Book Review

A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World by Peter Kingsley, The Golden Sufi Center, Point Reyes, CA, 2010; 174 pages, ISBN 978-189035021-5, paperback, $14.95.

This slim volume argues for a central Asian/Mongolian shamanistic connection at the root of classical Greek culture, particularly with Pythagoras and with the origin of the god Apollo. Kingsley holds that the present view of Apollo as the god of reason and light is a selective reimagining:

The fact far too few people are yet willing to face is that, above all,  he was a god of ecstasy: of the unearthly stillness found in another state of consciousness, in the ground of prophecy where every part of life is known as one.
To be sure, he was a god of light.  But that light of his is a brightness we have no experience of any more.
In reality he was a god of plague and purification; of healing and utter destruction, so terrifyingly ruthless he could scare the living daylights out of every Greek divinity he went near; of people speaking the strangest of languages; of bows sending arrows that come when least expected, always arriving from far away.  And far from loving some easy clarity he was a god of impossible enigmas, buried like brilliant sparks in an unbearable darkness where normally no one would dare to look; of songs and poems bound up as magic incantations; of riddles wrapped inside a mystery that, understood, will tear you apart. p. 43

The Hyperborean origin of Apollo, which Kingsley indentifies not with northern Europe or the north polar regions but with Central Asia and Siberia, particularly Mongolia, is entangled with Abaris Skywalker, a foreigner who arrived in Greece carrying a golden arrow which after many wanderings he gave to Pythagoras.  The author uses the small number of sources about Abaris that remain in Greek literature to argue for his Mongolian and shamanistic origins and thus to show that this heritage lies at the roots of Western civilization.  The book has extensive footnotes to classical and modern academic sources, many dealing with Mongolian history and customs and Central Asian shamanism. Toward the end of the book he ties this same Central Asian shamanism to Native American traditions. 

The most eye opening aspect of his account for me, however, concerns Tibetan Buddhism's sometimes brutal dealings with the indigenous Tibetan/Mongolian shamanistic religionists. Information about Buddhism in Tibet comes to the West almost exclusively from Tibetan Buddhists themselves. This is  like getting all one's information on Native Americans from the conquering Europeans, or all one's information on the Gnostics from the orthodox Church Fathers. For this alone, the book is worth reading. Sally Dougherty

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