Homer, Aeschylos, Sophokles and the Volsungasaga

tgr book cover

About this Website

The Kolonos Press website contains five complete chapters from from The Gods Remain by
Thomas Sefton
, short versions of all chapters from
The Gods Remain plus three essays by Thomas Sefton. The subject of The Gods Remain is the thought and feelings expressed in Greek literature before Socrates and in Norse literature before Christianity. Astonishingly, both these literatures turn out to be essentially the same. To get to an introduction, the complete chapters and the short versions, click above on "The Gods Remain."

Iliad, Aeschylos, Sophokles and the Volsungasaga.

For more than two thousand years people have felt deeply that talk is the most real and solid, the most tangible and fundamental, the most reliable and unquestionable of all things—talk. The songs of Aeschylos and Sophokles and the songs that became the Iliad and the Volsungasaga are a window into a time before that feeling devoured us.

The first thing that has to be understood about us us that we are not fully human. We have all seen movies about a virus that turns people into sub–human zombies. Unfortunately that really happened. It happened a long time ago, everyone was infected, no one got out alive. The process of infection still goes on today, fundamentalist Christians describe it in especially bonechilling terms. And it has been universal. It wasn’t until the beginning of the nineteenth century that anyone of European Culture took anything completely seriously that wasn’t talk, it wasn’t until then that anyone became completely and self-consciously aware of their perceptions.

And the result was a disaster. Because no one knew how to think about these perceptions. They thought about their perceptions as things they wanted, because they didn’t know any other way to think about them. They became aesthetes. Oh, what a beautiful sunset, I want it. Oh, what beautiful music, I want it. Oh. I’m so in love with you, I must have you. They became astonishingly, disgustingly, weak. And there were lots of utterly shattered lives, and lots of suicides. If you live in a world of talk, you can be a consumer, but if you become aware of your perceptions, you absolutely cannot dwell on what you want, what you would consume. If you do, it will destroy you. If you become anything more than a sub-human grotesque, and you don’t know how to think about the new thing you have become, you will be destroyed.

By the last of the nineteenth century, people who didn’t deny their perceptions had learned to keep some distance from them. They became nihilists. There is no right, no wrong, no justice, no truth, no meaning, no poetry, no music, no love, no God. All that is only empty talk. And it is. And given that their education was based entirely on people like Socrates, Aristotle and Seneca, they could come to no other conclusions about anything that wasn’t empty talk. And there were lots of shattered lives, lots of suicides, lots of people destroyed.

After World War I, most people were too cynical and defeated to get too far into their perceptions. Until the Sixties. In the Sixties, perception was the center of everything. LSD had a lot to do with that, so did the general attitude towards education. Education wasn’t a way of getting a job, and it wasn’t an ornament, it was something you built your life around. And not only was perception the center of everything, but people had a better idea of how to think about perception than anyone before or since, and for two reasons. First, this was the first generation that was broadly exposed to Chinese thought. The Chinese get as disconnected and artificial as anyone, but amid that, they have preserved an awareness of perception, and they have done so better than has any other civilization. And in the Sixties, everyone, or at least everyone I knew, had read the Tao Te Ching, maybe Chuang Tzu, and a lot of people knew something about Zen/ Ch’an Buddhism. The second reason that perception was so important was that the Humanities they studied were centered around Existentialism, and Existentialism and Taoism and Zen joined into the same stream: What is, is. What is perceived, is. What was there before anyone spoke, before anything was asserted; that is what is. And one is able to see this only if one does not want anything.

So they didn’t make the same mistakes past generations had made, and some of them, a lot of them, allowed the constant stream of talk to die away and they saw what you see when that happens. I saw it too. The problem is that you are aware that what you are seeing is Holy, and as soon as you understand that you are no better than the aesthete who wanted his beautiful sunset or his beautiful music or his love. You have become a consumer in a place where one cannot be a consumer. You should have stayed a sub-human grotesque, whose life is mere talk, who can be as pathetically greedy as he likes, without harm. But now you’re human, and you have to be human or you will be destroyed. And you know this place is Holy, and being here is worth your whole life and you don’t want to lose it, and so it’s already gone. As soon as you said it was Holy, you said too much. Now it’s just a photograph of what you saw, but you don’t know that. Because you got so high and went so far, you will be a long, long time falling back down and it will be a long, long time before you start to feel as if something is wrong.

So the question arises: What is this guy talking about? What we are now? Isn’t that human? Isn’t this all there is? Haven’t we always had dead, vacant eyes? Haven’t we always been graceless and deformed? Haven’t we always been this desperate to suck on one another?

Stories over the last two millennia have been about Good versus Evil. Thereís a fight, the good guys win, and it is established that Good is better than Evil. The stories on this website are from a much older time, probably the third millennium BC. Good is not necessarily better than Evil, the good guys donít necessarily win, the monster is not necessarily slain, and the order of things is not necessarily improved or restored. And these stories from the third millennium are not empty. Their point is not that Good triumphs over Evil, that our side triumphs over theirs. The point of these stories is that it is possible to be human. The hero does not triumph, he is usually defeated. But he does not flee from his Fate, he does not flee from what he is, he does not flee from his life. And so every word that he speaks and every movement of his hand come from the essence of what he is. The point of the heroís life and the point of these stories is not that the hero is Good, or that he is better than anyone else, or that he is better than his opponent. The point of these stories is that though we do not have the power to be OK, we have the power to be human and nothing has the power to stop us.

The snakes that you see all over the website are the symbol of knowledge. As the hero accepts his Fate and accepts who he is, he accepts knowledge, and it is knowledge that makes us human.

The first thing that I recommend you look at on the website are the videos. Of the videos, I would most recommend Odin and Apollo III and Odin and Apollo V. I will eventually turn these videos, with two more, into an essay, but that is in the future. The others of course add to the picture, but the real meaning is summed up in III and V. Of the essays, The Greco-Germanic Family Cycles I and The Greco-Germanic Family Cycles II are the most recent and the most developed. Truth in the Iliad, as its name would imply, is not about the Family Cycle stories but about the Iliad. And it concentrates on Truth, which was a completely different thing in the Iliad and during the Athenian classic age than it became later. Dreaming and Creation are unique and I doubt if they will ever be overshadowed by a newer and more developed work, in a way they are the center of everything I have done. In “Dreaming” and “Creation,” I go into infection, the process of infection and what it is like not to be infected.

The short versions of the book’s chapters are just that. You can flip through them and get a very good idea of what is in the book. The short version of On Being Human is especially good. It is not only shorter that the original chapter, but better.

The Gods Remain was written in the eighties and nineties, and many of my ideas have evolved quite a bit since then. But the chapters Oidipous: Devotee of Apollon and Gods Jadar contain details, explanations and a breadth of development not found in the later essays,“Truth in the Iliad” and “The Greco-Germanic Family cycles I and II.” Furthermore, “Dreaming” and “Creation” are the heart of The Gods Remain, and I don’t think they are going to be
overshadowed by anything newer.

Each life has one thing to say, and one thing only. If you, as a life, want nothing except to say this thing, if you decide that all other considerations are trivial by comparison, and if you hold nothing back, then you can say this one thing. But you only say it once. I said this one thing in "Dreaming and Creation," and I will never say it again. Everything I have said or will say about Oidipous and Sigurd and the Family Cycles is certainly important, but all of it is just a footnote on this one thing. People sometimes change, I am changing now. And if I live long enough, a new thing may happen and I may have a new thing to say. But until then everything I am is in “Dreaming” and “Creation.”