Plato's The Republic and The Old Testament Essay

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Plato's The Republic and The Old Testament

A Buddhist teaching suggests that practicing Buddhism is like taking a raft over a great river. One riverbank represents the realm of ‘samsara,’ the cycle of suffering that we are all spinning around in. On the other side is ‘wakefulness,’ or ‘nirvana,’ an enlightened state of awareness characterized by an infinite sense of unity and bliss. The raft symbolizes Buddhism; its purpose being to help us cross over from samsara to nirvana. According to the teaching, however, a curious thing happens to the individual who manages to reach the ‘banks of enlightenment.’ Having climbed off of the raft, she turns around to discover that she cannot now see any riverbank on the side from which she
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From such an understanding, it is well reasoned to develop an interpretive framework for analyzing such systems that is rooted in what Ken Wilber, borrowing from Leibniz and Huxley, refers to as the Perennial Philosophy. (7-8) This is the idea that the world’s great religions and wisdom traditions possess a “transcendental unity”. That is, manuscripts and teachings the world over, spanning thousands of years of human history, can be viewed as together describing one unified vision of the cosmos. In this way, each text is like a section on a quilted tapestry, seeming to approach reality from a distinctive position due to the unique contextual medium out of which it emerges, but essentially congruent with the other sections in terms of certain key themes and ideas. This being the case, the entire tapestry, of course, is likely to provide us with a more acute representation of those themes and ideas than would any individual portion thereof.

The Perennial Philosophy, then, is exactly the point of view I will work from as I elucidate the connections between Plato’s allegory of the Cave and the Judeo-Christian myths. Both of these accounts, I will argue, make reference to precisely the same state of wakefulness that we encountered in the Buddhist parable above, but each does it in a manner constrained by the historical and cultural situations that inform them. Furthermore, by examining the similarities between the