In less than a decade, Peter Kingsley has produced three books, Ancient Philosophy, Mystery, and Magic: Empedocles and Pythagorean Tradition (Oxford, 1995); In The Dark Places of Wisdom (Golden Sufi Center, 1999); and Reality (Golden Sufi Center, 2003). If that weren’t impressive enough, considering the extraordinary research, insight, and raw talent required for such an undertaking, we must also consider this: the author has managed to literally revision how we view and understand the ancient world that has been the basis for our entire Western Civilization. He has thoroughly traced the transmission of a living Pythagorean tradition through Egypt into mystical aspects of Islam, and beyond, bringing this sacred knowledge into present-day reality.
Reality is a summation work incorporating and extending core concepts and research culled from the first two books while also introducing entirely new areas of inquiry and multiple dimensions of original insight.
The author takes as his starting points the fragmented remains of works by Parmenides and Empedocles, 5th century B.C. fathers of philosophy, science, reason and logic, rhetoric, medicine, chemistry, biology, astronomy, cosmology, psychology, religion, and modern education. With passion verging on obsession, Kingsley meticulously explicates, corrects, and debunks prior translations and commentaries stretching back over 2,500 years. As he deconstructs Plato and Aristotle, and unearths Plotinus’ misunderstandings, he also reveals how a master such as Gorgias was able to preserve the tradition by seeming to destroy it. For Dr. Peter Kingsley, who graduated with honors from the University of Lancaster, England, went on to receive the degree of Master of Letters from King’s College Cambridge, and earned a PhD from the University of London, is also a seasoned mystic. Through his open-hearted approach to the source material—the very basis and whole substance of his research—he has learned how to utilize the same seemingly paradoxical mystical methodology as his subjects: something the ancients understood and called metis. These fathers, Parmenides and Empedocles, were not what we seem to think they were, they were healers and sorcerers of a concealed magical tradition who used their metis to trick us into accepting life-sustaining gifts.
Indeed, metis permeates Reality like a strong perfume: an attar, an essence. “The real axis around which Empedocles’ teaching revolves…It’s metis – the single principle running through the universe that we either learn to use or reconcile ourselves to becoming victims of.” (Reality, p 455)
Fixed in reality mixed up so fast with illusion, possessing metis means that we must acquire “razor sharp awareness” in order to act appropriately within the moment, the waqt, the kairos of Gorgias. Metis “…embodies all the qualities of subtlety and cunning and alertness that are essential if we want to avoid being caught in a world of endless deceptions.” (Reality, p 455)
Reality is a journey of re-discovery. It is a “roots” document, an over-long meditation on poems Peter Kingsley’s invisible mentors would have never thought necessary for initiates of a secret Pythagorean tradition in which “…the emphasis was placed less and less on being given teachings and more and more on finding the inner resources to discover your own answers inside yourself.” (In The Dark Places of Wisdom, p 189).
But Peter Kingsley acknowledges his own shortcomings as well as those of his contemporary audience. Until he painstakingly uncovered it, this tradition was lost to most if not all of the people in the world for centuries. It takes every ounce of his unusual gifts and resources as disciplined academic scholar and intuitive mystic endowed with strong metis to unveil the miracle of Parmenides and Empedocles teachings. And that miracle is nothing less than the revelation of the secret knowledge of who we are, what we are doing in this apparent universe, and how it all came into being. As onlookers, if not as initiates, we are enormously indebted to Peter Kingsley for sharing his life’s work. It has been an experiential as well as an intellectual struggle for him, one that has clearly changed him.
The whole of Reality contains the feeling of deep self-discovery. If you approach this book openly and honestly, it will change you as well. Its wisdom will enter you like a zikr, a remembrance of things so familiar it will make you wince with recognition and cry out with longing. It will convince you that you are not who you think you are.
Right in the middle of everything, in the midst of the illusion of time and movement, is where Reality is found. All you’ve ever done all of your life is try to escape it. And this book proves it. You have moved farther and farther away—in your beliefs, your hopes, and especially in your dreams. The illusion is so thick, so pervasive, that it is also the Real, indeed, there is no separation, no illusion, no reality. And yet there it is. And it is you. [via]