Interviewsand Articles


Finding What is Real: Conversation on Philosophy, with Peter Kingsley

by Michael Lerner, Sep 9, 2008



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 Peter Kingsley is internationally recognized for his groundbreaking work on the origins of western spirituality, philosophy and culture. He is the author of the books Ancient Philosophy, Mystery and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and Reality.

Peter emigrated with his wife to the United States in 2002, and teaches and writes in North Georgia. He is currently a Research Associate at Emory University in Atlanta as well as an honorary Professor both at the University of New Mexico and at Simon Fraser University in Canada. Peter Kingsley's website>>

Click here for a selection of articles by Peter Kingsley

Some highlights from this talk:

"Nobody denies that Parmenides is the father of Western logic. So he is presenting the rules of logic; or rather he is presenting through his own mouth the rules of logic that have been given to him by the goddess, by the Queen of the Dead. And of course you can go two ways with this, which is something I find so fascinating. You can either go the way of analyzing the laws of logic, the principles, which is what many people tend to do. Or else you can ask what does this logic, that Parmenides presents, point to? And this is something so mysterious for me because scholars who spend their whole lifetimes analyzing and writing about and discussing and teaching Parmenides' poem: they not only ignore the poetic context and the poetic form he used. They also ignore what the logic is pointing to. And everything that Parmenides is proving has to do with oneness. It's all pointing to the truth that everything is one, everything is completely one. That is the soul that comes through logic. That's what logic originally came into existence in the West for: to prove the oneness of all existence and all beings."

"When one touches the wisdom and the beauty of these ancient traditions of healing or of wisdom, they enter your bloodstream. They become a part of you. And I'm very, very aware that this essence of ancient Western civilization has to, is actually asking, is begging now, to be brought into consciousness and applied in the modern world."

"Empedocles is such a mystery. He is such a trickster. He has such an extraordinary sense of humor. It's very, very hard for me to speak objectively about him. But just to try: As Parmenides is the founder of logic, Empedocles is indisputably an essential figure in Western culture and science and philosophy because he introduced the theory of the four elements which was to be so fundamental for many, many hundreds of years in chemistry and other sciences; and because he laid the groundwork for physics, cosmology, and many, many other disciplines. And yet all of this, all of these wonderful disciplines that he actually introduced to the Western world, he introduced, just like Parmenides, from a divine world that we no longer understand. And so it's like we take the gift but we forget where the gift came from. And one of the points that I like to make, because I find it personally so revelatory, is that Empedocles distinctly states at the beginning of his cosmological poem—his teaching about physics and the world and everything—that you're not going to be able to understand anything of what he says unless you take his words in in a certain way, unless you tend them in a certain way, unless you breathe in a certain way. In other words, unless you have a certain meditation practice right at the beginning; and especially unless you treat his words with respect, even with devotion. Of course that's something that in this modern world, where everything is so much up for grabs, it's very easy for us to forget. There is this very, very simple quality of devotion right at the basis of Western science, Western physics, Western cosmology. It was based on an attitude of needing to have the right attitude, otherwise not only will reality elude us but reality will actually fly away from us. It will avoid us. And Empedocles talks about this in very, very beautiful terms. The truth will only go where it is welcome. Otherwise it will just fly away, go back to where it comes from. It has to be welcomed with the appropriate attitude."


About the Author

Commonweal is a health and environmental research institute where for three decades we have worked at the interface of personal and planetary healing through focused initiatives in the environment, education, and health. The New School seeks to bring together old and new friends and colleagues from all these areas to explore shared interests in life-long learning and service to life.


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