What would it be like to be fully, continually aware of all of our senses – and what’s more, to be aware of that very awareness? What might that full sensory awakening have to do with the irreversible realisation of Reality? Drawing from his personal experiences with Parmenides and Empedocles – foundational figures of Western civilization whose mystical dimensions have been forgotten or ignored – pre-Socratic philosopher Peter Kingsley maintains that to approach the changeless authentically, Western civilization must rediscover its own sacred origins and purpose. He asks, how can Western culture participate in the harmony of oneness if it has forgotten its own note?
In this post, which is a transcript of part of an interview made in connection with the Global Oneness Project, Kingsley outlines the sensory awakening at the root of Empedocles’ writings.
You have to find reality, ultimate reality, here, where you are, in this apparent body, surrounded by these apparent colors and movements, and shapes and forms and sounds and noises. And they (the ancient Greek mystics) gave the techniques. They gave the methods for using our senses to find oneness all around us.
Empedocles and Parmenides were very, very up front, as most great mystics are, and at the beginning of their teachings they say, “Everybody is living a totally wasted life.” Everybody’s life is a sham, everybody is living in a dream. We can think we are driving down the road, we can think we’re shopping, we can think we’re in a business meeting. We are asleep. We are never actually using our senses.
Sometimes there can be the brief moment when we look out at a tree, or we’re driving down the road, and just for a brief moment we can say, “Good Lord, I’m holding a steering wheel. I have my foot on the gas pedal!” Or, “Good Lord, I’m looking at a tree!”
Usually we’re just looking at a tree and thinking about something else. Or we’re driving down the road and thinking about the argument we just had with our partner. It’s very, very rare that we simply look and are aware that we are looking.
And that involves being aware of what we’re looking at, and being aware of ourselves looking at the same time. So right now, I can be aware that I’m moving my hand, and that I’m talking, and that you there are in front of me. But it’s actually not a very, very common state at all, to be aware like that.
Empedocles gave very, very specific directions for how to start to become conscious through your senses. How to look and be aware that you’re looking. How to feel your tongue inside your mouth, and be aware of it. Not just rub your tongue on the top of your mouth, but actually be aware that it’s happening. And how to do this with all of the senses at the same time.
And this last stage, about how to do it with all the senses at the same time, this is very, very powerful, it’s very, very esoteric, it is an extraordinarily elegant way of realizing God.
Not by leaving the senses behind, but by consciously using all of your senses at the same time. If you do that, if you actually do that, you start to become aware… there is your sense of sight, there is your sense of hearing, there is the sense of feeling what you feel, your backside on the chair, or you feel your shoes on the floor. The hearing, the seeing, the feeling, the tasting, the touching. And it’s difficult enough even to do one of those consciously, but if you do them all consciously, you become aware of this infinite blackness between them.
There is a void that connects the seeing to the hearing, to the tasting, to the touching.
And that’s ETERNITY.
And that eternity is totally unchanging, but that eternity is also what gives rise to the physical world. And it’s out of that experience of eternity that people like Empedocles or Parmenides, these ancient Greeks, were actually able to bring the germs of a new civilization.
Because that eternity – it never changes, but it contains the seeds of all change.
The complete interview – 19:02
A prominent mystic of our time and student of sufi path, Peter Kingsley’s groundbreaking work on the origin of Western spirituality, philosophy, and culture is recognized throughout the world. Through his writings as well as lectures he speaks straight to the heart, and has helped to transform many people’s understanding not only of the past but of who they are. The author of three books, including Reality and In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and recipient of numerous academic awards, he holds honorary positions at universities in England, Canada, the United States.
Peter Kingsley on Wikipedia
About the image:
Persephone, Greek Goddess of the Underworld; Museum of Ancient Sculpture, Cyrene, Libya.
In Greek mythology, Persephone, daughter of the fertility goddess Demeter, was abducted to the underworld by Hades but was allowed to return for part of the year, when the earth became fruitful. She is often depicted, as here, drawing a veil across her face, indicating her time on earth is ending and she is returning to the underworld, when the earth once again becomes barren.
If, however, you read Peter Kingsley’s Reality, you will learn the true role Persephone played in guiding those who journeyed to the underworld – her domain – towards true reality.
And you’ll learn the real significance of the veil…
“… two and a half thousand years ago we were given a gift
– and in our childishness we threw away the instructions for how to use it.
We felt we knew what we were playing with.
And, as a result, western civilisation may soon be nothing but
an experiment that failed.”
– Peter Kingsley
Eckhart Tolle says, “This book is a journey back to the source
– not only of western civilisation but, more importantly, to the source within you.
Read it! To understand it is to be transformed.”
I couldn’t agree more.