According to scientists at the University of Waterloo who have propounded what is known as the theory of the holographic universe, we are the prisoners.
We may all be living in a giant cosmic cave created in the very first moments of existence. Before the big bang there existed an additional dimension of space. At present the phenomenal universe, that which we perceive, appears to us to exist in three dimensions of space and one of time. But as the theory goes, the three-dimensions are merely the shadow of a world with four spatial dimensions, our universe coming into being during a stellar implosion of a greater suprauniverse, that created a shell around a black hole, our universe being that shell. The big bang and all that came from it, is a holographic mirage from another dimension. What is a hologram? It is a three-dimensional image with no independent reality. You may remember Coachella in 2012, when the rapper Dr. Dre dreamed of bringing the long-dead star Tupac Shakur back to life, and true to the vision, there the rapper's image appeared performing next to the likes of Snoop Dogg. Was the rapper brought back to life? No. Through holography, involving lasers and lights, only his image was.
This raises what is at first a seemingly unrelated question. Can one be scientific and yet spiritual? It seems that with this holographic theory, the two worlds are closer than ever to reconciling. For millennia the Eastern cosmology has held that the manifest universe is unreal. The analogy is this: imagine you are in a dark room and see a rope on the ground which you mistake for a snake. You are afraid until the light in the room comes on and you take the rope for what it is. The world in which we live is the imagined snake. The real universe is the rope.
Like the lullaby, life is but a dream. Waking reality is only as real as the visions we have while asleep, which is to say unreal.
To unshackle oneself from the cage of the mind, turn the attention inward to the only thing you can vouch for being real. The consciousness that you are. This is in line with the ancient philosophy that we are satchitananda. Existence, consciousness, bliss.
Someday scientist may prove that the four-dimensional posited universe is a holographic image of something else, revealing yet another layer of unreality, adding one more mirage into the mix. Focus on what you know, and that is that you exist. All else follows from there, but don't chase it because it may lead to a black hole.
When Plato's prisoners emerged from the cave into the light of day, the sun's rays burned their eyes. As their sight adjusted, the prisoners were initially only able to make out shadows and reflections. Soon they could see the heavenly body itself. Finally, they correctly concluded that the luminescent orb (the sun) was the author of all that we see, in other words that sight was possible by the sun's light. The light that makes possible the mirage of the manifest universe, according to the mystics, is the divine spark that shines from within. The sun lies within you! It's true, and now science is on your side. Open your mind and see.
This begs the question: Does the sun see its own light, or does it just shine? Can it know night when everywhere it goes day breaks? Instead of open your mind and see, we might rather say open your mind and be.