In the dystopian world of The Matrix, the same futuristic Allegory of The Cave is again explored. Neo is freed and seeks to free the others, and encounters the same archetypes and challenges.
Moreover, the return of the freed prisoner can also be related to the ‘return of the prophet’ described in many theological constructs.
The Freed and the Scorned
The experience of the freed prisoner who returns to the Cave to free his fellow captors is depicted in all three narratives; the Allegory of the Cave, 1984, and The Matrix.
In 1984 Emmanuel Goldstein (Emmanuel = God is with us, Goldstein = gold rock) is a character who figuratively left the cave, or understood the Inner Party’s images were lies and attempted to get others to understand the institutional lies. Emmanuel is the supposed leader of the elusive Brotherhood in 1984 and is scorned, even hated by society. His attempt to enlighten his community to its captivity is met with disbelief, resistance and scorn.
The character of Winston Smith in 1984 is that of a person who attempts to leave the cave. He is privy to certain Inner Party lies and begins to question the Inner Party line and seek alternate facts and perceptions. Winston’s end is not a happy one; akin to the return of the prisoner hypothesized in The Allegory of The Cave, he attempts to leave the cave only to be shut in and beaten down – made to hold the party line by both prisoners and captors alike.
Similarly, today, individuals can transmute from dull repetitive ‘thought’ into ascended golden thinking, but as our minds are freed, one at a time, we ultimately find that our broader society is embedded with a series of norms and structures – of Matrices and Caves – that perpetuate false imagery, preserving the status quo from the ‘threat’ of individual thinking.
Individuals and Institutions
Some fictional literature is so profound as to be relevant for decades (and centuries) and serves to expand humanity’s language and thought; its understanding of itself. George Orwell’s 1984 is one such literary work. It is a post-WWII interpretation of the relationship between individuals and institutions, using the archetypal Allegory of the Cave.
The Allegory of the Cave, 1984 and The Matrix contain corresponding layers. Each explores a diabolical form of societal control; the control of thought through the presentation of selective information and images, in combination with physical constraints of strict surveillance and imprisonment.
Sound familiar? In fact, the original title of 1984 was proposed as The Last Man in Europe. Certainly, that is the way many of us feel – as if we are the last lone person – when we first become aware of lies and partial truths that are presented as reality by those in control and accepted in totality by seemingly everyone else.
George Orwell’s 1984 spawned new language for age-old structures of manipulation presented in the Allegory of the cave – the word “Orwellian” being one among many. This all-encompassing term is reflective of lies made to be truths, unlimited institutional surveillance, and logic so distorted as to not only convince the masses that two plus two equal five, but that war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength; and also to deny the very basic elements of nature… Just as we do today.
In reality, individual ignorance is strength to institutions. Everyone has their own personal caves and we are all figuratively held in larger societal caverns. Coming up with your own questions is the way get out of the cave and gain enlightenment. Questioning what seems like a lie, or an illusion in the cave is the first step outside the cave.
The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall toward the earth’s center. With the feeling that he was speaking to… and setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows”. ~George Orwell’s 1984