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 Shirra Meiklejohn-Wilson
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Part III A continued
From Shadows to Light

Aquinas states that "the knowable object is appropriate to the power of knowing."9 I would add one more element to Aquinas's assertion, saying that the knowable object corresponds to the willingness to face it. Few men are willing to face the light. Augustine deals with the notion that the light may indeed be too strong and that a wise teacher will slowly discipline a student to various orders of light. "For it is in the office of good discipline to attain wisdom by a certain order of approach and without that order it is scarcely credible that the approach be happy." 10

In discussing a proper definition of the light, it should be noted at the outset, that Plato himself, never felt it could be adequately described. Therefore, Plato defined the light's manifold attributes and not the light itself directly. Not wishing to feign the attempt, I too, will describe a pair of the light's innate qualities, truth and creativity.

"The question of the essence of truth finds its answer in the proposition that the essence of truth is the truth of essence ... essence is understood initially in the sense of "whatness" or material content, where truth is understood as a characteristic of knowledge."11 For the individual who needs and/or wants to develop what Plato calls 'the good' and which I refer to as spiritual qualities in general, this delving into the essence of himself and of life in general becomes imperative. Truth stated simply as a tenet of fact, if not personally confronted, cannot produce any real effects on an individual's psychic self. However truth, confronted as an essential element in the personal unfolding of knowledge of one's self, provides an ideal tool for the uncovering of the essence of one's existence.

The second characteristic of the light is that of creativity. I consider creativity to be of more intrinsic value than habit. While habit is useful, it can only lead to freer psychic energies; whereas creativity can lead these newly released energies towards some ideal. Quality is the essential ideal of the light. The light intends to produce greater and greater qualities of 'the good.' Since the light already contains creativity as an ideal, the effect of the light will be to free man from habits to greater and greater levels of psychological creativity.

No matter how masterful the attempt at an adequate definition of the light, all men are forced to acknowledge the wisdom of Zoroaster, who declared, "It is not proper to understand the Intelligible with vehemence, but if you incline your mind, you will apprehend it: not too earnestly, but bringing a pure and inquiring eye ... you will not understand it as when understanding some particular thing, but with the flower of the mind. Things divine are not attainable by mortals who understand sensual things but only the light-armed arrive at the summit."12

As to the question: does "the light" have an objective ontological status?, the answer is yes; but its ontological status must be affirmed through its (the light's) effects. It has been the author's experience that the ontological validity cannot (at least by the author) be proven as an objective cause. The light produces a subjective effect, which results in an objective manifestation. The light's ability to transform and to produce apparent effects can be described in three phases.

Once an individual turns around and faces the light, he begins to take in a new quality of impressions. Based upon the psychological/biological principle that a man is what he eats, the individual now begins to absorb through his intellect a new quality of ideas and values. This integration results in the individual's newly acquired ability to value something other than his egotistic needs. After this valuation begins, the individual begins to emotionally experience the result of his new inner perspective. He experiences new sensations, which are the result of his newfound valuation. Since the individual has been freed by the light's values as well as from the small confines of his ego, he now is able to participate more fully in his interpersonal relationships. He is now able to see the common humanity within his fellow man and therefore is better able to overcome his fear of the 'otherness' of humanity.

Needless to say, this approach to the light is not for the fainthearted. Courage and honesty are essential. "At first we cannot see beyond the path that leads downwards to dark and hateful things . . . but no light or beauty will ever come from the man who cannot bear his sight. Light is always born of darkness and the sun never yet stood still in heaven to satisfy man's longings or to still his fears."13

In Plato's Cave the light blinds man at first. When the ego sees itself in relationship to the light of goodness, it is often blinded in pain. As Augustine points out, "The eyes (ego) are hurt by that very effluence which they so vehemently long to look upon and often turning from it go with delight back to their shadows." 14 It is at this point that the ego must understand the essential elements of pain. The ego is in pain because of its present condition, not its essential one. The ego can, just as it did with the shadows, reabsorb and reappropriate the light unto itself. An essential attitude for the ego to adapt at this stage of its development is that "One can hold oneself back from the suffering of the world, this is something we are free to do ... but perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering that we might be able to avoid."15 As stated earlier, the optimal adaptation to conscious suffering is the only way to overcome it. The avoidance of suffering is the perpetuation of suffering.

Having seen the contents of the unredeemed ego, we can understand that, "True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality; the emergence of the 'inner' archetypal mediator of divine power, and through this death a rebirth and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer."16

William Blake expresses this same principle by stating, "If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see everything as it is, infinite."17 The element that blocks perception is the ego's sensation of itself as separate from its fellow man. No sane man would take a brick and smack his own knee. The ego recognizes the knee as connected to itself and, therefore, would not deliberately cause itself unnecessary pain. Yet the ego cannot feel the pain of another. If it continues to see its neighbors as outside itself and still cannot feel their pain, it is able to hurl a brick at them. The essential element of violence is that we do not love our neighbor as ourselves. The unredeemed ego feels alienated and threatened by his neighbor. The solution is for the self-centered ego to die in light of the "good" so that the higher nature can be born. As Plato states, "My opinion is that in the world of knowledge, the idea of good appears last of all, and is only seen with an effort." (Rep. VII)

"The higher nature needs to be exercised, to be brought into its proper affirmative role over the lower nature."18 The elements of the light in Plato's Cave and the effects of the light on the ego result in a rebirth of values. The distinction between self/other disappears. The redeemed ego sees the common humanity in his neighbor. This common humanity is the combination of the individuality of both the self and other, as well as the commonality of universal brotherhood of mankind. The ego sees the self- defeating aspects of violence and the absurdity of hatred. The distinction of self and other blocks the understanding and awareness and "when the subject and object are removed only pure consciousness will remain."19 Finally, when the redeemed ego beholds the justice of the light, it "does not consider it as being more than others and is no longer more dear to itself than others are ... (the ego realizes) that all the love of this world is based on self-love. If you have given that up, you have given up the whole world."20 After beholding the justice of the light, the ego's standard of ethics becomes more externally centered. The former standard of mere self-preservation becomes transformed into the need to serve mankind in some meaningful way.

The ability of the ego to transcend itself is more a matter of willingness than of reason alone. The ego must first be ready to place itself in relationship to the light; it must be willing to turn around. This willingness must be distinguished from the concept of will power. No amount of will power is useful for transformation; the main reason being that will power comes from the ego itself. Therefore, will power equates to the ego trying to overcome itself. Rather, the willingness must come from the ego allowing itself to be transformed by the light. The power of the light to purify the ego is inherent. All men will tend towards the good if they have enough Will. This quality of Will can be acquired by developing the discipline to overcome imagination, and by concentrating on staying in the present. The aspect of Will can be attained by developing the capacity to take responsibility for one's actions, by not faulting others, and by learning to connect thought with action.

Although one may have acquired a measure of Will, the right role of the intellect is necessary. The intellect can be a vehicle for salvation or for slavery. The essential element is that the ego becomes aware of the intellect's proclivities. The Hindu Brahmin, Krishnamurti, states this principle in classic Hindu terms and forms, but the essential element appears:
"To be aware of something that is not the projection of the known, there must be the elimination, through the understanding, of the process of the known . . . the mind clings always to the known . . . the mind is constantly seeking certainty, security. Its very nature is fixed in the known in time; how can such a mind whose very foundation is based on the past, on time, experience the timeless? It may conceive, formulate, picture the unknown, but that is all absurd . . . The moment you have an experience of anything the mind translates it into the terms of the known and reduces it to the past."21

The mind is an essential element for adaptation in life. Psychiatry utilizes the intellect in the process of integration. Religion utilizes it up to a point.

Few people realize that a very great proportion of the sense of self as an individual resides in the intellect. All of life's ideals are absorbed in the intellect as words and concepts. The need for metanoia, i.e., a new mind (a new direction and/or orientation) has long been recognized by religious ideologies as being another important component for personal salvation and/or sanity. The mind must value compassion and integration more than might or power. The mind must be turned towards the good before the individual can attain any measure of freedom from hatred and violence.

In conclusion, the psychiatric ideals of optimum adaptation to society and the total integration of the individual is an example of the last state of man being worse than the first. As long as an individual is fractured between his own neck chains and the shadows on the wall, he is not doing anything - he is a slave. To take off the brace (to integrate the ego) is to allow newfound freedom of movement. But the question remains what order of movement in what order of world? This newly integrated ego has little knowledge of the common humanity of man and the short sightedness of egotism. All it knows is that finally it feels itself wholly as an alive individual among others. Without the second stage of turning to the light (good) there is little possibility for the overcoming of the world so necessary for complete personal harmony and peace.

As to the often-asked question, what is the goal of the individual? Is it to develop a relationship to the light? Is it to become one with it? Is it to melt into it? The author states that the effect upon an individual who has attained a measure of relationship with the light as one of mutual benefit and cooperation. The relationship now formed has two end poles. The individual's relationship with the light is one of ongoing transformation of their inner being. The individual thus becomes able to love his neighbor and experience the emotional states of serenity. The light, on the other hand, gains access to an individual through an affinity of essential, mutually contained qualities. The light may now flow through an individual's actions, outwards towards the rest of mankind, thereby inviting the light to penetrate and transform others who are still gazing at the shadows on the wall and/or who remain asleep in their own self-complacency.



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