Read Part I here.
Plato, my guide and liberator, has taken me out of the cave in which I have lived all of my life. He has promised to show me a new world, but so far I have been able to see nothing because I cannot stand to open my eyes.
“Your eyes,” he says, “are not permanently blind but only require a few moments to adjust to the brightness of the light. Put your hand over your face, and open your eyes slowly.”
I do as he instructs, and as I do, I soon find myself in the most beautiful surroundings imaginable. “What do you think of the forest now?” he asks. I lift my hands in awe and turn my body slowly in one direction, while my mind seems to spin in the other, overwhelmed by the sights around me. It is as though the trees I have known from the cave wall have exploded into a million pieces and yet remain intact. Each one has depth and dimension and color, features that my senses are capable of taking in although they have never experienced them before. I feel a breeze on my face for the first time and hear the sound it makes as it strokes the leaves. I reach out to touch various trees with my hand. The leaves of the oak tree feel smooth, while its trunk feels rough. The trunk of the pine makes my fingers sticky, and its needles cause a delicious pain in my fingers. My nose fills with an ecstatic, warm sensation that Plato tells me emanates from the trees, the ground, the flowers, the animals, and the moisture in the air.
“So this is reality?” I ask.
“Actually,” he begins and then clears his throat. “Although what you see now is more real than what you saw in the cave, it is not the ultimate reality. The objects as you sense them now are still only as shadows compared to a yet higher world, the world of ideals.”
“But how,” I ask, “can anything be more real than these trees? I understand now that the shadows are only outlines of real things, for the objects I see now fill in the outlines with detail. But no more room for detail remains.”
He explained, “You find that you are equipped with the faculties to experience the material world that projects the shadows even though you could never before have imagined what the experience would be. So you will find that you are equipped to experience the higher world, as well, even though you cannot imagine it possible now. And just as your eyes had to become used to the light that first overpowered them, you will have to wait on your higher faculties and train them.”
Over the next few days, Plato instructs me on methods of meditation that allow me to see the ideals he so passionately pursues. Soon I see neither individual trees alone nor a forest. I see Life surging through the ground and bursting up into the air. I see Strength in each trunk and delicate Order in each leaf. I see Beauty and Balance in the complementary colors of sky and earth and, seeing yet farther than I ever have before, in the community of Strength and Order.
My hunger for these experiences grows over the weeks and is soon insatiable. “Is there more?” I ask Plato. “Or does ultimate reality consist of Life, Strength, Order, Beauty, and Balance?”
“No,” he says, “these noble ideas are but resting places on the ascent to the Absolute. But in order for you to climb higher in your vision, I must now hand you over to other guides.”
Concluded in the next post, which finally has something to say about Charles Williams.