There is a genre of fiction in which humans are depicted as living in a reality that is not what it appears to be. In these stories, the heroes are captives in an elaborate prison that keeps them from realizing the true nature of reality, which is hidden behind the veil of a false world.
Done well, these tales go super-viral and connect with a deep part of the human consciousness that gives them a kind of mythological status. That is because they are profoundly subversive narratives that hint at the oldest conspiracy theories of our civilization: that we are living in some simultaneously ancient and high-tech illusion that keeps us disconnected from our true identity and its cosmic power.
The amazing thing about this category of fantasy is that it first appeared in 380 BCE; almost 2400 years ago. And that first episode remains one of the most precise and elegant renditions of a hero’s journey out of the programmed deception of our reality.
I’m talking about the Cave Allegory which appeared in the Greek philosopher Plato’s Republic. In his story a group of prisoners are shackled by their legs and necks in an underground cave. Projected on a wall in front of them are images in the shape animals and people and objects.
The 2-dimensional shapes are what they believe the world to be.
What the prisoners do not know is that behind them is a fire. The images they see are merely shadows created by puppets which are being paraded in front of the fire by some mysterious procession of people. The apparition is enough to keep the prisoners distracted and complacent in their bondage.
And then one of the prisoners breaks free from his chains. He is suddenly able to turn around and see the fire, which blinds him momentarily. It is confusing and frightening, so he turns back to the wall and the reality he understands.
But then someone drags him up the pathway, past the fire, and out of the mouth of the cave. Again, he is angry and disoriented, but soon his eyes adjust to the light and he is able to see the world in all it’s 3-dimensional beauty and complexity.
He has awakened.
Awakened by escaping from the conjured trick of his reality and discovering the multi-dimensional truth of the world beyond his cave. For the first time, he sees animals and trees and rivers and other human beings who are not prisoners. And, when his eyes have finally adjusted to the environment, he looks up and sees the sun, which is the source that illuminates it all.
Transformed by his journey and the revelation he has been given, the prisoner runs back down into the cave to tell the others. But it is so dark that his eyes cannot adjust. He stumbles around like a blind man, ranting about a world that the others cannot understand. When they tell him they want to stay, he tries to drag them up the hill toward the light.
Faced with the threat of being turned insane by whatever exists beyond their wall and its shadows, they conspire against him and he is murdered.
The Cave allegory is the blueprint for a journey that many have attempted with varying degrees of success. The most famous of these was featured in another blockbuster story that became the best-selling book of all time: the Bible. Whether you believe that Jesus Christ existed or not, his story is an object lesson in the harrowing trials of transcending consensual reality and then returning to help others do the same.
Look what happened to him.
Instead of enshrining his journey as a lesson in reality hacking, the imperial church hijacked and distorted Christ’s teachings. Emperors and kings, and the popes that served them, had zero incentive to revealing a system of liberation to the very people they required to build and die for their worldly imperium. So they turned his life into a system of spiritual deception that still exists today.
But that doesn’t mean others didn’t carry it forward. They did, but under the cover of secret societies that protected the knowledge at all costs.
The Mystical Underground
Plato was a profound mystic. Which means he believed in a process through which humans can interact with the non-material, or spiritual realm. Central to his mystical teachings was that this plane is a source of truths about our world that can not be attained with our intellect. Instead, there is a hidden path to reaching that kind of “enlightenment” that can only be known by those who learn the hidden forces which govern our reality.
For the rarified class who were initiated into this knowledge, there was not only the promise of a kind of inner peace. But also the freedom and power that comes with living outside of the limitations that rule the rest of humanity. It was, and continues to be, a highly guarded and subversive form of spiritual technology.
In the Cave, Plato is telling his students that without an understanding of our world’s dimensional infrastructure, they are operating in a kind of trance which prevents them from knowing the nature of their reality. It is also about the difficult and isolating journey that must be undertaken if one wants to escape the limited experience that confines most people to a life of servitude and minor gratification. In the mystical, or mystery, schools that were formed in the centuries and millennia after Plato, these were taught as a system of specific beliefs, actions, and processes that one must undertake in order to break out of the illusion.
But Plato does not reveal those liberationist mystical steps to the reader, relying instead on very simple metaphors that keep the story in the Cave. There are practical reasons for this, chief among them: the high level of secrecy that surrounds this mystical knowledge by the elite group who possess it.
In order to access this esoteric intelligence, one has to be initiated through rigorous tests to prove that they can be trusted. And that they understand the threat posed to the Earthly rulers by those who seek to master the art of escaping this plane.
So its no surprise there weren’t any viral hits in the Cave category for a long time. That’s not to say there weren’t mystics. They just stayed underground. Until the power of the church began to fade and science became the new religion, then the mystical heresies went from being outlawed to simply ridiculed. Though the effect was the same:
Humanity remained in its cage.
Any references to our self-imposed confinement in the modern epoch were now ‘poetic’ and metaphorical and thus, meaningless. Instead of mapping the way out of this dungeon, William Blake, the Romantic poet and visionary, distilled Plato’s Cave down to a two liner.
If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.
The only traceable impact of which was the inspiration behind the naming of two highly psychedelic products: Aldous Huxley’s book about a mescaline trip, and Jim Morrison’s legendary 60’s era rock band.
So it was that humanity had to wait two millennia for the next blockbuster installment of the reality jailbreak series to drop. But when it arrived, it was a fucking masterpiece.
Enter The Matrix
The Wachowski’s 1999 sci-fi cult masterpiece brought us a hacker named Neo who is dragged up the steep incline from his own 2D flat screen reality by a hyper-cool revolutionary named Morpheus, who offers an explanation of the illusion in words that Plato never could have conjured.
“The Matrix is everywhere. It’s all around us, even in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes. The Matrix is the world that has been pulled over your eyes, to blind you from the truth.”
“What truth?” Neo asks.
“That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison…for your mind….Unfortunately, no one can be…told what the Matrix is…you have to see it for yourself.”
Then Morpheus opens a container which holds two pills : a blue one, and a red one. He puts one in each hand, and holds them out to Neo. The rest is tattooed to the consciousness of a whole generation of redpill neo-Neos.
How many of us watched that scene and felt something we had never experienced before? A celluloid-induced deja vu that removed us from our virtual reality and illuminated a higher system of truth about the nature of our earthly experience?
But it was fleeting. Because then we went back to school or work or whatever occupied their days and remembered only that we had seen The Matrix, not that we were living in it.
It’s no wonder. Because after Morpheus’ description of the hi-tech stockade we are living in, there was no explanation of how to get out. Neo mastered the Matrix by leveling up his combat and parkour skills in response to Morpheus’ monotone provocations to “let it all go, Neo. Fear…doubt…and disbelief. Free your mind…”
It became impractical nonsense. Necessarily.
Because that is precisely the engine that drives (successful) third acts of modern science fiction cinema. To be commercially viable, The Matrix had to be an action film, not a treatise on the mystical ladder out of terrestrial bondage.
So once again, humanity was shown their prison, but not given a key.
Two years later, planes smashed into the World Trade Center and we entered an entirely new paradigm that placed the enemy firmly within the terrestrial framework. In the vacuum created by the War on Terror, there simply was no bandwidth for adventurist mysticism which frames the struggle of humanity against an external force that uses violence and dualism to keep them divided and enslaved.
But now, two decades later, we are moving into a highly dangerous phase of our history and there is an urgency to engineer a civilizational paradigm shift that will break us out of this holographic cocoon.
One that integrates an ancient and secret system of rungs on a mystical ladder that provides a map and path out of what, in the eyes of the great (r)evolutionary mystics, is a highly developed illusion designed to keep us locked within this third dimension that is ruled by time and space.
What will be the next installment in the reality jailbreak series launched by Plato 2400 years ago?