Ptolemy Tompkins

Ptolemy Tompkins has been an editor at Guideposts and Angels on Earth magazines and is the author of four books. His writing has been featured in Beliefnet.com, Harper’s, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in New York.

Books by this Author

The Map of Heaven
The Modern Book of the Dead

My Life in 8 Words

Author Revealed

Ptolemy Tompkins
Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. I'll have to to go with Heraclitus' line: "Character is fate." Which doesn't mean that I think I have a particularly good character. I just think it's true.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?

A. Changes by the book, though there are always a lot. In The Modern Book of the Dead, "utterly" was a problem.

Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?

A. I wouldn't mind being able to ask the Buddha if he really didn't believe in the existence of the self.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. I think it was Proust who said that we never know when we're happy, only when we were happy. I don't know about perfect happiness, but I know I'd enjoy being able to inhabit certain moments of the past again, only as the person that I am now. To climb back into my past self kind of like a space suit and do it all over again, the same only... different. Actually, I think a lot of writers have this dream, and that that's one reason why at least some people become writers to begin with.

Q. What’s your best quality?

A. I'm not completely unconscious of my flaws.

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