THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN
Page 344 Number omitted
"WHAT is time? A mystery, a figment-and all-powerful.
It con-ditions the exterior world, it is motion married to and
mingled with the existence of bodies in space! and with
the motion of these. Would there then be no time if there
were no motion?
No motion if no time? We fondly ask. Is time
a function of space? Or space of time? Or are they
identical? Echo answers. Time is functional, it can be
referred to as action; we say a thing' is " brought about
" by time. What sort of thing? Change! Now
is not then, here not there, for between them lies motion.
But the motion by which one measures time is circular,
is in a closed circle; and might almost equally well be described
as rest, as cessation of movement - for the there repeats itself constantly
in the here, the past in the present. Furthemore,
as our utmost effort cannot conceive a final limit either to time
or in space, we have settled to think of them as eternal
and infinite - apparently in the hope that if this is not very
successful, at least it will be more so than the other. But is not this
affirmation of the eternal and the infinite the logical-mathematical
destruction of every and any limit in time or space,
and the reduction of them, more or less, to zero? Is it possibe,
in eternity, to conceive of a sequence of events, or in the
infinite of a succession of space-occupying bodies?
Conceptions of distance, movement, change, even of the existence of finite
bodies in the universe - how do these fare? Are they consistent
with the hypothesis of eternity and infinity we have been driven
to adopt? Again we ask, and again echo answers.
Hans-Castorp revolved these queries and their like in his brain.
We know that from the very first day of his arrival up here his mind had
been much. disposed to such sleeveless speculation. Later, perhaps, a
certain sinister but strong desire of his, since gratified, had sharpened
it the more and confirmed it in its gen-eral tendency to question and
to carp. He put these queries to / Page 345 / himself, he put them.to
good cousin Joachim, he put them to the valley at large, lymg there, as
it had these months on end, deep in snow; though from none of these quarters
could he ex-pect anything like an answer, from which the least would be
hard to say. For himself; it was precisely because he did not know the
answers that he put the questions. For Joachim, it was hardly possible
to get him even to consider them, he having, as Hans Castory had said,
in French, on a certain evening, nothing else in his head but the idea
of being a soldier down below. Joachim wrestled with these hopes of his,
that now seemed al-most within his grasp, now receded into the distance
and mocked him there; the struggle grew daily more embittered, he even,
threatened to end it once for all by a single bold bid for liberty. Yes,
the good, the patient,' the upright Joachim, so affected to discipline
and the service, had been attacked by fits of rebel-lion, he even questione.d
the authority of the "Gaffky scale ": the method employed
in the laboratory - the lab, as one called it - to ascertam the degree
of a patient's infection. Whether only a few isolated bacilli, or a whole
host of them, were found in the sputum analysed, determined his "Gaffky
number," upon which everything depended. It infallibly reflected
the chances of recovery with which the patient had to reckon; the number
of months or years he must still remain could with ease be deduced from
it, beginning with the six months that Hofrat Behrens called a "week-end,"
and ending with the" life sentence," which. taken literally,
often enough meant very little indeed. Joachim, then, inveighed against
the Gaffky scale, openly giving notice that he questioned its authority
- or perhaps not quite openly, he did not say so to the authorities, but
expressed his views to his cousin, and even in the dining-room. "I'm
fed up with it, I won't be made a fool of any longer," he said, the
blood mounting to his bronzed face. " Two weeks ago I had Gaffky
two, a mere nothing, my prospects were the best. And to-day I am
regularly infested- number nine, if you please. No talk of getting
away. How the devil can a man know where he is? Up on the Schatzalp thereis
a man, a Greek peasant, an agent had him sent here from Arcadia, he has
galloping consumption, there isn't the dimmest hope for him. He may die
any day - and yet they've never found even the ghost of a bacillus in
his sputum. On the other hand, that Belgian captain that was discharged
cured the other day, he, was simply alive with them, Gaffky
ten - and only the very tiniest cavity. The devil flyaway with
Gaffky! I'm done, I'm going home, if it kills me!"
"...Hans Castorp had been only half listening to
the dialogue, be-ing preoccupied by the fundamental nobility of the soldierly
rep- resentative then present - or rather by the strange new expres-sion
in his eyes. He started slightly as he felt himself challenged by Herr
Settembnru's last words, and made such a face as he had the time the humanist
would have solemnly constrained him to a choice between East and West:
a face full of reserve and ob-stinacy. He said nothing. They forced everything
to an issue, these two - as perhaps one must when one differed -, and
wrangled bitterly over extremes, whereas it seemed to him, Hans Castorp,
as though somewhere between two intolerable posi-tions, between bombastic
humanism and analphabetic barbarism, must lie something which one might
personally call the human. He did not express his thought, for fear of
irritating one or other of them; but, wrapped in his reserve, listened
to one goading the other on, each leading the other from hundredthly
to thousandthly, and all because of Herr Settembrini's original
little joke about; Virgil.
The Italian would not give over; he brandished the word, he / Page524
/ made it prevail. He threw himself into the fray as the defender of literary
genius, celebrated the history of the written word, from the moment when
man, yearning to give permanency to his knowledge or emotions, engraved
word-symbols upon stone. He spoke of the Egyptian god Thoth, identical
with the thrice-renowned Hermes of Hellenism; who was honoured
as the in-ventor of writing, protector of libraries, and inciter to all
literary efforts. He bent the knee metaphorically before that Trismegistus,
the humanistic Hermes, master of the palaestra, to whom humanity
owed the great gift of the literary word and agonistic rhetoric- which
incited Hans Castorp to the remark that this Egyptian per-son had apparently
been a politician, playing in the grand style the same role as that Herr
Brunetto Latini who had sharpened the wits of the Florentines, taught
them the art of language and how to guide their State according to the
rules of politics. Naphta put in that Herr Settembrini was slightly disingenuous:
his picture of Thoth-Trismegistus had a good deal of the reality
smoothed away. He had been, in fact, an ape, moon and soul deity, a pea-cock
with a crescent moon on his head, and in his Hermes as-pect, a
god of death and of the dead, a soul-compeller and tutelary soul-guide,
of whom late antiquity made an arch-enchanter, and the cabalistic; Middle
Ages the Father of hermetic alchemy.
"Hans Castorp's brain reeled. Here was blue-mantled death masquerading
as a humanistic orator; and when one sought to gaze at closer range upon
this pedagogic and literary god, benev-olent to man, one discovered a
squatting ape-faced figure, with the sign of night and magic on its brow.
He waved it away with one hand, which he laid over his eyes. But upon
that darkness wherein he sought refuge from complete bewilderment, there
broke the voice of Herr Settembrini, continuing to chant the praises of
literature. All greatness, both contemplative and active, he said, had
been bound up with it from all tIme; and men-tioned Alexander, Caesar,
Napoleon, named the Prussian Fred-erick and other heroes, even Lasalle
and Moltke. It disturbed him not a whit that Naphta referred him to China,
where such a witless idolatry of the alphabet obtained as had never been
the case in any other land, and where one might become a field-marshal
if one could draw the forty thousand word-symbols of the language - a
standard, one would think, directly after a humanistic heart! - Ah, Naphta
well knew - pitiable scoffer though he was! - that it was a matter not
of drawing symbols but of literature as a human impulse, of its spirit,
which was Spirit itself, the miraculous conjunction of analysis
and form. This it / Page 525 / was that it
was a matter not of drawing symbols but of literature as a human impulse,
of its spirit, which was spirit itself, the miraculous
conjunction of analysis and form. This it was that awakened the understanding
of all things human, that operated to weaken and dissolve silly prejudices
and convictions, that brought about the civilizing, elevating, and betterment
of the human race. While it developed extreme ethical sensitiveness and
refinement, far from being fanatical, it preached honest doubt, fairness,
tolerance. The purifying, healing influence of literature, the dissipating
of passions by knowledge and the written word, literature as the path
to understanding, forgiveness and love, the redeeming might of the word,
the literary spirit as the noblest manifestation of the spirit of man,
the writer as perfected type, as saint - in this high key was Herr Settembrini's
apologetic pitched. But alas, his antagonist was not struck dumb - on
the contrary, he straightway set about with malicious, brilliant criti-cism
to undermine the humanist's panegyric. He declared him-self to the party
of conservation and of life, and struck out against the decadent spirit
which hid itself behind all that seraphic cant. The marvellous conjunction
to which Herr Settembrinl referred, in a voice all quavering with emotion,
was nothing but a deception and juggling, for the form which the
literary spirit prided itself on uniting with the principle of examination
and division was only an apparent, a lying form, no true, adequate,
natural, living form. These so-called reformers of humanity did
indeed take the words purification and sanctification in their mouths,
but what they really meant and intended was the emasculation, the phlebotomy
of life. Yes, their theory and moving spirit were in violation of life;
and he who would destroy passion; that man desired nothing less
than pure nothingness - pure, at least, in the
sense that pure was the oiily adjective which could be applied
to nothingness. It was just here that Herr Settembrini showed him-self
for that which he was: namely, the man of progress, lib-eralism,
and middle-class revolution. For the progress was pure nihilism, the
liberal citizen was quite precisely the advocate of nothingness and
the Devil; yes, he denied God, the conserva-tively and positively
Absolute, by swearing to the devilish anti-Absolute. And
yet with his deadly pacificism thought himself monstrously pious. But
he was anything else than pious, he was a traitor to life, before whose
stern inquisition and Vehmgericht he deserved to be put to the
question - and so forth.
Thus did Naphra astutely go about to turn Herr Settembrini's paean the
wrong way and represent himself as the incarnation of the cherishing severity
of love - so that it was again impossible to distinguish which side was
in the right, where God stood and where the Devil, where
death and where life. "
THE SATANIC BIBLE
Anton Szandor LaVey 1969
THE BLACK MASS
"NO other single device has been associated
with Satanism as much as the black mass. To say that the most
blasphemous of all religious ceremonies is nothing more than a literary
invention is certainly a statement which needs qualifying-but nothing
could be truer.
The popular concept of the black mass is d1us: a defrocked priest stands
before an altar consisting of a nude woman, her legs spread-eagled and
vagina thrust open, each of her outstretched fists grasping a black candle
made from the fat of unbaptized babies, and a chalice containing the urine
of a prostitute (or blood) reposing on her belly. An in-verted cross hangs
above the altar, and triangular hosts of ergot- laden bread or black-stained
turnip are methodically blessed as the priest dutifully slips them in
and out of the altar-lady's labia. Then, we are told, an invocation to
Satan and various demons is followed by an array of prayers and
psalms chanted backwards or interspersed with obscenities. . . all performed
within the confines of a "protective" pentagram drawn on the
floor. If the Devil appears he is invariably in the form of a rather eager
man wearing the head of a black goat upon his shoulders. Then follows
a potpourri of flagellation, prayer-book burning, cunnilingus, fellatio,
and general hindquarters kissing -all done to a background of ribald recitations
from the Holy Bible, and audible expectorations on the cross! If a baby
can be slaughtered during the ritual, so much the better; for as every-one
knows, this is the favorite sport of the Satanist!"
THAT WHAT I AM AM I THAT
THAT WHAT YOU ARE ARE YOU THAT
THAT US ARE WE THAT
GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN FOR THOU SAVOUREST
NOT THE THINGS OF GOD
Article Bernard Fitzwalter March 26
Page 235 / 236
WHIMS OF MERCURIUS
" But you look so hot, I'm afraid
your curve has gone up again." It had. The
greeting he had exchanged with Clavdia Chau-/chat had overcome the mortifying
depression; it was at bottom the consciousness of this which had lay
at the root of Hans Castorp's gratification. Yes, yes, Joachim was right,
Mercurius was mounting again: when Hans Castorp consulted him,
on their return from their walk, he had climbed up to 104°."
MATHEMATICS AND THE IMAGINATION
Edward Kasner and James Newman
Assorted Geometries-Plane and Fancy
"Analytical four-dimensional Eu-clidean
geometry is the system formed by theorems de-rived from these definitions.
Note that nothing has been said in either of these defini-tions about
space; neither the space of our sense percep-tions, nor the space of the
physicist, nor that of the philos-opher. All that we have done is to define
two systems of mathematics which are logical and self-consistent, which
may be played like checkers, or charades, according to stated rules. Anyone
who finds a resemblance between his game of checkers or charades and the
physical reality of his experience is privileged to point morals and to
make capital of his suggestion.
But having established that we are in the realm of pure conception, beyond
the most elastic bounds of imagina-tion, who is satisfied? Even the mathematician
would like / Page 125 / to
nibble the forbidden fruit, to glimpse what it would be like if he could
slip for a moment into a fourth dimension. It's hard to grub along like
moles down here below, to hear someone tell of a fourth dimension, to
make careful note of it, and then to plow along, giving it no further
thought. To make matters worse, books on popular sci-ence have made everything
so ridiculously simple-rela-tivity, quanta, and what not-that we are shamed
by our inability to picture a fourth dimension as something more concrete
Graphic representations of four-dimensional figures have been attempted:
it cannot be said these efforts have been crowned with any great success.
Fig. 31(diagram omitted) illustrates"
the four-dimensional analogue of the three-dimensional cube, a hypercube
or tesseract: Our difficulties in drawing this figure are in no way diminished
by the fact that a three-dimensional figure can only be drawn in perspective
on a two-dimensional surface-such as this page-, while the four-dimensional
object on a two dimensional page is only a perspective of a "perspective."
Yet since a2 equals the area of a square,
a3 the volume / Page
126 / of a cube, we feel certain
that a4 describes something, whatever
that something may be. Only by analogy can we reason that that "something"
is the hypervolume (or content) of a tesseract. Reasoning further, we
infer that the tesseract is bounded by 8 cubes (or cells), has 16 vertices,
24 faces and 32 edges. But visualization of the tesseract is another story.
Fortunately, without having to rely on distorted dia-grams, we may use
other means, using familiar objects to help our limping imagination to
depict a fourth dimen-sion.
The two triangles A and B in Fig. 32 are exactly alike. Fig 32 ( triangles
Geometrically, it is said they are congruent, * meaning that by a suitable
motion, one may be perfectly super-posed on the other. Evidently, that
motion can be carried out in a plane, i.e., in two dimensions, simply
by sliding triangle A on top of triangle B.** But what about the two triangles
C and D in Fig. 33?
One is the mirror image of the other. There seems to be no reason why
by sliding or turning in the plane, C / Page Page
127 / cannot be superimposed on D. Strangely enough, this cannot be done.
C or D must be lifted out of the plane, from two dimensions into a third,
to effect superposition. Lift C up, turn it over, put it back in the plane,
and then it can be slid over D.
Now, if a third dimension is essential for the solution of certain two-dimensional
problems, a fourth dimension would make possible the solution of otherwise
unsolvable problems of three dimensions. To be sure, we are in the Fig.33.(triangles
diagram omitted) realm of fancy, and it need hardly be pointed
out that a fourth dimension is not at hand to make Houdinis of us all.
Yet, in theoretical inquiries, a fourth dimension / Page 128 / is
of signal importance, and part of the warp and woof of modern theoretical
physics and mathematics. Ex-amples chosen from these subjects are quite
difficult and would be out of place, but some simpler ones in the lower
dimensions may prove amusing.
If we lived in a two-dimensional world, so graphically described by Abbott
in his famous romance, Flatland, our house would be a plane figure,
as in Fig. 34.(Figure omitted) Entering through the door at A,
we would be safe from our friends and enemies once the door was closed,
even though there were no roof over our head, and the walls and windows
were merely lines. To climb over these lines would mean getting out of
the plane into a third dimension, and of course, no one in the two-dimensional
world would have
any better idea of how to do that than we know how to escape from a locked
safe..deposit vault by means of a fourth dimension. A three-dimensional
cat might peek at a two-dimensional king, but he would never be the wiser.
When winter comes to Flatland, its inhabitants wear gloves.
Three-dimensional hands look like this: ( Page 129 diagrams omitted
Modern science has as yet devised no relief
for the man who finds himself with two right gloves instead of a right
and a left. In Flatland, the same problem would exist. But there,
Gulliver, looking down at its inhabitants from the eminence of a third
dimensionl would see at once that, just as in the case of the two triangles
on page 127, all that is necessary to turn a right glove into a left
one is to lift it up and turn it over. Of course, no one in Flatland
would or could lift a finger to do that, since it involves an extra dimension.
If then, we could be transported into a fourth dimen-sion, there is no
end to the miracles we could perform-starting with the rehabilitation
of all ill-assorted pairs of gloves. Lift the right glove from three-dimensional
space into a fourth dimension, turn it around, bring it back and it becomes
a left glove. No prison cell could hold the four-dimensional Gulliver-far
more of a men-ace than a mere invisible man. Gulliver could take a knot
and untie it without touching the ends or breaking it, merely by transporting
it into a fourth dimension and slipping the solid cord through the extra
Or he might take two links of a chain apart without breaking them. All,
this and much' more would seem absurdly simple to him, and he would regard
our help lessness with the same amusement and pity as we look upon the
miserable creatures of Flatland.
Our romance must end. If it has aided some readers in making a fourth
dimension more real and has satisfied a common anthropomorphic thirst,
it has served its pur-pose. For our own part, we confess that the fables
have never made the facts any clearer.
An idea originally associated with ghosts and spirits / Page 131 / needs,
if it is to serve science, to be as far removed as possible from fuzzy
thinking. It must be clearly and courageously faced if its true essence
is to be discovered. But it is even more stupid to reject and deride than
to glorify and enshrine it. No concept that has come out of our heads
or pens marked a greater forward step in our thinking, no idea of religion,
philosophy, or science broke. more sharply with tradition and commonly
accepted knowledge, than the idea of a fourth dimension.
Eddington has put it very well: 6
However successful the theory of a four-dimensional world may be, it is
difficult to ignore a voice inside us which whispers: "At the back
of your mind, you know that a fourth dimension is all nonsense."
I fancy that voice must often have had a busy time in the past history
of physics. What nonsense to say that this solid table on which
I am writing is a collection of electrons moving with prodigious speed
in empty spaces, which relatively to electronic dimensions are as wide
as the spaces between the planets in the solar system! What nonsense to
say that the thin air is trying to crush my body with a load of 14lbs.
to the square inch! What nonsense that the star cluster which I see through
the telescope, obviously there now, is a glimpse into a past age 50,000
years ago! Let us not be beguiled by this voice. It is discredited. .
We have found a strange footprint on the shores of the un- known. We have
devised profound theories, one after another to account for its origin.
At last, we have succeeded in recon-structing the creature that made the
footprint. And lo! It is our own.
( Fig 34.- This is no blueprint
but an actual house in Flatland.diagram omitted)
Notes page 126 *See
the chapter on paradoxes for an exact definition.
**Actually, "sliding on top or' would be impossible in a physical
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN
A RANDOM WALK IN SCIENCE
An Anthology compiled by RL Weber 1973
Flatland: a romance of many dimensions
"From Nature [An anonymous letter
entitled 'Euclid, Newton, and Einstein,' published in
Nature on February12, 1920, called attention to a little book by Edwin
Abbott Abbott (1838-1926), best known for his scholarly Shakespearian
Grammar, his life of Francis Bacon and a number of theological discussions.]
Some thirty or more years ago, a little jeu d'esprit was written by Dr
Edwin Abbott, entitled 'Flatland.' At the time of its pulication
it did not attract as much attention as it deserved. Dr Abbott pictures
intelligent beings whose whole experience is confined to a plane, or other
space of two dimensions, who have no faculties by which they can become
conscious of anything outside that space and no means of moving off the
surface on which they live. He then asks the reader, who has the consciousness
of the third dimension, to imagine a sphere descending upon the plane
of Flatland and passing through it. How will the inhabitants regard this
phenomenon? They will not see the approaching sphere and will have no
conception of its solidity. They will only be conscious of the circle
in which it cuts their plane. This circle, at first a point, will gradually
increase in diameter, driving the inhabitants of Flatland outwards
from its circumference, and this will go on until half the sphere has
passed through the plane, when the circle will gradually contract to a
point and then vanish, leaving the Flatlanders in undisturbed possession
of their country.
Their experience will be that of a circular obstacle gradually expanding
or growing, and then contracting, and they will attribute to growth in
time what the external observer in three dimensions assigns to motion
in the third dimension, through three-dimensional space. Assume the past
and future of the universe to be all depicted in four-dimensional space
and visible to any being who has consci-ousness of the fourth dimension.
If there is motion of our three- dimensional space relative to the fourth
dimension, all the changes we experience and assign to the flow of time
will be due simply to this movement, the whole of the future as well as
the past always existing in the fourth dimension.
From Edwin A Abbott Flatland A Romance
of Many Dimensions (New York: Barnes and Noble) 1963
[In a vision the narrator, a native of
Flatland, has been indoctrinated by Abbott, Flatland. Sphere to
cany the Gospel of Three Dimensions to his blind benighted countrymen
I. 'Pardon me, 0 Thou Whom I must no longer address as the Perfection
of all Beauty; but let me beg thee to vouchsafe thy
servant a sight of thine interior.'
Sphere. 'My what?' Page 94
I. 'Thine interior: thy stomach, thy
Sphere. 'Whence this ill-timed impertinent request? . . .'
I. 'But my Lord has shewn me the intestines of all my countrymen
in the Land of Two Dimensions by taking me with him into the Land of Three.
What therefore more easy than now to take his servant on a second journey
into the blessed region of the Fourth Dimension, where I shall look down
with him once more upon this land of Three Dimensions, and see the inside
of every three- dimensional house, the secrets of the solid earth, the
treasures of the mines in Spaceland, and the intestines of every solid
living creature, even of the noble and adorable Spheres'.
Sphere. 'But where is this land of Four Dimensions?'
I. 'I know not: but doubtless my Teacher
Sphere. 'Not I. There is no such land. The very idea of it is utterly
inconceivable. . . . Men are divided in opinion as to the facts. And even
granting the facts, they explain them in different ways. And in any case,
however great may be the number of different explanations, no one has
adopted or suggested the theory of a Fourth Dimension. Therefore, pray
have done with this trifling, and let us return to business.' "
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN
Thomas Mann 1875 - 1955
"These were the moments when the "Seven-Sleeper,"
not knowing what had happened, was slowly stirring himself in the grass,
before he sat up, rubbed his eyes - yes, let us carry the figure to
the end, in order to do justice to the movement of our hero's mind:
he drew up his legs, stood up, looked about him. He saw himself released,
freed from enchantment-not of his own motion; he was fain to confess,
but by the operation of exterior powers, of whose activities his own
liberation was a minor incident Indeed! Yet though his tiny destiny
fainted to nothing in the face of the general, was there not some hint
of a personal mercy and grace for him, a manifestation of divine goodness
and justice? Would Life receive again her erring and " delicate
" child-not by a cheap and easy slipping back to her arms, but
sternly, solemnly, peni-entially - perhaps not even among the living,
but only with three salvoes fired over the grave of him a sinner? Thus
might he return. He sank on his knees, raising face and hands to a heaven
that howsoever dark and sulphurous was no longer the gloomy grotto of
his state of sin."
Translated with an introduction by
PART SEVEN [BOOK SIX] .
§ 7. THE SIMILE OF THE CAVE
"This is a more graphic presentation
of the truths presented in the analogy of the Line,' in particular,
it tells us more about the two states of mind called in the Line
analogy Belief and Illusion. We are shown the ascent of the mind from
illusion to pure philosophy, and the difficulties which accompany its
progress. And the philosopher, when he has achieved the supreme vision,
is required to return to the cave and serve his fellowls, his very unwillingness
to do so being his chief qualification.
As Cornford pointed out, the best llIay
to understand the simile is to replace' the clumsier apparatus' of the
cave by the cinema, though today television is an even better comparison.
It is the moral and intellectual condition of the average man from llIhich
Plato starts; and though clearlY the ordinary man knollls the difference
between substance and ShadO1ll in the physical llIorld, the simile suggests
that his moral and intellectual opinions often bear as little relation
to the tntth as the average film or television programme does to real
1 The words used for 'belief' and 'illusion'
do not (with the possible exception of a use of pistis in Book X; see
p. 430) occur elsewhere in Plato in the sense in which they are used here.
Pistis, 'belief', conveys overtones of assurance and trustworthiness:
'commonsense assurance' (Cross and WoozIey,p. 226). Eikasia, 'illusion',
is a rare word whose few occurrences elsewhere in Greek literature give
us little guidance. It can mean 'conjecture', 'guesswork', and some prefer
so to translate it here.
But 'illusion' is perhaps more appropriate for a 'state of mind '.
THE PHILOSOPHER RULER
'I want you to go on to picture the enlightenment
or ignorance of our human condition somewhat as follows.
Imagine an underground chamber like a cave,
with a long entrance open to the daylight and as wide as the cave. In
this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children,
their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight
ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Some way off, behind and higher
up, a fire is burn-ing, and between the fire and the prisoners and above
them runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like
the screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above
which they show their puppets.'
'Imagine further that there are men carrying all sorts of gear along behind
the curtain-wall, projecting above it and including figures of men and
animals made of wood and, stone and all sorts of other materials, and
that some of these men, as you would expect, are talking and some
An odd picture and an odd sort of prisoner.'
'They are drawn from life,'1 I replied.'
For, tell me, do you think our prisoners could see anything of themselves
or their fellows except the shadows thrown by the fire on the wall of
the cave opposite them?'
'How could they see anything else if they were prevented from moving their
heads all their lives?'
'And would they see anything more of the objects carried along the road?'
'Of course not.'
'Then if they were able to talk to each other, would they not assume that
the shadows they saw were the real things?' 'Inevitably.'
And if the wall of their prison opposite them reflected / Page 318 / sound,
don't you think that they would suppose, whenever one of the passers-by
on the road spoke, that the voice be- longed to the shadow passing before
'They would be bound to think so.'
' And so in every way they would believe that the shadows of the objects
we mentioned were the whole truth.'1
'Then think what would naturally happen to them if they were released
from their bonds and cured of their delusions. Suppose one of them were
let loose, and suddenly compelled to stand up and turn his head and look
and walk towards the fire; all these actions would be painful and he would
be too dazzled to see properly the objects of which he used to see the
shadows. What do you think he would say if he was told that what he used
to see was so much empty nonsense and that he was now nearer reality and
seeing more correctly, because he was turned towards objects that were
more real, and if on top of that he were compelled to say what each of
the passing objects was when it was pointed out to him? Don't you think
he would be at a loss, and think that what he used to see was far truer2
than the objects now being pointed out to him?'
'Yes, far truer.'
I ' And if he were made to look directly at the light of the fire, it
would hurt his eyes and he would turn back and retreat to the things which
he could see properly, which he would think really clearer than the things
being shown him.
'And if,' I went on, 'he were forcibly dragged up the steep and rugged
ascent and not let go till he had been dragged out into the sunlight,
the process would be a painful one, to which he would much object, and
when he emerged into the light his eyes would be so dazzled by the glare
of it that he wouldn't be able to see a single one of the things he was
now told were real.'3
'Certainly not at first,' he agreed.
'Because, of course, he wo'uld need to grow accustomed to the light before
he could see things in the upper world outside the cave. First he would
find it easiest to look at shadows, next at the reflections of men and
other objects in water, and later on at the objects themselves. After
that he would find it easier to observe the heavenly bodies and the
sky itself at night, and to look at the light of the moon and b stars
rather than at the sun and its light by day.'
'The thing he would be able to do last would be to look directly at the
sun itself, and gaze at it without using reflec- tions in water or any
other medium, but as it is in itself.'
'That must come last.'
'Later on he would come to the conclusion that it is the sun that produces
the changing seasons and years and con-trols everything in the visible
world, and is in a sense, responsible for everything that he and his fellow-prisoners
used to see.'
'That is the conclusion which he would obviously reach.' , And when he
thought of his first home and what passed for wisdom there, and of his
fellow-prisoners, don't you think he would congratulate himself on his
good fortune and be sorry for them?'
'Very much so.'
'There was probably a certain amount of. honour and glory to be won among
the prisoners, and prizes for keen- sightedness for those best able to
remember the order of sequence among the passing shadows and so be best
able to divine their future appearances. Will our released prisoner hanker
after these prizes or envy this power or honour? Won't he be more likely
to feel, as Homer says, that he would far rather be "a serf in the
house of some landless man ",l or
indeed anything else in the world, than hold the opinions and live the
life that they do? '
'Yes,' he replied, 'he would prefer anything to a life like, theirs.'
'Then what do you think would happen,' I asked, 'if he / Page 320 / went
back to sit in his old seat in the cave? Wouldn't his eyes be blinded
by the darkness, because he had come in suddenly out of the sunlight?'
'And if he had to discriminate between the shadows, in competition with
the other prisoners, while he was still blinded and before his eyes got
used to the darkness - a process that would take some time - wouldn't
he be likely to make a fool of himself? And they would say that his visit
to the upper world had ruined his sight, and that the ascent was not worth
even attempting. And if anyone tried to release them and lead them up,
they would kill him if they could lay hands on him.'
'They certainly would.'
'Now, my dear Glaucon,' I went on, 'this simile must be connected throughout
with what preceded it.l The realm revealed by sight corresponds
to the prison, and the light of the fire in the prison to the power of
the sun. And you won't go wrong if you connect the ascent into the upper
world / Page 321 / and the sight of the objects there with the upward
progress of the mind into the intelligible region. That at any rate is
my interpretation, which is what you are anxious to hear; the truth of
the matter is, after all, known only to god.1
But in my opinion, for what it is worth, the final thing to be perceived
in the intelligible region, and perceived only with difficulty, is the
form of the good; once seen, it is inferred to be responsible for whatever
is right and valuable in anything, producing in the visible region light
and the source of light, and being in the intelligible region itself controlling
source of truth and intelligence. And anyone who is going to act rationally
either in public or private life must have sight of it.'
'I agree,' he said, 'so far as I am able to understand you.' 'Then you
will perhaps also agree with me that it won't be surprising if those who
get so far are unwilling to involve themselves in human affairs, and if
their minds long to remain in the realm above. That's what we should expect
if our simile holds good again.'
'Yes, that's to be expected.'
'Nor will you think it strange that anyone who descends from contemplation
of the divine to human life and its ills should blunder and make a fool
of himself, if, while still blinded and unaccustomed to the surrounding
darkness, he's forcibly put on trial in the law-courts or elsewhere about
the shadows of justice or the figures2 of
which they are shadows and made to dispute about the notions of them held
by men, who have never seen justice itself.'
'There's nothing strange in that.' 'But anyone with any sense,'
I said, 'will remember that the eyes may be unsighted in two
ways, by a transition either from light to darkness or from
darkness to light, and will recognize that the same thing
applies to the mind. So when he sees a mind confused and
unable to see clearly he will not laugh without thinking, but will ask
himself whether it has come from a clearer world and is confused by the
unaccus-tomed darkness, or whether it is dazzled by the stronger
light of the clearer world to which it has escaped from its / Page
322 / previous ignorance, The first condition of life is a reason for
congratulation, the second for sympathy, though if one wants to laugh
at it one can do so with less absurdity than at the mind that has descended
from the daylight of the upper world,'
'You put it very reasonably,'
'If this is true,' I continued, 'we must reject the concep-tion of education
professed by those who say that they can put into the mind knowledge that
was not there before - rather as if they could put sight into blind eyes..
'It is a claim that is certainly made,' he said,
'But our argument indicates that the capacity for know-ledge is innate
in each man's mind, and that the organ by which he learns is like an eye
which cannot be turned from darkness to light unless the whole body is
turned; in the same way the mind as a whole must be turned away from the
world of change until its eye can bear to look straight at reality, and
at the brightest of all realities which is what we call the good. Isn't
'Then this turning around of the mind itself might be made a subject of
professional skill,' which would effect the conversion as easily and effectively
as possible, It would not be concerned to implant sight, but to ensure
that someone who had it already was not either turned in the wrong direction
or looking the wrong way.'
'That may well be so,'
'The rest, therefore, of what are commonly called excel-lences2
of the mind perhaps resemble those of the body, in that they are not in
fact innate, but are implanted by sub-sequent training and practice; but
knowledge, it seems, must surely have a diviner quality, something which
never loses its power, but whose effects are useful and salutary or again
useless and harmful according to the direction in which it is turned,
Have you never noticed how shrewd is the glance of the type of men commonly
called bad but clever? They have small minds. but their sight is sharp
and piercing enough in / Page 323 / matters that concern them; it's not
that their sight is weak, but that they are forced to serve evil, so that
the keener their sight the more effective that evil is,'
'But suppose,' I said, 'that such natures were cut loose, when they were
still children, from all the dead weights natural to this world of change
and fastened on them by sensual indulgences like gluttony, which twist
their minds' vision to lower things, and suppose that when so freed they
were turned towards the truth, then this same part of these same individuals
would have as keen a vision of truth as it has of the objects on which
it is at present turned,'
'And is it not also likely, and indeed a necessary conse- quence of what
we have said, that society will never be properly governed either by the
uneducated, who have no knowledge of the truth, or by those who are allowed
to t spend all their lives in purely intellectual pursuits? The un-educated
have no single aim in life to which all their actions, public and private,
are to be directed; the intellectuals will take no practical action of
their own accord, fancying them-selves to be out of this world in some
kind of 'eartWy paradise,'
'Then our job as lawgivers is to compel the best minds to attain what
we have called the highest form of knowledge, and to ascend to the vision
of the good as we have described, and when they have achieved this and
see well enough, a' prevent them behaving as they are now allowed to,'
'What do you mean by that?'
'Remaining in the upper world, and refusing to return again to the prisoners
in the cave below and share their labours and rewards, whether trivial
'But surely,' he protested, 'that will not be fair, We shall be compelling
them to live a poorer life than they might live,'
'The object of our legislation,' I reminded him again, 'is, not the special
welfare of any particular class in our society, / Page 324 / but of the
society as a whole;I and it uses persuasion or compulsion to unite all
citizens and make them share together the benefits which each individually
can confer on the community; and its purpose in fostering this attitude
is not to leave everyone to please himself, but to make each man a link
in the unity of the whole.'
'You are right; I had forgotten,' he said.
'You see, then, Glaucon,' I went on, 'we shan't be unfair to our philosophers,
but shall be quite fair in what we say when we compel them to have some
care and responsibility for others. We shall tell them that philosophers
born in other states can reasonably refuse to take part in the hard work
of politics; for society produces them quite involun-tarily and unintentionally,
and it is only just that anything that grows up on its own should feel
it has nothing to repay for an upbringing which it owes to no one. "But,"
we shall say, "we have bred you both for your own sake and that of
the whole community to act as leaders and king-bees in a hive; you are
better and more fully educated than the rest and better qualified to combine
the practice of philosophy and politics. You must therefore each descend
in turn and live with your fellows in the cave and get used to seeing
in the dark; once you get used to it you will see a thousand times better
than they do and will distinguish the various shadows, and know what they
are shadows of, because you have seen the truth about things admirable
and just and good. And so our state and yours will be really awake, and
not merely dreaming like most societies today, with their shadow battles
and their struggles for political power, which they treat as some great
prize. The truth is quite different: the state whose prospective rulers
come to their duties with least enthusiasm is bound to have the best and
most tranquil government, and the state whose rulers are eager to rule
the worst." '2
'I quite agree.'
Page325 (number omitted)
'Then will our pupils,
when they hear what we say, dissent and refuse to take their share of
the hard work of government, even though spending the greater part of
their time together in the pure air above?'
They cannot refuse, for we are making a just demand of just men.
But of course, unlike present rulers, they will approach the business
of government as an unavoidable necessity.'
'Yes, of course,' I agreed. 'The truth is that if you want a well-governed
state to be possible, you must find for your future rulers some way of
life they like better than govern-ment; for only then will you have government
by the truly rich, those, that is, whose riches consist not of gold, but
of the true happiness of a good and rational life. If you get, in public
affairs, men whose life is impoverished and desti-tute of personal satisfactions,
but who hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from
a political career, there can never be good government. They start fighting
for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both
them and society.'
'Is there any life except that of true philosophy which looks down on
positions of political power?'
'But what we need is that the only men to get power should be men who
do not love it, otherwise we shall have rivals' quarrels.'
'That is certain.'
Who else, then, will you compel to undertake the responsibilities of Guardians
of our state, if it is not to be those who know most about the principles
of good govern- ment and who have other rewards and a better life than
the politician's ?'
'There is no one else.'..."
Note 1 page 317
I. Lit: 'like us'. How 'like' has been a
matter of controversy. Plato can hardly have meant that the ordinary man
cannot distinguish between shadows and real things. But he does seem to
be saying, with a touch of caricature (we must not take him too solemnly),
that the ordinary man is often very uncritical in his beliefs, which are
little more than a 'careless acceptance of appearances , (Crombie).
Notes page 318
1. Lit: 'regard nothing else as true but
the shadows'. The Greek word alethes (true) carries an implication of
genuinenes, and some
translators render it here as 'real'.
2. Or 'more real'. 3. Or 'true', 'genuine'.
Note page 319 Odyssey, XI, 489.
Note Page 320
1. I.e. the similes of the Sun and the Line (though pp.
267-76 must surely also be referred to). The detailed relations between
the three similes have been much disputed, as has the meaning of the word
here translated 'connected'. Some interpret it to mean a detailed corre-spondence
('every feature. . . is meant to fit' - Cornford), others to mean, more
loosely, 'attached' or 'linked to'. That Plato intended some degree of
'connection' between the three similes cannot be in doubt in view of the
sentences which follow. But we should remember that they are similes,
not scientific descriptions, and it would be a mistake to try to find
too much detailed precision. Plato has just spoken of the prisoners 'getting
their hands' on their returned fellow and killing him. How could they
do that if fettered as described at the opening Of the simile (p. 317)?
But Socrates was executed, so of course they must.
This translation assumes the following main correspondences:
Tied prisoner in the cave' illusion
Freed prisoner in the cave Belief
Looking at shadows and reflections in the world outside the cave
and the ascent thereto Reason
Looking at real things in the world outside the cave Intelligence
Looking at the sun Vision of the form of the good.
Note 1 page 321 1. a. footnote 4, p.133
Note 1 page 322 1. Techne.,
Note 1 page 324 1. cr. 420b and 4660
above, pp. 18fand 252.
2. Socrates takes up here a point made to Thrasymachus at 347b, p.89.