Home Consciousness How Plato’s “The Republic” Describes Today’s Society

How Plato’s “The Republic” Describes Today’s Society

Julian Websdale, Contributor
Waking Times

The Republic (Greek: ????????, Politeia) is a Socratic dialogue, written by Plato around 380 BC, concerning the definition of justice and the order and character of the just city-state and the just man. It is Plato’s best-known work and has proven to be one of the most intellectually and historically influential works of philosophy and political theory. In it, Socrates along with various Athenians and foreigners discuss the meaning of justice and examine whether or not the just man is happier than the unjust man by considering a series of different cities coming into existence “in speech”, culminating in a city (Kallipolis) ruled by philosopher-kings; and by examining the nature of existing regimes. The participants also discuss the theory of forms, the immortality of the soul, and the roles of the philosopher and of poetry in society.

In The Republic Plato describes four types of government – monarchy, oligarchy, tyranny, and democracy. The Allegory of the Cave is a discussion on human mentality and the body politic, our thinking and being. There are four types of people in the cave, though nowhere in the text are the characters overtly counted. In the cave there are the captors and captives. The captives in the cave are controlled and know nothing in life but the cave, worse they only know one wall of the cave. The captors use a fire to cast shadows on the wall the prisoners face to keep them captivated and distracted by a made up reality. Among the captives there are the chained and the unchained. The chained are held in place so that they can only look straight ahead and are convinced of the reality and moreover importance of the shadows. The unchained are transfixed with the images and convinced of the reality and moreover the importance of the shadows to the point they don’t need chains. They are held by shadows, like elephants onto a string. Both the chained and unchained captives have no interest in their actual existence as captives in a cave. They are not conscious, they are not aware of self or their surroundings, or the captors, they are only aware of and concerned with the shadows.

The captors hold the captives with shadows, as distractions. There are the chained captives, the unchained captives and the captors who hold them. The fourth character in the allegory, the fourth distinct part of the set, is the freed prisoner. The freed prisoner, after being in the cave his whole life, finds himself aboveground and is at first pained by sunlight and then begins to see. First he sees only shadows as that is what he is accustomed to, then reflections, then the objects casting shadows and then finally the total of his surroundings, himself, others and the stars and the sun. The freed prisoner learns about sunlight and the dependence of all things on it.  He learns about the basic tenets of reality and that the sun is the true light, not the captors’ fire. The freed prisoner learns about simple conditions of reality and the things which the captors’ shadows represented. He becomes conscious and understands his place in the world. He realizes he was deceived his whole life and that everyone he had ever known from the cave is imprisoned and deceived as well.  And he has to return.

After deliberation the freed prisoner returns and attempts to inform the captives of their predicament and, by that, free them. The chained and unchained captives scorn the freed prisoner for not being able to see in the dark cave, his eyes having adjusted to daylight. Eventually they want to eliminate the freed prisoner for revealing their predicament to them, for upsetting the status quo, even though they are held captive by it. The controlling captors of course seek to eliminate him or anyone who questions and exposes the cave system for what it is. The three characters being compelled to remove the fourth distinct type, the freed prisoner, the one who seeks to free the captives and show them true light as opposed to control in the cave, is reflective of how controlling institutions operate.

The political and actual representations are easy enough to quantify and the power of the freed prisoner or righteous rebel is recognizable throughout the world. One of the most important layers to the Allegory of the Cave is that of the personal layer of the cave within – the caves people make around themselves. The shadows are false evidence appearing real – fear. The outside world of fires and shadows often uses fear to steer, but inside fear is used the same. A majority of people replay shadows to themselves to keep the status quo inside so they don’t have to face the reality of inside and outside. They have their own personal caves where false evidence appearing real controls them. The freed prisoner, the righteous rebel, is powerful in the world and can lead us out of our own personal caves toward enlightenment.

The shadows are very much symbolic of the consensus reality, constantly being programmed and reinforced by the mainstream media, which most people believe to be real. When we follow our intuition, we often find ourselves behaving in ways that the conditioned, imprisoned minds of people around us find impossible to understand. They have to ‘rationalise’ your words and behavior by saying you are ‘mad’, ‘dangerous’ or ‘delusional’, and may behave in a patronising manner towards you. In fact, you are merely different, viewing reality from another point of observation. Do what your heart intuitively tells you, for it is Consciousness speaking – the Silent Voice. Follow that and the adventure begins.


Smith, E. I. (2011). The Matrix of Four, The Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity. [e-book] The Enstitute, Sean.
Icke, D. (2010). Human Race Get Off Your Knees – The Lion Sleeps No More. Ryde: David Icke Books.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Republic_(Plato) [September 2013]

About the Author

Julian Websdale is an independent researcher in the fields of esoteric science and metaphysics, and a self-initiate of the Western Esoteric Tradition. His interest in these subjects began in 1988. Julian was born in England, received his education as an electronic and computer engineer from the University of Bolton, served in a Vaishnava monastery during 2010, and has travelled to over 21 countries. Julian is also a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.




  1. Brilliant analogy that is unbelievably appropriate 2500 years later. In “the Cathecism of the Jew”, published around 1956 (USSR), this very tactic is discussed as a means of dealing with someone who points them out to unsuspecting “captives”, who don’t want to know and find it insulting because in essence, by exposing a fact, he inadvertently exposes an ignorance on their part. The psychological conditioning of the masses has today been brought to a whole new level as they watch mesmerized by the light and shadows of the cave wall.

    Thanks for this zen.

  2. Thank you, Julian.

    I wrote up a big response to you yesterday & promptly hit the wrong button so it is in the ethers. The crux of it had to do with sychronicity and how grateful I am that you wrote this & Zen posted it now. The adventures to be had within are calling us all with great urgency. I continue to struggle to hear the silent voice but, am intent on surrendering to receive its message while attempting everyday to break another piece of the chain.

    • All4 – you are so on it, if I may. Your methodology for “hearing the silent voice” is not important, it’s the heart – and giving it time. Periodically we here stop for hours to consult with our hearts and may use esoteric tools for feedback, but the real issue or answer is always in the question, and it takes time to develop and unfold what our questions really are. Once we get close things start to focus for themselves. Take your time, and trust your heart. None of us are missing anything, it’s just a matter of tapping into what we already know and moving on in confidence and knowledge. Much love, keep on, Zen

      • Zen, thanks again for the virtual hug and supportive words. “…it takes time to develop and unfold what our questions really are… Take your time, and trust your heart.” YES, this was my original quest yet, after so much time in rabbitholelandia, I lost my confidence by becoming overwhelmed by the new knowledge. Makes me think of one of my favorite lines to share with my fellow overwhelmed folks – how does one best eat an elephant (metaphorically, of course : )?
        one bite at a time

        My appetite is seeking the right question(s) again. As a constant witness to the multitude of abundance, I know I will be satisfied. I just gotta be mo’ patient ; )


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