Interfaith Now
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Interfaith Now

It’s Time to Understand our Origins

Photo by Ahmed Almakhzanji on Unsplash

Why the work of Peter Kingsley is so important

Everything is hidden behind appearances, nothing too.

Parmenides, often billed as the father of logic, the grandfather of Western philosophy, was also a priest who taught precise meditation techniques to steer initiates, or kouros,through an underworld journey.

In fact, he founded a sect of priests of Apollo from Greeks who had fled their homeland, a town called Phocaea, landing in southern Italy at Velia and forming what is known as Magna Graecia.

(If you want a fascinating holiday, I would recommend a visit, one of the highlights of my life.)

His family had been forced out of town by Persians in around 540 BC and had run up and down the Mediterranean looking for a home, bringing their customs and practices with them.

Back then, a prophet was not a fortune teller, but a messenger who delivered precise instructions from the underworld, from gods and goddesses, perhaps even from the dead.

Parmenides, along with Hercules and Odysseus, was one of the few to make the underworld journey, guided in a chariot by the Daughters of the Sun, and returning with profound and precise information for the human world, later utterly misunderstood.

(You will, of course, have been warned about Greeks bearing gifts; gifts that can surely turn your thinking on its head.)

There, he is said to have communed with Persephone, who gave him messages our logical minds can barely comprehend, written into the remnants of an epic poem.

These messages state, like many other traditions, that our world is illusory, we ourselves both trapped and blind — but there is a way out using the very senses we are often told to ignore.

Many of the laws on which our civilization is founded were products of this shamanic journey between the visible world and the greater life existing behind appearances.

The technique of travel, known as Incubation, came after careful selection and nurturing by the Iatromantis (healer-prophet), initiates lying down in the dark, often in caves, for hours or days on end in complete stillness.

On the island of Crete, which had close links with the Kouros tradition, another healer and prophet, Epimenides, helped create laws relayed through prophecy after sleeping years in a cave and being carried, while motionless, ‘into the strange world of Justice and Truth’.

The purpose of the laws he brought back was to heal not just people, but entire cities. We could do with him now.

In September, 1962, the month I was born, a fragment of Parmenides’ epic poem On Nature was finally discovered and excavated; only 160 of some 3,000 lines remained, words puzzled over by scholars ever since.

Originally, it was thought to be a rotten poem, too repetitive and confusing, entirely antithetical to how we think today.

We were, in short, looking at it through the wrong lens, unable to accommodate the confusing and seemingly vague expression of an immortal being.

Plato, who lauded Parmenides, would take his predecessor’s work, stripping it of its necessary underworld descent, instead focusing more on its beauty and light. Academics, often with good intention, rewrote the message until it was unrecognizable.

Without any living mystical experience themselves, it is perhaps no surprise, the essence of the message was deleted and ignored. The same mechanism is in full flight today, the modern world run by exactly the same sort of people as those who butchered reality thousands of years ago.

In the end, Plato’s stock rose, while poor old Parmenides, in worldly terms no-one special, sank into obscurity, apart from in the rarefied confines of dry academia.

‘…from what they tell us, he was not much, either: poor, obscure, without any apparent influence. But the greatest of people are often like that,’ writes Peter Kingsley in Reality, a book that will change your world view — if you dare pick it up.

I touched upon Kingsley in my last essay, but his research and his message are so important now, they merit further inquiry.

Why so important? Because as he said in one interview, there is no future for Western civilization if we don’t remember our origins, returning there with haste.

Sometimes, you have to go backwards before you can move forward. The Iatromantis would have told you that if you stepped up looking for an underworld experience: you have to be ready for initiation.

Instead of listening, humbly and patiently, taking time to remember the essential and long forgotten, we have grown top-heavy, soulless, and bent on self-destruction, often unwittingly and in the name of progress.

We have overlooked what the father of logic taught us — that logic itself can be used to prove oneness, the truth that we are not separate.

I could not honestly name a single world — or even local — leader who has any awareness of our real origins and why they are essential for our survival.

We lead from the head at our peril; and even if some of our leaders are ethical and genuinely concerned, they are blind to reality, rejecting the need for descent and the importance of initiation, ploughing on regardless.

The mind can be a wonderful thing, of course; it helps us navigate our world, but it also divides, sub-divides, confuses and deceives. In the wrong hands, it is disastrous.

Worst of all, it has little use for what lies beyond its reach, that which it simply cannot comprehend.

More tragically, it cannot see itself; that takes the sort of awareness Parmenides and his followers understood and that has now entirely disappeared.

If it wasn’t for Mr Kingsley, we likely would not know about it at all.

Parmenides and other philosophers like Empedocles and later Zeno, a student of Parmenides, were healers and mystics whose job, critically, was ‘to give voice to that which has no voice’.

After all, both the divine — gods themselves — as well as the dead, tend to be disembodied and when they have something important to impart to the living, need translators faithful to the small print.

It is time to remember, as the Native Americans have always known, we are not separate from the Earth, our ancestors, or powerful heavenly forces that can help us.

The practise of stillness or heyschia can take us beyond the world of the senses and the five elements, which make up the food body, into our real home.

It is no surprise the man billed as India’s greatest sage, Ramana Maharshi, transmitted his message almost entirely in silence.

But in the clatter and noise of personality, our blind rush forward, our exalting of the finite, we forget we are creatures of infinity.

To make friends with the present, we must go back to the past; we must remember what we were born to be, and what we truly are.

I would encourage anybody to get to know the work of Mr Kingsley, not least In the Dark Places of Wisdom and, Reality.

As he says, we in the west have our own tradition. Perhaps if we really understood that, we could find both our roots and our way home, averting the blinding catastrophe now in full swing.

Copyright Simon Heathcote

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Simon Heathcote

Simon Heathcote

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor.