From The Library of Alexandria
Why then, good Plato -- my apologies... "Socrates" -- why then, it only need be asked if the prisoners' own shadows should not also be cast upon this cave wall before them, for surely the fire behind these men must shine its light upon their backs in just such a manner as it illuminates this unseen procession passing upon the walkway hidden behind them, where they cannot turn their heads to see, so as to cast those shadows you describe upon the cave wall. Of a certainty, as you and I perceive our corporeal anatomies to be participant in the spectacle of forms you allegorise with this shadow-play, so surely must the figures of your prisoners also, if the allegory is to be held consistent, be made visible as shadows among those "of men and animals made of wood, stone and other materials." Should not the latter indeed be mere periphera in the shadow-play, each prisoner's own shadow being primary in his vista?
This being so, we must imagine our prisoners each gazing foremost upon their very own shadow, as were a man to gaze upon his own reflection in a mirror, and knowing thence, by the fact of his dispositioned perspective, his placement at the point wherefrom his gaze initiates and whereto the vision returns to be perceived, that he himself is not that which comes to him as an image from beyond. Wheretofore, as a man, seeing his image set upon a surface before him where he is not, can surmise from this that he is looking upon a mirror, this prisoner shall in like manner know that the shadow cast upon the cave wall is but a shadow, and proceeding from this be swift to reason, unless his wits suffer the dimness of his vision, that the parade of shades around it are comparable phantasms, inferring dispositional perspectives with the same relation to said shadows as he to his own, like as the man gazing into the mirror may reason from the image of beauty standing beside his own that his beloved stands at his side, albeit in his transfixed state he does not turn his head to look.
Else you ask us to fancy your prisoner a worse fool than Narcissus, not merely imagining his own reflection to be a beautiful other, but imagining it to be his very self situated within the water, which yet he looks thereupon from without -- imagining indeed even the mighty oak towering at his back, the verdant forest behind, the grass beneath, the sky above, all that which fills the field of his vision, all to be dispositioned upon the fabric of a strange rippling veil, which yet he also of a certainty looks thereupon from without. All of the which is to say that, far from imagining this illusory projection he calls reality to be all that prevails, so wholly immersed in his occluded state that, were his trance to be broken and Narcissus turn his head and gaze upon the forest at his back, he should not recognise the trees for what they are and could not name them, should deny them no less, believing the reflections to be more real than what he sees -- quite on the contrary to this, he should in truth be in a most peculiar state of detachment at all times, looking upon all that which he presumes to be reality from without, estranged even from what he thinks to be his very self.
Why, this should be a most forlorn state of yearning indeed, for in his folly this Narcissus calls the mere form of himself reality, and is so immersed in the lineaments of that form and in its environs of forms, so enraptured by the beauty he deems truth, that he feels neither the beat of his own heart, nor the sweat upon his back, nor the grass between his fingers, neither does he hear even his own breath, nor smell the flower he is to become as he wastes away. For these impressions should all confirm the simple truth of his placement at the heart of all things, were he only to allow such senses to impinge upon his alienating fantasy. Only by the denial of such can his folly be sustained, hence we must root his folly in that very denial, for of a truth the sorrow of his existence is born of each lamp of his corporeal senses being snuffed -- the sense of his heart in his chest, of the sun on his skin, of the touch in his fingers, all dimmed to extinction -- until only his vision remains, and even that clouded at its perimeter so he may see only the pool, never its edges. And what a pitiable end, that even his reason is obscured and he imagines himself sundered in twain, his essential self an incorporeal perspective schismed from that self which dances among the other reflections on the existential plane.
Truly that poor Narcissus is a prisoner in the darkest cave, good Plato -- sorry, "Socrates" -- but surely we must agree that the very nature of his imprisonment is an occlusion of sense and reason not deceiving him to believe in the reality of a shadow-play which he himself is so wholly a part of he cannot conceive the truth being otherwise, but rather deceiving him to believe not in the reality he is a part of and to insist instead, in a desperate fantasy of escape, that he is two men, one trapped in the flesh of a shadow on a cave wall, the other a disembodied perspective which must reject that flesh in order to be freed. By reasoning of which I say that the allegory of the cave is itself the cave of the allegory, Narcissus imprisoned in his own denial of the material world, shackled in darkness by his rejection of his corporeal senses, only the light of philosophy at his back, and that sadly projecting on the cave wall a dismal image, flat and monotone, mere form, a delineation of a theory of reality's unreality, a shadow-play he takes as truth. If he only closed his eyes and felt the heat of the fire upon his back, he should know at once of the reality wherein he resides.
Dionyseon of Eleusis