Caves are underground cavities with a certain width and height, with entrances opening to the surface, where at least one person can enter. We are all kind of cave people, as they provided shelter and security for people at some point in history. Caves are not only the cavities opened in the belly of the world, but also the doors opening to other Universes symbolically. Caves, where rebirth takes place like the mother’s womb in the eternal journey of the human soul, where people take shelter and incubate in order to renew, transform and return again by connecting with other realms, also play a great role in the lives of important characters that shape history. Prophets, saints (evliya) and mystical figures in many cultures somehow experience transformation processes in the cave story. The cave can sometimes be a place to incubate for rebirth and renewal, sometimes a communication terminal from which information from other Universes is received, and sometimes a means of creating a new world by escaping from the world. Caves are also frequently mentioned in folk tales. Cave elves, strange creatures in the mysterious darkness of the cave, cave dragons, treasures, witches, lovers’ hiding places… Just like every cave has a story or stories, most of the heroes’ paths pass through caves.
Mircea Eliade writes: “The cave represents both the other world and the entire universe. Rather than the first and natural value attributed to the cave as a dark place, which enables us to grasp the symbolism and religious function of the cave, it is sacred and ultimately holistic; that is, it is an experience of entering a sacred space that creates a world in itself. The ritual cave is sometimes an imitation of the night sky. In other words, it is a miniature of the universe. Living in a cave doesn’t necessarily mean descending into the shadows; what is meant is that he lives in another world, which is larger and more complex because it encompasses many states of existence (gods, demons, demons, spirits of the dead, etc.) and is also filled with wealth and innumerable potential presences (treasure cave myths stripped of their sacredness, etc.). It was only after the naturalistic interpretation of 19th century scholars who reduced religious symbolism to concrete, physical expressions that the cosmic meaning of caves and underground places of worship was restricted to a single value, namely, the abode of the dead and the source of the fertility of the land.
Surah Kahf in the Qur’an, which means cave in Arabic, describes one of the most important figures in Islamic mysticism, Hızır and the mythology of the Seven Sleepers. The Seven Sleepers, also called Ashab-i Kehf, take place in different cultures of the world with different names and formats. In the Indian epic Mahabharata, it is told that seven people, accompanied by a dog, entered a cave, turning away from their people and the world. There are similar stories in Judaism and Christianity. Religions accept these mythologies as symbols of resurrection after death.
It is accepted as one of the most important miracles in Islamic mythology that the enemies, who came to a cave where the Prophet Muhammad took shelter during his migration from Mecca to Medina, stopped looking for it after seeing the spider spinning its web at the entrance of the cave and the dove hatching on its eggs.
Plato was the first to initiate the most important cave debate in human history. We are all beings, in a way, out of Plato’s cave. Because Plato’s allegory of the cave offers a philosophical perspective on all human existence. The story of the cave, told from the mouth of Socrates in the seventh book of his work, The Republic, leads people to questioning the basic concepts such as reality, knowledge and existence. In fact, the very popular movie The Matrix was shaped around this story. This story tells of people who have been chained and imprisoned in a cave from the moment they were born, with their backs turned. These people, whose backs are turned to the world, have no knowledge of the outside world. Behind them, a fire burns, and the shadows and echoes of the voices of the people passing by cast on the wall, so the captive people mistake these shadows for reality. However, one of the prisoners in this cave one day manages to escape by untying his chain and comes out of the cave. He encounters the sun for the first time and is dazzled, unable to see anything for a short time. Gradually, his eyes improve and he begins to see the world around him and the beings of the world as they are. He realizes that the shadows he has seen so far are the reflections of people passing behind the fire. Thereupon, he returns to the cave and attempts to explain what happened to the prisoners there. Now that he sees the outside once, the shadows and reflections in the cave appear to him indistinctly. However, no matter how hard he tries to explain the world he sees outside, no one wants to understand it. They even accuse him of being stupid and blind, saying that the real reality is shadows and reflections on the wall. Therefore, they also refuse to leave the cave.
This story keeps on the agenda a topic that has been debated for thousands of years in order to understand the transitions between different Universes and the “reality” of each Universes. The shadows in the caves represent the “realm of deceptive appearances”. While the ever-changing shadows and echoes express the imperfect and dim “reality” of the world, the shackled slaves refer to the ordinary person who does not question, does not research, accepts what is presented to him without effort to understand. These are people who are condemned to their assumptions and illusions, assuming the transience of the physical and material world as absolute reality. However, the world outside the shadows is the world of “Ideas”, that is, the “Universe of Being”, and there are forms, archetypes, and the collective unconscious in the middle. Man is a being suspended between these two realms, and his task is to discover the “Universe of Being”.
The mysterious allure of the caves also causes people in various regions to reflect their fears and fantasies about them. It is interesting that treasure hunters believe that many caves hide treasures and that they prepare maps together with magicians. The fact that many caves in the Mediterranean and Antalya are named Cleopatra or Zeki Müren Cave indicates the erotic protections of people. The most famous of the caves that had shelter, nutrition and protection functions in the early periods of humanity is the Karain Cave in Antalya. It is known that people used it as a settlement for 500 thousand years without interruption, and humanity has witnessed this evolution process.