Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peter Kingsley: A New Age Christian Hiding Under an Ancient Philosopher's Cloak

Peter Kingsley is in most ways fairly typical of the modern wannabe guru type. His "teachings" are nothing more than warmed-over garden-variety late 19th century Christian Esotericism with a little pseudo-Sufism and a dash of Nietzsche thrown in. However, his scholarly pretensions do, somewhat, distinguish Peter Kingsley from the likes of Eckhart Tolle & Co.

But Kingsley himself claims to be first and foremost a "mystic", and a scholar only secondarily. And he makes it clear that he has nothing but contempt for the entirety of the Western tradition of Classical scholarship, which he paranoiacly accuses of a "long tradition of altering the ancient Greek texts themselves to make them say what people have wanted them to say." (See his interviews linked to below.)

In fact, everything that Kingsley has to say is very easily summarized: "true" Western Civilization springs forth fully formed from the minds of Parmenides and Empedocles. But then, no sooner had it started, but just as suddenly Western Civilization was fiendishly betrayed by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other effete, degenerate "rationalists". Fortunately, and at long last, "we" can today reconnect with the long lost "roots" of "our culture" thanks to the miraculous Advent of the mind of Peter Kingsley.

Kingsley's breathtakingly megalomaniacal message is delivered with a straight face, usually seated (he dislikes podiums), and in measured tones by a soft spoken academic who writes books packed with footnotes. It's quite an act. And it has so far been very successful as these things go.

Who are Kingsley's fans and admirers? Let's look at the three interviews with Kingsley that he provides links to at his website. First there is a joint interview by Lorraine Kisly and Christopher Bamford. Kisly's own publications include a guidebook to the Lord's Prayer and at least two books that include the phrase "Christian Teachings" in the title. Christopher Bamford is one of the world's leading "Anthroposophists", an especially loopy and generally reactionary version of Christian Esotericism dating back to the 19th century.

These two good Christians, Kisly and Bamford, grovel before Kingsley, whose writings they praise as "gripping, urgent, unique, pioneering, courageous, original, challenging, learned, and enthralling."

The next, equally fawning, interview is by Jeff Munnis, who early in life felt a calling to the ministry, but opted for a career in Horticulture instead. But then he later relented and "recognized that his interest in the ministry had never really left him." He has since completed a Masters of Divinity is now a candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ.

In the Munnis interview, Kingsley makes the ludicrous claim (repeated in the Lorimer interview below) that nearly all of Greek philsophy after Socrates amounts to a "charade right down to the present day." A charade that only the amazing Peter Kingsley has been able to see through. Ta da!

Finally there is a perfectly awful interview by David Lorimer. Lorimer is probably best known for his book Radical Prince, a 250+ page encomium praising that great modern philosopher, humanitarian, social visionary and spiritual thought-leader, Prince Charles. This book, by the way, is published by SteinerBooks, of which Christopher Bamford is Editor In Chief. It really is a small world, after all.

Lorimer begins his interview by breathlessly asking Kingsley "what first guided" him to "the fact that Plato had distorted ... the essence of Parmenides' teaching?" To which Kingsley answers: "Intuition."


But wait, there's more. If one goes to the "testimonials" for Kingsley's most recent book, Reality, the first of these is by none other than Eckhart Tolle himself, while the second is by the Grand Old Man of soft-core, sanitized, Christianized Perennialism, Huston Smith. The first "testimonial" for Kingsley's 1999 book, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, is by Margaret Starbird, author of The Feminine Face of Christianity, while the very next "testimonial" comes from Jacob Needleman, author of Lost Christianity.

But doesn't the above mostly amount to an argument based on "guilt by association"? That may be. But for Pagans who are interested in genuinely reconnecting with the spiritual traditions that Christianity has spent the last 17 centuries trying to extirpate, including the spiritual tradition of Philosophy, it is important to know just who and what Peter Kingsley really is.

Nina Paley's "All Creative Work Is Derivative"

OK -- this is pretty cool to watch:

Taken rom Nina's website here.