Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Cave

The Cave is often considered a place where consciousness is
submerged as for example Plato’s Cave:

                   The Allegory of the Cave

Plato realized that the general run of humankind can think, and speak, etc.,
without (so far as they acknowledge) any awareness of his realm of Forms.
The allegory of the cave is supposed to explain this.

In the allegory, Plato likened people untutored in the Theory of Forms to
prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is
the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the
prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The
puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast
shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these
puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see
and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see.
Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the
things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing
of the real causes of the shadows.

(From Great Dialogues of Plato (Warmington and Rouse, eds.) New York,
Signet Classics: 1999. p. 316.)

The Cave appears often in Genesis:

Genesis 19:30
And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his
two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar:
and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.

Genesis 23:9
That he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he hath, which is
in the end of his field; for as much money as it is worth he shall give it
me for a possession of a buryingplace amongs you.

Genesis 23:11
Nay, my lord, hear me: the field give I thee, and the cave that is herein, I give
it thee; in the presence of the sons of my people give I it thee: bury thy dead.

Genesis 23:17
And the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre,
the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the
field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure.

Genesis 23:19
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of
Machpelah before Mamre: the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan.

Genesis 23:20
And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure unto Abraham for
a possession of a buryingplace by the sons of Heth.

Genesis 25:9
And his sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the
field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, which is before Mamre;
And he charged them, and said unto them, I am to be gathered unto my
people: bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the

Genesis 49:30
In the cave that is in the field of Machpelah, which is before Mamre, in the
land of Canaan, which Abraham bought with the field of Ephron the Hittite
for a possession of a buryingplace.

Genesis 49:32
The purchase of the field and of the cave that is therein was from the
children of Heth.

Genesis 50:13
For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave
of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a
possession of a buryingplace of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre.

The most prominent Cave is the one Abraham bought for his wife.

Scattered through the corpus of Blake's images are many showing a cave.
Virtually all of them reflect the import of Plato's Cave.

There is a continuous contrary in life which Blake memorializes
incessantly  For example in Plate 14 of the Marriage of Heaven
and Hell we read that
" 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.

A bit later he wrote this account of an angel's description of
our fate (Erdman 41)
"So he took me thro' a stable & thro' a church and down into
the church vault at the end of which was a mill: thro' the mill
we went, and came to a cove; down the winding cavern we
groped our tedious way."

According to Kathleen Raine:
"A great part of The Four Zoas tells of the exploration of the
"Caverns of the Grave, and the "dens", of spiritual darkness,
by which he means this present world."

Beside his biblical sources Blake was endebted to (among other
things) Greek myths.  Here is his study of The Cave of the Nymphs:

The Cave is in the upper 
right and in the center a
stairway going up into

Look also at this post.

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