Allegory Of The Cave: Meet Your Puppet-Handlers


TVFamilyPlato’s The Allegory of the Cave‘ is from book VII of his most famous work, The Republic. He begins ‘The Allegory‘ by describing a dark cave found underground where a group of people are sitting in ‘one long row with their backs to the cave’s entrance’. They are chained to their chairs from an early age and all that the humans can see is the distant cave wall in front of them. Their view of reality is completely based upon this limited view of the cave which but an unenlightened view of the real world.

In addition to the chained people, there are other people in the cave. Plato refers to them as the puppet-handlers and they are the ones holding those in the cave captive. (It is important to realize that the prisoners do not realize this–in fact, the prisoners do not even realize that they are being held captive since this existence is all they have ever known.) Walking behind the prisoners, the puppet-handlers hold up various objects found in the real world. Due to a fire that is burning the mouth of the cave, the prisoners are able to see the objects and each other only as distorted, flickering shadows on the cavern wall in front of them.

The prisoners can not see the actual objects or the puppet-makers because they are unable to turn their heads. From childhood, “…their legs and necks [have been] in bonds so that they are fixed, seeing only [what is] in front of them…. As Plato goes on to later explain, “the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.”

Similarly to the Plato’s engulfing allegory is the current state of todays world wherein humans believe exactly what they are told by the oligarchy  (i.e puppet-handlers), refusing to question what their eyes behold.We are brutally fooled by the political masquerades thus easily allowing ourselves to  believe what we hear within the limited scope of society (i.e the cave). Furthermore, we accept what our senses tell us – that what we are experiencing,seeing and hearing through the mainstream media is all that really exists – nothing more.
The puppet-handlers, as Plato calls them in his allegory, represent the prominent, authoritarian members of society (i.e the Government) who live inside the artificial paradigm that they have created for the rest of us.
Going along with the allegory we notice that Plato does give us hope; one freed prisoner who would eventually escape and flee the cave wherein he would see,for the first time, what the real world looks like.

After finding himself free the intellectual individual would then “…suffer sharp pains; the glare [would] distress him, and he [would] be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows….he’d be at a loss and believe that what was seen before is truer than what is now shown.”
This can easily be related to the amount of confusion one meets once he is aware of reality,beyond what the media and oligarchy have been feeding us. Later the confusion will subside and:

“When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities… He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven….Last of he will be able to see the sun…”

After the discovery of the sun (i.e The Truth) the intellectual individual will then wish to share the life-changing discovery of the real world with those still trapped in the cave – setting out on a mission to free them from their chains. An example of these types of intellectuals would be bloggers, underground media news broadcasters etc […]

But as a blogger myself I can attest to the fact that this mission is not at all simple due to the fact that, like in Plato’s allegory, those still trapped in the artificial world become hostile and refuse to face the possibility of another reality – for this would go against every form of understanding they have been fed to believe.

The Allegory of the Cave, written over 2000 years ago, is undeniably relevant today – maybe even more than it was during the time of Plato – and
just as in the allegory there are main characters which cause the fable to continue:

1.Those chained within the cave:
Refusing to take notice to anything but the shadows on the wall. An example can be those who sit and watch their television,refusing to seek out anything besides the
shadows displayed through the screen (the television sets we have are just more advanced cave walls).

2.The puppet-handlers:
Individuals/Groups who form the shadows on the cave walls for the prisoners to see (i.e mainstream media,government) –  nothing more.

3.The freed men:
Those who leave the cave and walk into the light (i.e Truth) yet do not use the knowledge they have found or ignore it.

4.The freed men who come back to free the rest of the prisoners:
The bloggers,radical journalists,underground broadcasters etc […]

The meaning behind Plato’s allegory is that the majority within society shall prefer to remain chained to their ignorance or allow themselves to remain shackled to the false reality fed to them by the oligarchy – left only to with the shadows of truth oftentimes manipulated by the puppet-handlers (i.e government). Only a few,the wise and intelligent,will be willing to free themselves from these shackles and open their eyes to the truth, no matter how blinding it may be at first.

This is our allegory and we are living it right now.
So take your pick – Do you stay in the cave or free yourself?


19 Responses to “Allegory Of The Cave: Meet Your Puppet-Handlers”

  1. 1 Tom Dennen

    Another good story, although real and not an analogy, is Tacitus’ description of the monetary chaos in Nero’s Rome in A.D. 27.

    Just Google >The Annals of Tacitus< and read just over halfway through Book Six.

  2. nice modern cross reference you made.

    for another greek w/good sense…epictetus delivered in neat/sweet/petite manner
    ‘the discourses of epictetus’ offer concise & sage advice concerning the world and our interactions w/it. in reality the only thing which we are able to ‘control’ is our will/ our feelings, about conditions presented/encountered.

    especially relevant is chap 1, which allows understanding of exactly what is and is not w/in our control. also chap 19, dealing w/tyrants.

    once ya get your mind right, any tyrant is rendered impotent.

    another modern allegorical reference; Evie telling her assumed captor (Big Brother) in V for Vendetta that even after torture and imprisonment she would rather die behind the chemical shed than help capture V. they may have had control of her body, but not her mind.

    Discourses of Epictetus

  3. 3 andrea

    only one explanation.
    quote “2.The puppet-handlers:
    Individuals/Groups who form the shadows on the cave walls for the prisoners to see (i.e mainstream media,government) – nothing more.”
    this group must be implemented by corporations. At the top of the puppet-handlers.
    mainstream media,government are sitting a few benches behind, toward the exit of the cave.

  4. 4 D.L.

    Nero’s Rome was closer to 57 AD. Tiberius was caesar in 27 AD.

  5. 5 estebanfolsom

    big brother
    doesn’t watch you
    you watch it
    how would you know
    if you’ve seen the truth
    if you never got dragged up
    from that cave images cast
    on the far wall sounds
    in time with the play
    in front of your eyes
    didn’t notice being
    tied down fettered
    in this state we stay

  6. 6 Scott

    I believe that the “Allegory of the Cave” was in Book VII of The Republic.
    One might also read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 which was first published in 1950 and is an uncanny and frighteningly accurate representation of what our society is like today. This novel seems to be based on the Cave Allegory and even has a character, Granger, who is said to “be” The Republic.

    • 7 politicaltheatrics

      My apologies,I’ve promptly corrected the typo.
      And I am very glad you brought up Fahrenheit451, it’s another brilliant novel that I suggest all of my viewers read.

  7. 8 Nagual2012



    On the surface of the world right now there is
    war and violence and things seem dark.
    But calmly and quietly, at the same time,
    something else is happening underground
    An inner revolution is taking place
    and certain individuals are being called to a higher light.
    It is a silent revolution.
    From the inside out. From the ground up.
    This is a Global operation.
    A Spiritual Conspiracy.
    There are sleeper cells in every nation on the planet.
    You won’t see us on the TV.
    You won’t read about us in the newspaper
    You won’t hear about us on the radio
    We don’t seek any glory
    We don’t wear any uniform
    We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and styles
    Most of us work anonymously
    We are quietly working behind the scenes
    in every country and culture of the world
    Cities big and small, mountains and valleys,
    in farms and villages, tribes and remote islands
    You could pass by one of us on the street
    and not even notice
    We go undercover
    We remain behind the scenes
    It is of no concern to us who takes the final credit
    But simply that the work gets done
    Occasionally we spot each other in the street
    We give a quiet nod and continue on our way
    During the day many of us pretend we have normal jobs
    But behind the false storefront at night
    is where the real work takes a place
    Some call us the Conscious Army
    We are slowly creating a new world
    with the power of our minds and hearts
    We follow, with passion and joy
    Our orders come from the Central Spiritual Intelligence
    We are dropping soft, secret love bombs when no one is looking
    Poems ~ Hugs ~ Music ~ Photography ~ Movies ~ Kind words ~
    Smiles ~ Meditation and prayer ~ Dance ~ Social activism ~ Websites
    Blogs ~ Random acts of kindness…
    We each express ourselves in our own unique ways
    with our own unique gifts and talents
    Be the change you want to see in the world
    That is the motto that fills our hearts
    We know it is the only way real transformation takes place
    We know that quietly and humbly we have the
    power of all the oceans combined
    Our work is slow and meticulous
    Like the formation of mountains
    It is not even visible at first glance
    And yet with it entire tectonic plates
    shall be moved in the centuries to come
    Love is the new religion of the 21st century
    You don’t have to be a highly educated person
    Or have any exceptional knowledge to understand it
    It comes from the intelligence of the heart
    Embedded in the timeless evolutionary pulse of all human beings
    Be the change you want to see in the world
    Nobody else can do it for you
    We are now recruiting
    Perhaps you will join us
    Or already have
    All are welcome
    The door is open………
    Love to you my brothers and sisters

    • 9 estebanfolsom

      the void is not empty
      it’s filled with light
      of this i am sure of
      with all of my might
      the world is troubled
      as i rest tonight
      half in darkness
      something’s not right
      the day will break
      the sun will rise
      and i’ll see things
      through different eyes
      i hope that my visions
      not clouded by doubt
      peace among all of us
      is the only way out


    Here’s a cartoon version of Plato’s Cave.

  9. 11 sean

    the ‘cave’ is a reference to the DMTrealm of the machine elves written about by terrence mckenna. refer to wikipedia for more info.

  10. 12 Amoret

    I understand all that is said, and believe it as well, but – how do you know that the “free men” are not just seeing some more shadows from the puppet-masters? a distraction for a distraction? Although not as well informed as the rest , I am not blind to the corruption of the world and its leaders (and the puppet masters of the leaders as well), but cannot help but think – if They can orchestrate and control the world so well, would it not be plausable that They can organise a “rebellion” against them to keep the rebellious happy?
    I realise that this argument just goes around in a circle, but in the end I do believe that you should just believe in what feels most right to you (if you cant trust yourself, who can you trust?), but it must be a well informed feeling.
    I hope all I said makes sense and that I could get a response on this debate as well…

  11. Plato’s Allegory is brilliant because of how it can be applied to many different points of history.

    I love that you took it a step forward and used it as a call for action. Powerful stuff.

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