There was once a race of humans who all lived together in a big cave. We'll call them the Humbugs. The Humbugs spent their entire lives staring at the shadows cast on the cave wall. They believed the shadows were who they were and the cave wall was the whole world. Now don't get me wrong, it was a big wall as far as cave walls go, but it didn't take them very long to explore the whole thing. It was then that the Humbugs concluded they had explored their whole world, which was true. They now knew everything worth knowing about a flat wall and the shadows cast upon it.
Every once in a while, someone would lay down and never get up again. People started asking questions and the Humbug elders realized they'd better come up with something quick. Since they already knew everything about their world, they created another world that existed somewhere outside of them. This is what happened when you died, you went to the “other side”. The other Humbugs weren't really sure about this, but to them it was a better explanation than nothing at all. Plus what the elders said was not to be questioned. The people stopped asking questions for a while, but eventually they realized they'd have to go to the “other side” one day and they wanted to know what it was like.
None of the elders had ever been to the “other side”, they weren't even sure if it existed. One of the more clever elders had a plan. He told the people that when they died, they either went to a good place, called heaven, or a bad place, called hell. There was a universal judge called Nod that watched everything everyone did and decided if they were going to heaven or hell. People asked, “How will we know if we're doing what Nod wants us to do?” And the elders replied, “Don't worry, Nod speaks directly to us. We'll tell you what to do.”
There was a younger Humbug named Isa. He didn't believe what the elders said, in fact, he was sure there was more to things than just the shadows on the wall. One day he completely let go of the shadows and the wall altogether, and something happened that he wasn't even sure was possible. No longer bound by the shadows on the wall, he turned around.
Isa saw the most brilliant Light he had ever seen, which isn't saying much as he'd lived in a cave all his life. It hurt his eyes it was so bright. He then realized there was more to existence than he had ever imagined and his Heart filled with joy. The elders were wrong and he had proof. He had to tell the others.
He walked up to another Humbug.
“Let go of the shadows on the wall, and turn around.”
“What did you just say?” said the Humbug.
“Let go of the shadows and turn around!” Isa repeated.
“You don't understand,” said the Humbug, “I've got too much invested in the world. I can't leave it, it's all I've got!”
Isa shook his head and walked away.
He came up to another Humbug.
“Let go of the shadows on the wall, and turn around.”
The Humbug's eyes got very big.
“What are you afraid of?” asked Isa.
“I can't do that! I'll die!” she replied.
“I did it and I'm still here. You're not different than me.” said Isa.
So she turned around, and she too saw the Light.
“We have to tell the other Humbugs!” she cried.
Pretty soon word of Isa got to the elders. He had been talking to people. Most weren't listening, but there were a few troublemakers who were. The elders were the official representatives of Nod, Isa was leading people down the path of evil! Of course, the elders knew they'd just made this up, but they told so many lies they had trouble remembering what was true. They had to stop Isa! So they convinced some of Isa's fellow Humbugs to capture him Isa and bring him to the elders.
It wasn't much trouble, Isa came willingly. They brought him before a trial judged by the elders.
“Why are you telling people these lies?” asked the elders.
“What lies? I simply tell people how to find the truth.” said Isa.
“Blasphemy!” cried the elders, “We tell people the only truth. We speak the word of Nod!”
“Your Nod is a lie” replied Isa calmly.
The elders had had enough. They weren't to be questioned, this was bad PR.
“We've heard enough,” they said, “You've left us with no choice, but to sentence you to death!”
And then Isa turned around, and walked out of the cave.
The Humbugs were in chaos. Nobody was sure what had happened, the cave was all they knew, it's shadows their whole world. People were openly questioning the elders and others had begun briefly turning away from the shadows themselves. The elders weren't sure what to do, so they mostly just hid in the deeper parts of the cave.
Then, a few days later, Isa walked back into the cave.
“Why do you stay within this cave?” Isa asked them, “Look at me, I walked out and I came back. Trust me, you'll be okay. The shadows on the wall are just your illusions, you have nothing to lose.”
The Humbugs were in hysterics, their whole world had just been turned upside down. People weren't even sure what Isa had said. Isa looked around and sighed. To him this was quite simple, to the other Humbugs, it was the end of the world. People were panicking, some were saying Isa had come back from the dead, some were saying he was the messiah, some were saying he was Nod, himself. Others were calling him a demon, a liar, a cheat, a faker. This was enough for Isa, him just being there was causing hysteria. This wasn't helping anybody, he'd already told them what they needed to know, so he turned around and walked back out of the cave.
For days the cave was in chaos. People started organizing together to discuss what Isa had taught. The elders were scared senseless that people would start turning around and seeing the Light for themselves. They had to do something quick or else they'd lose control. So they came up with another plan.
The clever elder, who had originally thought up Nod, came before the people.
“We, the elders, have realized the error of our ways. Isa was sent to us from Nod, he came to show us the way. He came to complete the teachings we gave you, so we've put them together in this book. Remember when Isa said, 'Trust me, you'll be okay'? All you have to do is believe in Isa and you'll be saved. You're guaranteed to go to heaven when you die. Isa has appeared before the elders and accepted our apology. He has agreed to make us his representatives here in the world!”
Most of the Humbugs bought it, they just wanted things to go back to the way they were. Some didn't trust the elders and kept quiet, the lived, some didn't trust the elders and spoke out against them, they disappeared. Before long, things returned to normal. People went back to being mesmerized by the shadows on the wall.
A long time passed and Isa's memory turned to legend. Eventually, people started to understand what Isa had shared and noticed the difference between what Isa had said and what the elders taught. It went mostly unnoticed at first, the shift in consciousness was quite subtle, but eventually it got the elder's attention. People were talking behind their backs, and they knew it, but they couldn't prove who it was. Then writings began spreading that opposed the elders. Then people started organizing into groups and openly speaking out against the elders. The elders passed laws prohibiting people from organizing together, and the groups only grew larger.
The elders organized a party of Humbugs they thought were still loyal to the elders and ordered them to go arrest the dissenters. One of the largest Humbugs in the cave stepped forward and said, “No. These people are our family and friends. We like them more than we like you guys. You elders had better watch your step. You claim you're here for our own good, but you're not fooling people anymore.”
The elders couldn't believe what was happening, so they didn't. They just pretended they were still in control and went about business as usual. They refused to see anything happening outside of their tiny world.
Meanwhile, the opposite was true of the other Humbugs. Their world was expanding far faster than the shadows on the wall could encompass. People began turning around and looking at the Light for themselves. They began seeing the shadows for the illusions that they were. Then people began walking out of the cave altogether. Just a couple at first and then more and more until finally the elders awoke one morning to find they were the only ones in the cave.
The elders looked at each other and one said, “I guess the gig is up, we might as well go join our brothers and sisters.”
And the clever elder cried, “You dare go against the will of Nod?”
“Are you insane? We all know you just made that up.” replied the other elders and they turned around and walked out of the cave.
The clever elder was left alone, watching the shadows slowly drift along the wall. I can't be wrong, he thought, but without anybody else there being right didn't seem so important. He tried to distract himself by watching the shadows, but they didn't seem so important anymore either. They seemed empty and lifeless. Then a thought came that seemed like an old friend, what if there's more to life than the shadows? It brought him a feeling he hadn't felt in a long time, a feeling of true Freedom. His Heart sang, and it felt far more real than the shadows ever did. So he took a deep breath, and turned to face the Light.