Last week, while re-working an article I wrote 18 years ago on the symbolism of two West European Nations, namely Germany and England (having lived equal decades in each), I lost myself in the history of these nations, back to the Roman Empire and its fall. Something was missing. Reeling back another thousand years, to my beloved philosophers, I found IT.
I was reminded of the only ever poetry course I attended, where a tutor told me ‘You have to decide whether you want to be a philosopher or a poet.’ Over the years I’ve come to realise that some good people, in order to be respected, have sadly allowed their inner voice to be silenced by the academic system. * * * Here an excerpt of Parmenides’s poem as it appears in Kingsley’s ‘In the Dark Places of Wisdom’. The text is subtle, humorous, with repetitions that are no accident. The poem induces a journey that appears in many traditions throughout the world under many names.
The mares that carry me as far as longing can reach
rode on, once they had come and fetched me onto the legendary
road of divinity that carries the man who knows
through the vast and dark unknown. And on I was carried
as the mares, aware just where to go, kept carrying me
straining the chariot; and young women led the way.
And the axle in the hubs let out the sound of a pipe
blazing from the pressure of the two well-rounded wheels
at either side, as they rapidly led on: young women, girls,
daughters of the Sun who had left the mansions of Night
for the light and pushed back the veils from their faces with their hands.
There are the gates of the pathways of Night and Day,
held fast in place between the lintel above and a threshold of stone;
and they reach up into the heavens, filled with gigantic doors.
And the keys – that now open, now lock – are held fast by
Justice: she who always demands exact returns. And with
soft seductive words the girls cunningly persuade her to
push back immediately, just for them, the bar that bolts
the gates. And as the doors flew open, making the bronze
axles with their pegs and nails spin – now one, now the other –
in their pipes, they created a gaping chasm. Straight through and
on the girls held fast their course for the chariot and horses;
straight down the road.
And the goddess welcomed me kindly, and took
my right hand in hers and spoke these words as she addressed me:
‘Welcome young man, partnered by immortal charioteers,
reaching our home with the mares that carry you. For it was
no hard fate that sent you travelling this road – so far away
from the beaten track of humans – but Rightness, and Justice.
And what’s needed is for you to learn all things: both the unshaken
heart of persuasive Truth and the opinions of mortals,
in which there is nothing that can truthfully be trusted at all.
But even so, this too you will learn – how beliefs based on
appearances ought to be believable as they travel all through
all there is.
* * *
The hero travels the road of death while still alive, making the connection between this world and the other. He goes to the depth of ignorance – the ignored – to unknowing – in search for wisdom instead of straight to the light
Kingsley says when Plato and his followers took over these ideas from the Pythagoreans they cleverly amputated the ambiguities: focussed only on the true and the good and the beautiful, and cut out the need for the descent. He makes a link to inscriptions discovered during the 60s in Velia, Italy. Three words puzzled … Ouliades – Iatromantis –Apollo … The healer who can access special states of awareness, look beyond appearances, give voice to what has no voice. In Sept 1962, at the same place, Mario Napoli found a small block of marble with another inscription: Parmeneides son of Pyres Ouliades Physicos
These findings must present a challenge to historians. Obviously they stayed clear of the mystic drone carrying the song of Parmenides and the Pythagorean’s. The incubatory practice and its profound wisdom were rationalised out of western history. Kingsley writes:
Between them, Parmenides and Empedocles laid the most basic foundations for the world and culture we now live in. But with the passing of time we have forgotten who they were. The truth about the real nature of their work has been neglected, distorted, ignored—transformed into just another of those empty illusions that they themselves tried to set us free from. There is nothing accidental about the fact that we in the West are starved for some real sense of meaning and crying out for something that, in spite of all our apparent sophistication and material success, we are no longer even able to name. This western civilization of ours was created for a purpose. Until we start to discover that purpose again, our lives will be meaningless. Unless we touch our roots and make contact again with the essence of our past, we can have no future.
One of the many resources Peter Kingsley used: