The Presocratic thinker Parmenides is portrayed in philosophy and rhetoric as a philosopher of static monism anticipating reason's triumph over myth. Such a portrayal is narrow and ill fits the evidence. Parmenides was associated with a cult of priest-healers (iatromantis) of Apollo who practiced incubation, usually in caves, in order to receive wisdom and truth. Parmenides's famous poem “On Being” (“Peri Phuseōs”) reflects these practices. The poem directly invokes altered states of consciousness, revelations from the gods, and an underworld descent (katabasis). Further, the poem is of strong rhetorical interest because it directly discusses rhetorical themes of persuasion, truth, and knowledge. Additionally, the poem suggests that rationality alone cannot suffice to liberate human beings from worldly illusions; rather, reason must be accompanied by a combination of divine inspiration and mêtis (cunning wisdom).

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