logical place from out there in the real world inside, as an essentially inner reality, the world as image or "idea" (Vorstallung, Schopenhauer: "The World as… Idea"), as irrevocably sublated world.


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".


The psychotherapeutic 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 self-understanding.

The unconscious is thought and felt to be in us - which it needs to be in order to be the Platonic cave as an inner room in the first place. But as C.G. Jung never tired of impressing on his readers, in reality we are in it, surrounded by it on all sides. It is essential to understand that both mutually contradictory views must be maintained at the same time.


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.

Jungian psychology completed this internalization into the cave by no longer restricting it only to one's personal biography and to current experiences in the world. In Jungian psychology the unconscious even swallowed God as "the God-images in the unconscious" or "the Self" as well as our whole collective past as the "archetypes of the collective unconscious", which are our sunken, sedimented (and thus sublated) cultural heritage.


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.

Speaking of religion, there is a much crude version of the cave than this very subtle, distilled psychological version of it. This is the phenomenon that we call fundamentalism. This is much more like something we discussed before, the soul's immurement in computer games and the like, only that it is more permanent than those temporary forms.


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.

Not religion in former times (where it was in principle at the forefront of the development of consciousness), but certainly religion in modernity, where it is fundamentalist or spiritual entertainment, has been rightly characterized by Marx as "opium for the people". Both fundamentalism and entertainment serve the purpose of numbing the mind, i.e., of turning man into cave man.


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 diversions, distractions.

Psychology's idea of the inner or the unconscious is far more sophisticated and advanced as a form of the realization of the cave than is the phenomenon of fundamentalism. But the drawback of this advanced form is that like most of the previous forms mentioned (Disneyland, shopping mall, walkman, etc.), it too is a particular individual symbol of the cave within the world at large and not a representation of the real world's immurement in the cave.


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 attitudes.

Fundamentalism has an advantage here, because its religious or other ideology is thought to be all around you and around the real world all the time, and objectively so, because it is seen as the truth. The only trouble with fundamentalism in this respect is that it is the mere claim of truth, but does not have the form of truth. A truth speaks for itself. It needs no subjective effort, no will-power. It is not an assertion. It simply is.

Remembering Jung's insight that "every spiritual truth is gradually reified and turns into a substance or tool in the hand of man", the cave in its all-encompassing reality and as the simple truth of modern human existence also has to find its full objective realization, i.e., materialization.


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.

To be inside the cave amounts to an inversion of the relation between man and world. When man still lived in the real world, his sense organs and his intellectual sense (his reason) were an intermediate and mediating third through which he experienced reality (the reality of nature and of the divine).


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.

This also has effects for the nature of man.


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 data-processing machine.



The Sun

The fourth moment of the Platonic cave reality is the sun, the Idea of the Good or Money.


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),[2] 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).


Fig.1: The schematic structure of the in-itself dissociated mandala according to Jakob Böhme's "Forty Questions Concerning the Soul" (1620).


In our context, the full circle represents the cave as the whole structure displayed in Plato's parable, the two half circles the parable-internal cave (the cave in the narrower sense) and the world of sunlight respectively.


[Diagram taken from Jacob Boehme, Forty Questions of the Soul, Facsimile Edition, trans. John Sparrow (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 1997), p. 45.]

The world outside the cave (in the narrower sense), the world of Money, permits a clear, unimpaired view of the real situation behind the entertainment side of the cave (in the wider sense), just as Plato's sun provided access to a higher and eternal truth over against the transience and shadow nature of the world inside the cave.


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.

I mentioned the Roman phrase and reality of panem et circenses.


Panis and 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.

Four essential features reveal that Money is indeed the highest "Idea" and the whole realm of the Ideas.

  1. Money is today immaterial, not substantial. A banknote in German is called Geldschein, where "-schein" was originally used because the Geldschein was understood as Schein-Geld, fake money, illusory money, by comparison with gold or silver coins.


    In reality it brings out into the open the truth about money, also gold coins, namely that it has been Schein, illusory being, from the outset, even as a banknote or paper money is a universally exchangeable substitute for commodities, a substitute whose materiality has been reduced to nothing but paper, in contrast to gold or silver.


    With "plastic money", money having become electronic, the nonmaterial nature of Money has become objectively represented even more decisively.


    The plastic credit card as a sensibly existing entity is not itself Money. It is merely something like the entrance ticket to the non-material realm of Money, which on its part has become completely distilled into a purely intellectual reality.


    In its new form as information stored as bits and bytes, it has shown itself able to do without any material substrate whatsoever that could and would still want to "symbolize" or "embody" purchasing power.


  2. Money did not only free itself from its material substrate. It also to a large degree cut itself loose from its relation to consumer goods as realities, for which it could be an exchange medium.


    Nowadays merchandise is not the only thing that is traded; whole merchandise-producing firms are bought and sold like consumer goods. But most important: the daily turnover of capital in the world is many times higher than the daily turnover of goods.


    The former exchange medium on the markets of goods and commodities has now has been completely reflected into itself and it thus "illusory being", this way, its purely speculative nature has received its objective representation. On each stock market trading day, around five hundred billion dollars are traded.


    At the New York Stock exchange alone up to one hundred million shares are sold. With the new derivative speculation instruments (swaps, futures, options, etc.), Money has surpassed itself once more and eludes even more any corporeality or concrete understandability.


  3. Money's having been cut loose from the concrete connection with material goods does not, however, mean that as a self-serving speculative, noetic world it would be split off from the world by a chórismos (separation, hiatus). It is precisely the other way around.


    The money market reacts in a highly sensitive manner to the real economic and political situation. All essential information is incessantly registered and processed by means of personal computers, large workstations, or even mainframes.


    The material acquired in this way enters into the decisions to buy or sell, whereby often on the basis of the computer-produced analyses and dynamic processes alone automatic buying decisions are induced by computer programs. In this way, all of reality is reflected into Money, and this is, after all, its true speculative nature.


    Conversely, Money determines almost all socially relevant decisions to a degree unknown before. It not only permeates our acting, but also our thinking. Consciousness adapts to Money and is assimilated by it. And Money and the money economy increasingly subsume the whole world.


    They bring about ever tighter international involvement and thereby in fact translate the world into the global village.


  4. The banknote was still an entity and somehow, despite being no more than a piece of paper, had a thing-like character. Money in its present form is not only immaterial and of ideal (noetic) nature, it can no longer be imagined using the model of a thing, not even that of a spiritual entity.


    It is sheer motion: continual flow of capital, unending transaction. It constantly circles around the globe at the speed of light, electronically controlled. It must work incessantly. The world of finance does not really know the difference between day and night any more. When the Stock Exchange in New York closes, the one in Tokyo opens.


    The world of finance is a self-regulating and self-regenerating system, a system in which the compulsion to move at an ever increasing speed is built in. Inasmuch as the streams of capital literally flow in the sky via the satellites of modern communications technology and via digital networking, and the worldwide economy forms a continually rotating and vibrating web above us and our lives, Money is now in fact and objectively shown to be our haven - not sensible sky, but truly heaven, Plato's supracelestial (hyperoyranios) heaven.


The Immurement in the Cave - An Inexorable, Self-Accelerating Process

The soul's immurement in the cave is an uncanny process.


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 or virtuality.

Inasmuch as it is not the project of people, but the project of the soul, it would be an illusion to assume that we could stop it. There is inherent in the development of communication technologies, the media and the multimedia world an autonomic dynamism that cannot be curbed or invalidated. It is a process that wants to arrive at its end, its completion.


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.

The process will probably find its end only when we will have gone deep enough into the "cave", so deeply that it has completed itself.


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 positivity.

Jung saw that,

"no culture before ours was ever forced to take this psychic [or soul] background as such seriously.


Always the soul was merely a part of a metaphysical system. But modern consciousness can no longer resist the knowledge that there is a soul… This distinguishes our time from all others".

(CW 10 &161, trans. modified)

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.

The fact that modern consciousness could no longer resist "taking the soul background as such seriously" shows in the historical move into the age of the media and mediality; it shows in that the intermediate and mediating third through which man had always experienced reality (the reality of nature and of divine) has now become something in its own right.


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 medium is the message" (McLuhan).[3] "The linguistic turn" (Richard Rorty[4]).

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.

The modern world as "medial" reality provides, nay, is the sublated immediate (Platonic, metaphysical) reading of Plato's Parable of the Cave. The whole system of thought since its inception in early Greece with the Pre-Socratics has been the project of realizing what first became explicit in Plato's parable.


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:

"cave" existence as the existence in "the soul", "in language", which ipso facto implies that the natural world with its things and gods or God, the cosmos, and Being as such have irrevocably been sublated (become "illusory being").[5]





[1] C.G. Jung, CW 9i &534.

[2] Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964)

[3] Richard M. Rorty, The Linguistic Turn: Essays in Philosophical Method (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1967)

[4] With its emphasis on "the imaginal," archetypal psychology does justice to this situation. "Image" as a form is the sublatedness of what it is the image of. It is synonymous with Plato's shadows. But to the extent that archetypal psychology then transfers the quality of substantial being simply to "the image", i.e., to the product of the historical sublation process of substance and Being, by insisting on esse in anima and that "image is psyche" and that the image is the ultimate basis, it undoes, and falls behind, its own progressive insight and become nostalgic. Semantically the emphasis of "image" acknowledges the logical status of illusory being and of the sublatedness of "nature," but syntactically it reassigns the sense or feeling of substantial dignity to it and paves the way for the ego's cocooning itself once again in a world full of gods, i.e., in "natural being". Immurement in the Platonic cave.