Former nightclub owner Nicholas Kardaras died ten years ago. That’s right. For a few minutes his pulse was flat. Then he “pulled a Lazarus” as he describes it. He was revived and clung to life for a bit with the help of a respirator. When he finally emerged from his coma, he was a changed man.
Plato, Pythagoras, and the other ancient Greeks saved him. That’s what he says in his new book, How Plato and Pythagoras Can Save Your Life. A drug addict living the glamorous life, rubbing elbows with the likes of John F. Kennedy, Jr., Tom Cruise, and Brooke Shields, he decided to turn all of his time and energy toward ancient Greek philosophy?
After my post-coma resurrection, I was desperate to better understand the universe and my purpose within it; I guess that a near-death experience will do that to a person. I would go on to embark on an amazing and transformative journey as I discovered –almost by chance—the way of ancient Greek mystical philosophy, a powerful wisdom tradition that embraced the notion of death as rebirth; in fact, Plato even described philosophy itself as a form of “death before dying.”…
These were very new and shocking ideas for me: that philosophy was originally conceived of as a holistic way of life meant to purify an individual towards transcendence—that, indeed, Greek philosophy embraced a metaphorical death as a rejection of the illusory physical world and movement towards a more profound experience of a deeper level of reality….What Pythagoras and Plato did was give us a road map for that journey of consciousness expansion and personal transformation.
Okay, ex-drug-addict-former-posh-nightclub-owner guy: How, per se, do we accomplish this?
Kardaras devoted his doctoral dissertation to answering that question. He did a study on a bunch of volunteer guinea pigs, where he tested out a Greek-inspired contemplative method that involved a three-pronged technique: weekly philosophical readings, guided, weekly transrational contemplative meditations based on that week’s readings, and forty-minute dialectical discussion groups led by Kardaras as the facilitator.
The results were positive. He writes:
Overall, my research subjects indicated that they experienced a real benefit in immersing themselves in the Greek miracle. They indicated that they had more of a sense of purpose in their lives, felt more connected, experienced an increased sense of concern for others, and felt an increased sense of spirituality, as well as a greater concern with social or planetary values. These effects were measured both qualitatively and quantitatively via standardized assessment tools.
If you’re still confused as to how reading The Odyssey can make you want to recycle your water bottles and pick up your neighbor’s newspaper, he spells it out for dense people like me in his final chapter. Basically it’s this: you are what you read and you are what you think. So if, during the free hours of your day, you are watching SpongeBob (guilty), then your mind will start thinking like a kindergartener who thinks it’s hilarious when he farts. However, if you immerse yourself in sophisticated stuff, where you actually have to use your brain cells, maybe even expand a section, then that will translate into your worldview. You become more compassionate, ethical, appreciative, and, well, more prepared to talk to intellectuals at a cocktail party.
Contemplations on things such as math, music, philosophy, and cosmology have a way of elevating one’s level of consciousness in ways more permanent than any mind-altering substance could ever achieve…. I suggest that the content and focus of our thoughts and intentions does more than impact us; they actually inform us and, thus, actually shape who we are. We are either elevated or debased by our thoughts and endeavors.
And what I’m talking about here is more than just molding our behaviors. We all know that kids who are desensitized to violence are more apt to engage in violence. What I’m talking about is actually affecting us on a cellular, spiritual-DNA level. To use Pythagoras’s Music of Spheres vibrational language, our thinking tunes our frequencies and causes us to resonate in an entirely different way. We, thus, actually vibrate differently. So really we do become what we think. In fact, Pythagoras believed that if you contemplated something like infinity, you would actually become infinite [sorry, I think that’s stretching it a tad]. So what do we become when we contemplate something ugly or debasing?
Certainly in a culture where most people’s thoughts are focused on the empty preoccupations of shopping, or video games, or American Idol, a society where most people tend to be anxious and angry, there may be a need for the voices of the long-dead ancient Greek philosophers to come alive again to help us understand that what we think matters—that ideas and beauty and ethics and philosophy both form and shape us.
Image courtesy of Josh Cheuse.