From the Republic V, “He then who accounts some things beautiful, but neither knows beauty itself, nor is able to follow, if one were to lead him to the knowledge of it, does he seem to you to live in a dream, or to be awake? Consider now, what is it to dream. Is it not this, when one, whether asleep or awake, imagines the similitude (the image) of a thing is not the similitude, but really the thing itself which it resembleth?
I for my part would aver, reply'd he, that such a person is really in a dream.
But what now as to him who judgeth opposite to this, who understandeth both beauty itself, and is able to discern both it and such things as participate of it, and neither deemeth the participants (the images) to be beauty, nor beauty to be the participants (the images)? Whether doth such a one seem to you to be awake, or in a dream?
Perfectly awake, said he.
May we not then properly call this man's perception, as he really knows, knowledge, but that of the other, opinion (belief), as he only imagines?
By all means.”
George, I mention the dream because Plato has shown us that the world of images is the world of dreams; and that only if one looks closely at their own dreaming experiences can one by direct personal experience come to perceive the power that is in the image and thereby its danger to us, particularly when we are supposedly awake. To understand the nature of the dream is essential if one wishes to understand what is going on in us, how the mind works when it is occupied with images. What is it to dream, Socrates asks? It is an unending string of ingenerated images, images internally fabricated by the mind itself within itself. But, so what, you say? Well, to understand this, we must ask, what is its power? What is it that makes it appear real when one is in it, when all it is is a world of images that disappears when one awakens? Why, depending on the images, can one be so afraid when one is in it? Why, depending on the images, can one be so happy when one is in it? It is because when one is dreaming one believes the images to be real, one believes the images to be the actual things themselves. In other words, when one is dreaming, one no longer knows that the images are images, one can no longer tell that what is imagined from that what is real; and, hence, one has lost their bearing, one has lost their being! When one believes the images to be real, when one forgets the images to be images, and thus all that is real is gone. One’s own being, one’s own soul is forgotten. Is that not frightening that by forgetting one becomes but a ghost of themselves? And though the image well may have some resemblance of truth, it is of no value, it is of no help, for the dreamer has replaced whatever reality of the thing there was with an image, with an imitation, and once the imitation is in place it thus has no further need of that what is real, for the dreamer believes the image to be real. And the worst part, George, the most frightening part, is that one falls asleep unknowingly, that one knows not that they are asleep until one awakens.
And so, George, where you say, "Even in Plato a doxa or a mimesis are not completely isolated from truth, and they are dangerous precisely because their resemblance tends to fix in the minds of those having that belief/image the conviction that they see the complete truth," you definitely sense the danger, but maybe not grasp its extent, for it goes far beyond a conviction that "they see the complete truth"; for in the dream it is all real to the dreamer until he awakens. When you are using images—thoughts, words, pictures—and you are not aware that you are using them, then you are in a dream and have lost all touch with that what is real.
Now though, in the Republic, the third part of Plato's line still uses images, it is beyond the first two sections for the specific reason that here one is aware that they are using images; in other words, the images are held within the arms of awareness, as Apollo cradles in his arms the lyre of Hermes. The first two sections of the line are those also of using images, but here they are being used in a manner unaware that one is using them, thus believing them to be real. In other words, being in the dream dreaming. And so one can see why St. Macarius said what he did, and how beautiful it is what he said that you quoted, for faith in words is faith in images, faith in the dream, faith in that what is not real, faith in that what is not the thing itself. For though forever a finger points at the sun, it will never be the sun; and, as long as one keeps looking at the finger, even if the finger is pointing in the right direction, one will never see the sun. To see the sun, one must let go of the finger; for the image always misses the mark, for the image is but an image and never the thing itself.
George, you say, " Belief is not a satisfactory condition by itself. The aim is not to believe in God (even in the sense of trusting Him, not just believing that He exists); the aim is to know Him." So, I say, how do you know Him? Can you know Him with an image or through an image? Never! In fact as long as you hold an image of Him it will always be in the way, for you will always be perceiving the image, always be trying to know the image, which can never be known for it is not real. Now, too, when one holds an image in their mind, the mind is no longer whole; it has become split; it is partaking of duality and become multiple, and hence removed itself from that what is whole and holy. And how can that what is split know that what is whole? And how can that what is multiple partake of that what is one? It can’t. When one is in the presence of God, all there is is but God.
As to what I was shocked about, George, it was not that “there are elements in Plato that go beyond examination,” for that would only be natural, but rather your statement, "...in the case of Plato, although statements are examined with the help of reason...." Now though this is no doubt true, the manner in which you used it in the context of our discussion minimized, through under evaluation, reason in the works of Plato. From the Crito, "For I not now only, but always, am a person who will obey nothing within me but reason, according as it appears to me on mature deliberation to be best." Reason was not just something that Plato used to help him examine statements, but rather reason, as opposed to belief, was the very foundation by which he lived his life. And, further, it would appear that to a large extent his writings are an attempt to help the reader to achieve this level of functioning and so to escape from an irrational life dominated by belief and imagination. This is why I said you not only trivialized Plato but also minimized reason to the level of belief, or even less.
In conclusion, it is interesting that for an example you mention the image of a painted bed opposed to a real one, for the bed is where we sleep, where we dream night’s dream. Now, though the image may resemble a real bed to a greater or lesser degree, no matter what degree of resemblance there is, though the imagination may crawl into the image of the bed and have a long sleep, the body can not. So, for the imagination, an image will do; and, for the body, a physical object is needed; but, for the soul to know God, neither an image nor a physical object will do. In fact, if the soul is occupied with either an image of its own ingeneration or an image generated by the senses from the physical world, they will bar the soul from her rightful apprehension of that what is real.