In The Republic, Plato suggests that the enlightened person will find himself disoriented on his return to the realm of the shadows. So at the very beginning of the Western philosophical tradition, there is a clear affirmation of the idea that following enlightenment, the sensory world can be differently experienced. In this book, Mark R. Wynn takes up this idea, but argues that 'enlightenment' or spiritual maturity may result in, and may partly consist in, not so much a state of confusion or bewilderment in our experience of sensory things, but in a renewal of the realm of the senses. On this view, the 'shadows', as they feature in the seer's experience, can bear the imprint of religious thoughts and attitudes, and it is therefore possible to be occupied with religious thoughts even as we engage with the realm of sensory things. And if that is so, then one standard objection to Christian, and in general broadly Platonic, conceptions of the spiritual life will have been removed: attending to the realm of religious ideas need not after all imply any neglect of the world of sensory forms; and it may even be that it is in our encounter with the realm of sensory forms that certain religious insights are presented to us most vividly.
Mark R. Wynn is Professor of Philosophy and Religion in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at the University of Leeds.
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