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When the Dog Speaks, the Philosopher Listens: A guide to the greatness of Pythagoras and his Curious Age

By Nigel McGilchrist

In this un-stuffy, but beautifully and passionately written, book, one of history’s least understood geniuses is brought to life for us, and takes us by the hand.

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“An uncommonly beautiful and wise illumination of both beauty and wisdom. Few scholars write with the open-heartedness and humanity of Nigel McGilchrist; and few travellers can draw upon his extraordinary range and erudition. This is the rare book that opens up a figure who for most of us is just a name, teaches us volumes about the ancient world and, finally, gives us a sense of how to live, with music, in humility, exalted.” 

Pico Iyer, author of The Art of Stillness (2014); The Man Within My Head (2012); and The Open Road – the Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama (2008). 

“This is the most urgent thing I’ve read in years. I wish I’d been able to read it years ago and several of my own books ago…I’ve never come across a book whose medium and message are so perfectly aligned. It’s a poised book about poise: a harmonious book about harmony: a gently courteous book about gentle courtesy. Enduring, resonant, repercussive.” 

Charles Foster, author of Being a Human (2021); Being a Beast (2016); The Sacred Journey (2010) and The Selfless Gene (2009).

We distinguish easily between random noise and the beauty of harmonic music. 2,500 years ago, one thinker explained very clearly why this was. He had a simple experiment to prove it. He went on to suggest that the same phenomenon lay behind the difference between chaos and the multiform universe we inhabit. He also proposed that this principle should govern the conduct of our lives, our relations with one another, and with the natural world. He suggested that it ordered the movement of the heavenly bodies. For him, it was simply what filled the whole cosmos, rather than the will of capricious, squabbling, deities. In conceiving these things, he opened the gates of philosophy and scientific speculation, and ushered us through. 

He travelled, wrote little or nothing, and thought a lot. He listened carefully to a number of fascinating ideas and observations which intrigued him, and which came out of the East, from Asia. He took them and transformed them in a way that was to change the nature of human consciousness and the thinking of the West for ever. He came from a place that naturally ‘transformed’ everything, because it was the bridge between Asia and Europe – East and West. That place was Greece. His name was Pythagoras. 

In this un-stuffy, but beautifully and passionately written, book, one of history’s least understood geniuses is brought to life for us, and takes us by the hand.

Front cover image

The Dog (Prado Museum, Madrid), oil on plaster by Francisco de Goya, c. 1820, originally painted for the upper-floor room of his house; with overlay of a portrait of a man from Faiyum, Egypt, wax encaustic on wood, now in the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, Stuttgart. 

Design by David Gillingwater.

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