Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Journey into Darkness

Peter Kingsley’s In the Dark Places of Wisdom attempts to follow Parmenides (a teacher of Zeno and Socrates) down his deep dark path in hopes of discovering some sort of light. Just as the man wanders out of Plato’s cave, Parmenides starts a journey down a path of his own. Kingsley’s book is key for a better understanding of the cultural and historical influence on Parmenides’ thought. Many aspects of which, Kingsley interprets from Parmenides’ journey (p.53-54):

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 the 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 at the chariot; and young women led the way... 

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 reached 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 persuaded 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’s nothing that can truthfully be trusted at all. 

But even so, this too you will learn—how beliefs based on 

appearance ought to be believable as they travel all through 

all there is.’ 

Parmenides follows his guides to the plains of another world, a darker world, the world between worlds.

While Kingsley himself may be stuck, blindly following Parmenides in the realm of mysticism, we may know that even in this darkness, there has shown a light. It was nothing that we could have ever found on our own, a light is something that always first reveals itself, but He has come so that we may bask in His glory.

One of Diogenes’ stories is a little closer to our own. This philosophic role model of Alexander the Great is known to have carried a lamp into a city during the day in hopes of finding an honest man. I'll try to post it pretty soon.

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