Most philosophers know that our discipline was originally the Love of Wisdom (Sophia). Peter Kingsley takes us back to the shamanic roots of our lineage in his book (1999) In the Dark Places of Wisdom. This amazingly scholarly approach rejects the use of footnotes and invites unpacking run-on lists of References. Each chapter has its paragraph of References, indicating to any scholar that Kingsley has done the research, but refuses to play the scholar’s game according to the established rules. This is another way of introducing us to his subject matter.
We all know about the Light side of Apollo. That is what Plato was proclaiming, the new way of reasoning and dialogue is the path to finding the truth, Apollo’s approach. But Kingsley wants us to consider the Dark side of the god and take a look at the pre-Socratic tradition in the light of archaeological discoveries in the late 20th century. Those early “wise ones” were sons of Apollo Oulios (Apollo, who heals, who makes whole). Their method was that of meditation, breath control, chanting, dreaming, entering the realm of the gods through an incubation of sorts. This is the method used by Asklepios, son of Apollo (1959, Kerenyi, Asklepios: Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence). The cave and the snake(s) are central to this healing modality. The ancient wisdom is accessed by the patient and/or the priest/therapist through dreaming. The diagnosis and the treatment are interpreted by the Wise Ones, “Ouliades”, sons of Apollo Oulios. If the patient followed through, and most were desperate enough to do so, the result was a miraculous cure. The Temple at Cos has many such testimonials. Kingsley adds more terms such as “Iatromantis” the Healer through prophecy, “giving a voice to what doesn’t have a voice” (p.108) and “Pholarchos”, the Lord of the Lair (of incubation). Dreams are the main vehicle of this lineage.
Kingsley tells us that “ancient Greek accounts of incubation repeatedly mention certain signs that mark the point of entry into another world: into another state of awareness that’s neither waking nor sleep. One of the signs is that you become aware of a rapid spinning movement. Another is that you hear the powerful vibration produced by a piping, whistling, hissing sound (p. 128).” These signs, in India, are signs of entering samadhi, awakening of Kundalini, the serpent power. The instrument used in ancient Greece for this purpose was the “syrinx” pipe. The sound made by the pipe is a hissing, called “syrigmos” and was used by Asklepios. Kingsley connects this with the sun and its pipe or tube.
Those familiar with Carl Jung’s famous Mithraic text discovery, after a psychotic patient described the “sun tube” in perfect detail, will understand why Jung coined the term “collective unconscious”. This is an ancient wisdom, a collective aspect of the human psyche, which is not available to the waking awareness of ordinary conscious people, which Jung calls the ego. The ego is conscious, a small island in a vast ocean of divine presence, of which the ego is not aware, hence it is called Unconscious and Collective. We don’t know it. We are floating in it and can become aware of certain aspects of it, through dreams and mystic visions, synchronicities, all symbolic in nature, the language of the gods.
This brings us to the central focus of Kingsley’s book, the poem of Parmenides (pp. 53 & 54). Seen as an account of the journey of the soul into the Underworld, where the Poet is greeted by Persephone, escorted by “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.” The vehicle and the “gates of the pathways of Night and Day” make the sound of pipes, the hissing sound of the syrinx. The Poet is informed by the goddess that “Rightness and Justice” opened this path for him, and his job is to discern the Truth and distinguish it from “the opinions of mortals, in which there’s nothing that can truthfully be trusted at all.”
Those of us who have traveled the path of incubation, of dreaming and mystic visionary experience will immediately know we have arrived at our ancient home in the Dark Place of Wisdom. Whatever paths and medicines we might have used in this incarnation, we recognize the ancient wisdom of Sophia and must thank Kingsley for reconnecting us with our roots.