You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Pre-modern art and society’ category.

This book depicts Odysseus’ departure from Calypso’s island and journey to the island of the Phaeacians, including his shipwreck.

In a retread of the counsel of the gods in Book 1, Athene complains that Odysseus has been forgotten (a narrative joke after spending 4 books on Telemachus). Zeus reminds her that this was all her plan, then announces what Odysseus’ moira (part, lot, fate) will be. He sends Hermes to Calypso to set Odysseus on a raft to the Phaeacians.

Hermes flys over the waves, holding his wand that can cause people to sleep or awake. Calypso’s cave and island are described, with a vine running about the cave and four springs nearby. Calypso serves ambrosia and nectar. Hermes says that Zeus ordered him to come (he would not have come otherwise, because there is no city of mortals there to offer sacrifice; but who can resist Zeus?). He says that the Achaeans returning from Troy sinned against Athene, who sent winds and waves against them, leaving only Odysseus to be brought to Calypso’s island. But it is not his fate (aisa) to die far from his friends, but it is his lot (moira) to see his friends, house, and native land.

Odysseus is stuck in a nymph cave with a goddess who will make him immortal. He can’t move, but desires to go back to egoic life. He needs the divine messenger to come to start the action. This is also a narrative analogy: the story cannot move forward without the intervention of Hermes, god of communication, sent by Athene (divine wisdom) and Zeus (divine planning and king agent of gods).

Calypso complains that gods stop goddesses from mating with mortals. She gives examples of mortal men who are killed for mating with goddesses (danger for Odysseus!). But she cedes to the will of Zeus.

Odysseus weeping on seashore. Homer comments that he is kept unwilling at night in the cave of Calypso by force, while Calypso is willing [goddess’ will overpowers mortal man’s will]. Odysseus is suspicious of Calypso’s message that she will send him away, and demands oaths not to trick him on the sea. She agrees and they go to feast. She asks why he wants to leave, since she will make him immortal. Odysseus prefers his mortal wife to immortal goddess and wants to see his home and his home-coming day (nostimon emar), and will endure being smote on the sea by a god.

Scene of raft-building, cutting and hewing of tress, the making of the ship and steering oar [making of egoic craft]. He sails by stars to the island of the Phaeacians, but Poseidon sees him. He knows that Odysseus is fated to survive, but plans to still give him misery. He sends a storm. Odysseus is fearful and wishes he had died at Troy because he would have received funeral rites and the Achaeans would have spread his kleos (fame). Odysseus wishes for the Iliadic value of death in battle and attendant fame, which I interpreted in earlier posts as recognizing oneself fixed in block universe (after battle for control and death), and so able to be talked about. Dying at sea, drowned under water, is to die overwhelmed by loose-cognition state (just like when Achilles is threatened by the river god in the Iliad) and vanish without a trace, unable to be recognized.

Two types of death [end of independent self-control world model] and subsequent states are contrasted:

  • death in battle -> funeral rites and kleos
  • death in sea -> oblivion, lack of recognition

Death in battle is test of skill / self-control power system. Self-control power is threatened, one can struggle against it, test survival power. Others see it, and after death, one is honored with funeral rites and story-telling (kleos). One is apparent in the block-universe, fixed and visible. Death in battle is like a strong enough dose that allows for testing of self-control power and, even in defeat of that, recognition of oneself as fixed in the block-universe, achieving immortal kleos fame.

Death in sea is to be overwhelmed by loose-cognition waves. There is no hope of survival because the loose-cognition waves are too powerful. They overwhelm and destroy the self-steering ship and drown the person. Death in sea is like a too strong dose that does not allow for testing of self-control power, but critically overwhelms it, completely washing away all structure.

Odysseus fears oblivion from death in the sea. His fear shows that he continues to think in terms of Iliadic values. The narrative of the Odyssey will show new values and structures. In the first place, the Odyssean narrator allows for representation of death in the sea. The story-telling of the Odyssean narrator one-ups the Iliadic death-in-battle-to-immortal-kleos value system. Secondly, the narrative will show how rescue from death-in-the-sea can work.

The waves knock Odysseus from the raft, and he drops the steering oar. The raft is broken, and the clothes given to him by Calypso weigh him down. With effort he holds onto part of the raft. The sea and wind carries the raft this way and that.

The mortal-turned-sea-goddess, Ino Leucothea, sees Odysseus and pities him. She advises that Odysseus take off his clothes and leave his raft, swimming to the island of the Phaeacians, which he it is his fate (moira) to reach. She offers him her veil as protection, which he is to put back in the sea once he reaches land. [Odysseus must abandon remnents of old system (clothes and raft; the steering oar is already gone); use new clothing veil of mortal-turned-sea-goddess to get through loose-cognition waves to stable land].

Odysseus is suspicious, since an immortal may be tricking him to leave his raft. He decides to remain until the raft is fully broken. He will endure as long as the raft holds out, and then he will swim. Poseidon sends more waves, destroys the raft, and Odysseus swims. Now that the raft is destroyed, Poseidon departs, and Athene intervenes to calm the waters and winds so that Odysseus can reach the island of the Phaeacians.

Odysseus swims and hopes to reach the land, but becomes scared of being dashed against the reefs, cliffs, and rocks. Athene puts a thought in his mind to find the river entrance, where there will be no sharp rocks. Odysseus prays to river that he may enter. He does and then emerges onto land. He returns Ino’s veil to the sea, kisses the land, and finds two bushes, one olive, one thorny, that have grown together to shelter him while he sleeps.

Telemachus arrives at the house of Menelaus. Marriage feasts are being held, one for a daughter going off to the son of Achilles, the other for a son bringing a bride home.

Menelaus’ travels and experience as a guest has made him eager to be a good host.

Like the previous book, this one again shows a hero returned from Troy at home, being a good host and feasting with proper attention to the guests and gods. This contrasts with the unbalanced feasting at Odysseus’ house.

Helen mixes a pharmakon into the wine. There is a digression about this pharmakon. It is one that will quiet all pain and anger, one that brings a forgetfulness of evils. It is even so powerful that the one who drinks it, once mixed in the mixing bowl, could watch family members be killed and not cry. Helen, daughter of Zeus, had received the drugs in Egypt. There are many drugs in Egypt for mixing, both good (esthla) and mournful (lugra). In Egypt every person is a healer (ietros), from the family of Paian/Paion/Paeeon, the physician of the gods (also a title of Apollo).

The wine is served and Helen encourages banqueting and storytelling. Helen and Menelaus tell stories of Odysseus at Troy.

In the morning, Menelaus tells Telemachus what he learned about Odysseus’ homecoming from Proteus, the old man of the sea, in Egypt. Menelaus was stuck in harbor at Egypt against his will due to winds. Eidothea, a water goddess and daughter of Proteus, takes pity on him and helps him capture Protetus. They hide under seal skins amid Proteus’ seal flock when they come on shore to sleep. They are given ambrosia. When Proteus is asleep, they capture him and restrain him as he shapeships. Eventually he yields and tells them to return to the mouth of river Aegyptus and make sacrifice to Zeus. [King Menelaus wrestles with the shapeshifting seagod (=loose cognition) until it instructs him in returning home with proper sacrifices to Zeus]

They then ask Proteus about the fate of the Achaeans on their return from Troy (nostos). First they learn of Ajax (the lesser). Poseidon had first driven his ship against the rocks, but then saved him from the sea. Ajax then boasted that he had escaped from the sea, even in spite of the gods. Poseidon was angered at this and struck the rock he stood on, causing him to fall into the sea. [the god causes Ajax’s self-command ship to smash against the rocks (=4d block, frozen eternalism), but then rescues him. Ajax boasts that he escaped on his own, without the aid of the god, attributing power to himself again. Poseidon breaks the apparently firm standing rocks (claim to independent self-control and self-stabilizing power), drowning him in the sea].

Next we learn more about Agamemnon’s return, that there was a watchman who informed on him, that he arrived in his kingly chariot, that he was ambushed at a feast. Killed by Aegisthus, his cousin and adulterer with his wife.

Both Ajax and Agamemnon are possible models for Odysseus. Ajax suffers on the sea and angers Poseidon; Agamemnon comes home openly, unsuspecting, and is killed by someone who has taken his place in the household with his wife.

Proteus then tells Menelaus of Odysseus, whom he saw on Calypso’s island. He was weeping, held there against his will, without a ship.

Lastly, he foretells that Menelaus will survive and go to the Elysian plain (paradise) because he has Helen, daughter of Zeus, for a wife.

Menelaus goes to mouth of river, sacrifices to Zeus, and raises a mound to Agamemnon, so that his kleos will be ‘unquenchable’ (asbeston). Physical marker makes reknown/kleos permanent.

After his story, Telemachus prepares to depart. Menelaus gifts him with a mixing bowl made by Hephaestus, one he received as a gift while a guest elsewhere. Example of linkings between entheogenic banqueting culture, societal relationships strengthened by gift-giving, and story-telling [You are youth who goes to the king’s palace to learn of your father. There you banquet with the king and queen, who prepare you mixed wine with pharmaka. Many stories are told of the actions of heros, including that of your father. At the end you receive drinking cup made by a god, as a sign of your relationship with the king.]

The scene then switches to the suitors in Odysseus’ house. They plot to ambush Telemachus on his way home. Penelope learns that Telemachus is away, prays to Athene to keep him safe.

A central topic of the Odyssey is banqueting. A central question of the Odyssey is how to set-up a harmonious banqueting culture that properly honors the gods and sustains the household and wider society (via guest-host relationships). Feasting, eating, drinking, consuming appear throughout the poem.

The suitors of Penelope banquet excessively in Odysseus’ household while he is away.

When Telemachus journeys to learn more of Odysseus, he visits the households of Nestor and of Menelaus, both of whom are shown banqueting harmoniously with their families and showing proper respect to the gods.

Banqueting, eating, and drinking feature in most of Odysseus’ wanderings, sometimes as the main point of the episode, other times as an ancillary, but still present, topic: Calypso, Phaeacians, Ciconians, Lotus-eaters, Cyclops, Aeolus, Laestrygonians, Circe, the land of the dead, Scylla and Carybdis, the cattle of Helios.

How to avoid destruction at the banquet and instead create a banquet culture in which all the parts of the psyche are harmoniously arranged, allowing for ongoing feasting?

It shouldn’t be necessary for me to add the tag “entheogenic” or “psychedelic” or sim. to the above, but for the sake of absolute, pedantic, boneheaded clarity: when I write banqueting etc., I mean psychedelic banqueting.

The Iliad portrays the crucial highpoint of the initiation of Achilles in the war at Troy and the removal of his choice to live or to die, leaving him no choice but to die soon, but acquire immortal fame in the block universe. The Odyssey portrays the problem of avoiding destructive or otherwise alluring banquets and establishing a harmonious, workable, banqueting culture in the home that properly honors the gods, sustains the household, and promotes good relations between hosts and guests.

Telemachus visits Nestor. The book depicts a functioning household with a hero returned from Troy and sons’ Telemachus age. Telemachus practices social customs and manners of address, and observes ritual prayer, sacrifice, and libation to Poseidon, as well as hospitality.

Telemachus and Athene/Mentor arrive by boat at Pylos and the palace of Nestor.

There are comic notices of Athene in disguise as Mentor praying to Poseidon to bring about something that she is herself bringing about.

Telemachus and Nestor speak of death and stories about death. As in the “choice” of Achilles, fame is guaranteed by death. Telemachus relates that he has heard about the deaths of the other heroes at Troy, but that Zeus has hid Odysseus’ death. Nestor acknowledges all the deaths and sorrows at Troy and now tells a new story about the destructive return from Troy.

Athene caused strife between Agamemnon and Menelaus about the return during an assembly when the Achaeans were drunk from wine. Menelaus feared staying longer, so he and some of the forces set off right away, while the others stayed with Agamemnon to offer sacrifices for a safe return. Odysseus first started out with Menelaus, but turned back to Agamemnon. Nestor expected destruction would come, and so kept going with Menelaus. He makes it home safe.

Aegisthus, Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and Orestes are mentioned again. As in Book 1, that household is a potential model for how Odysseus’ household will turn out. Telemachus wishes that he had the strength to be like Orestes and drive out the suitors. Nestor maintains hope that Odysseus will come and that Athene will favor them. Telemachus doubts this, which causes another funny scene of Athene in disguise rebuking him.

Telemachus asks Nestor for more details about Aegisthus, and where Menelaus was, if he had set out for home first. Menelaus had been blown off course, and only returned after 7 years in Egypt. Menelaus is another parallel to Odysseus, here in his wanderings. Menelaus arrived back just after Orestes killed Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.

Aegisthus and Clytemnestra are again a dangerous potential model for Penelope and a suitor. She resisted him for a long time, but his beguiling words eventually won out. A bard had been protecting her, until Aegisthus stranded him on a desert island. It’s not revealed precisely how the bard was protecting her, but it’s striking that once the bard was out of the way, then the beguiling words of Aegisthus could have their effect.

“The fate/allotment of the gods bound <him/her> to be overcome”. It’s unclear whom the object is.

Nestor advises Telemachus not to be away for too long because the suitors will become more insolent. He advises him first to go to Menelaus.

Athene in disguise then invites libations and sleep. Athene as Mentor departs, but turns into a bird as she departs. Nestor knows it is Athene, marvels, praises Telemachus, and prays to Athene. More libations are poured for Athene. In the morning, there is a new feast and sacrifice for Athene. A heifer with horns covered in gold is sacrificed. There is a description of the sacrifice.

Telemachus travels overland in a chariot lead by Nestor’s son Peisistratus.

Telemachus calls an assembly to stop the suitors, under threat of the gods. The complaint is that the suitors are killing animals and feasting in Odysseus’ household, eating up his resources. Telemachus has no recourse or hope of recompense. Established law and custom has no answer for the situation.

Antinous the suitor describes Penelope’s delay via weaving a death shroud for Odysseus’ father, a duty she must finish before she can remarry. She undid her work each night, until discovered doing so by suitors. Poet hints at another story without telling it.

Telemachus takes the problem to the public, but Antinous replies that it is a problem of the household, not for the public.

Telemachus can’t send her away because of her brideprice and out of fear of the Furies.

Odyssey has the mythic scenario of an absent master/father turned to a drama of characters and society, involving economics/possessions, societal comment, and shame/fame/morals.

Birds come from Zeus, a prophet interprets doom for the suitors, that Odysseus will return, bringing death and evil for them. The prophet discusses an older prophecy he had given Odysseus, that he would suffer ills, lose his comrades, and return in the 20th year unknown to all.

Eurymachus the suitor dismisses the prophet and prophecy, claiming the prophet is merely seeking favor with Telemachus.

Telemachus agrees to send his mother back to her father for remarriage, provided that first he travel to Sparta and Pylos to learn what he can of Odysseus.

Telemachus prays to Athene for help by the seashore. Athene in disguise as Mentor helps Telemachus organize the journey.

Telemachus packs up unmixed wine, but saves special wine for Odysseus’ return. Telemachus’ nurse Eurycleia is introduced. She tries to persuade him to stay.

Athene arranges the right conditions for departure. Athene is on board the ship, brings the favorable wind. They sail and pour libations of wine to the gods, especially Athene.

It’s still all too common for researchers to act like there is not much evidence for mushrooms and other psychedelics in Ancient Mediterranean and European art and culture. On the contrary, it is very easy to find examples everywhere.

I visited a small town in Italy, named Certaldo:

The town is not very important historically, contains no major pieces of art or architecture. It’s known primarily as the home of the 14th century author Boccaccio and for its onions. Yet, here, without trying, I found the classic tree/snake combination depicting the contrasting possibilism/eternalism mental models of time, with the tree depicting clear mushroom-like fruit.


This is found in the courtyard of the Palazzo Pretorio, the Medieval/Renaissance town’s equivalent of city hall, embedded in the wall with other insignia of town families. It’s nothing special, not given any special focus. Psychedelics and altered state imagery were integrated into culture.

It’s not hard to find visual evidence of psychedelics and it’s even easier to find visual evidence of the two mental models of time. Researchers into depictions of psychedelics have got to stop acting like the evidence is scanty. It simply is not. We have an abundance of evidence. More importantly, they should broaden the scope of their research, moving away from the depiction of mere psychedelics to include depictions of altered state experiencing, particularly the contrasting models of time.

Hygieia, whose name means “health,” was one of the daughters of the medicine god Asclepius, himself son of Apollo.

In my travels over the past year I have encountered three of statues of Hygieia, each with a snake, and two additionally with a bowl.

In York Minster, her statue stands on a tomb honoring a doctor. The snake winds up the pole she holds at her side.

In Edinburgh, her statue stands on a well noted for its medicinal benefit. She holds a cup. A snake winds up a column at her side to drink from the vase.

In Florence’s Uffizi gallery, the snake sits on her upper arm and looks to the cup she holds out in her hand.


The goddess of health invites you to drink the drug, while the snake primes you to think of the snake-shaped worldline of your consciousness in the eternalism time block. Goddess, cup, and snake are frozen as marble statues.

I posted on the beginning of the Odyssey here.

Odysseus saw many cities and learned many minds or laws/customs while trying to preserve the psyche (soul/life) and nostos (homecoming) of his companions. But they die by their own blind folly. After eating the cattle of the sun, Helios the sun god took away their nostos.

The companions eat the cattle of the sun and die. Clever Odysseus survives.

Poet asks Muse to start wherever she likes (i.e. not from the beginning, a preview of the complicated structure of the narrative to come; Odyssey is more self-conscious than Iliad).

Narrative starts with Odysseus alone, without his nostos, though all the rest from Troy have come home. The nymph Kalypso, whose name means “concealment,” keeps him in her caves, trying to make him her husband. At last the year of his ordained return arrives. The gods pity him, except for Poseidon, who will hinder his return.

The gods meet in council and discuss Orestes and Aegisthus. Orestes, son of Agamemnon has killed his relative Aegisthus, who had killed Agamemnon. Zeus’ first words, and the first direct speech in the poem (thus have extra significance for setting the scene): “I can’t believe how mortals blame the gods! They say evils come from us, but by their own blind folly they have sorrows beyond what is fated/allotted.” This is high mystic joking on the topics of agency, responsibility, and blame.

Those funny mortal egos blame the control source for their evils. The control source jokes that its own local agents blame it the higher control source for their sufferings. No, says the control source, the control source is not to blame, but it is the local agents who only do what we make them do who are to blame for their sufferings.

“When mortals go beyond what is fated/allotted” doesn’t make sense in a deterministic scheme, except as a mystic joke. If fate is absolute, it is illogical to speak of mortals going beyond it. For, in a fully fated scheme that “going beyond” would be fated, too. How to resolve this riddle? Answer: a mortal “going beyond fate” means a mortal who pretends or misunderstands that he has his own independent will outside of fate, outside of the eternal fixed time block. Understand that “sorrows” that are suffered by going beyond what is fated/allotted refers to the confusion and psychic pain brought about by clinging to the idea of separate selfhood and independent local control.

Comprehension relies on mastery of metaphorical thinking, riddling, meaning-shifting.

“Mortals say we are the source of evils for them.” God as the author of evils.

“Mortals have sorrows by their own blind folly because they go beyond what is fated/allotted.” Mortals ‘responsible’ for sorrow of mistaking that local agency exists independent of fated spacetime block.

Zeus describes Aegisthus as an example of going beyond fated allotment. He took the wife of Agamemnon and killed him, even though the gods warned him not to do so. Aegisthus ignores prophecy from the gods and tries to allot things to himself.

The ego tries to go beyond what is allotted by fate, contrary to divine warning, and dies.

Athene agrees and pivots to Odysseus, who suffers on an island in the navel of the sea (=center of the sea). Odysseus held there by Kalypso, the daughter of Atlas (punished Titan). Atlas knows the depth of the sea and holds up the sky, keeping sky and earth apart. Kalypso Concealment wants Odysseus to forget his home Ithaca, using soft and wheedling words. Athene wisdom goddess intervenes with Zeus ultimate controller to secure Odysseus’ release. She asks Zeus why he “Odysseuses” so much? Odysseus’ name means to be in pain. Why do you cause pain so much?

Test: interpret these four characters, Kalypso, Odysseus, Athene, and Zeus as aspects of control system.

Zeus responds that it is not he, but Poseidon, the sea/earthshaker, who is wrathful against Odysseus because he blinded his son, the cyclops. Zeus promises that Poseidon will not kill Odysseus, but will prevent him from reaching native land for a time. Poseidon will eventually give up his anger.

They agree to send Hermes (messenger, barrier crosser, holy spirit) to Kalypso to get her to release Odysseus, while Athene goes to Ithaca to rouse Odysseus’ son Telemachus against the suitors who are killing his cattle. She will inspire him to gain a reputation (kleos). She will spur Telemachus out into view among people, to learn about his father (control source) and get a good reputation (be identifiable in block universe, per my discussion of kleos in an earlier post).

Athene moves to Odysseus’ house. She observes the suitors playing games and eating. Telemachus wants Odysseus to come and get rid of the suitors (cleaning up the house is to clean the soul of control source misunderstanding). The suitors feast.

Telemachus tells Athene that suitors want the lyre and song without misgiving (they want to enjoy the feast and music without a problem, without control instability).

Telemachus despairs, convinced that Odysseus is dead. Athene reports that Odysseus is not dead. Telemachus says that he is not sure of his parentage, but that his mother says Odysseus is his father. Athene notes the arrogance of the suitors, eating up someone else’s house. Telemachus says that the gods made Odysseus disappear from sight, so now the house suffers (think of Zeus’ exclamation that mortals blame the gods for evils).

Telemachus explains that if Odysseus had died in war (i.e. in Iliadic battle), things would be different. Odysseus would have a tomb and glory (he would be dead and visibly fixed in his tomb, able to be seen and recognized, and so given glory). But Odysseus is instead out of sight, out of hearing, taken away by the Harpies. He has instead left to Telemachus sufferings (odynai ; wordplay on Odysseus’ name; Odysseus is missing, but Telemachus has odynai).

Athene shares in the desire that Odysseus arrive, as a deadly warrior to drive out the suitors. In disguise, Athene relates that Odysseus came for a feast at his house while Odysseus was in search of a man-killing pharmakon (drug/poison/cure) to put on his arrows. She hopes that the suitors get death as their marriage, but that is up to the gods. Meanwhile, she advises that Telemachus must think how to get rid of the suitors (there is no imagined savior figure, so you have to do it). She advises Telemachus to call an assembly, order the suitors to leave, and send his mother back to her father for remarriage. Barring that, he should journey to visit Nestor and Menelaus from Troy at their homes to learn about Odysseus. After that, he should either wait or make a burial for Odysseus himself, and then either marry his mother off or slay the suitors. Stop being childish, haven’t you heard of Orestes? He has fame for killing Aegisthus, the killer of his father. Telemachus should strive for praise from future generations.

At the feast, a poet is singing the nostos (homecoming) of the Achaeans from Troy and the suffering that Athene gave them. A meta-poetic moment: a poem about the return from Troy has a poet singing about the return from Troy. Penelope appears, veiled, cries at the song and wants the singer to sign other deeds of men and gods. Singers make these deeds famous (poetry is vehicle for memory and fame (for placing and recognizing events in block universe).

Telemachus defends the poet, saying that he should sing how his heart is moved. Poets are not responsible nor the cause, but Zeus is the cause. The poet sings the evil doom of the Achaeans. She should either listen or go back to her tasks and leave muthos to men.

Telemachus and the suitors talk. There is a contest of many kings in Ithaca over who will be the chief king. While Odysseus is missing, the kingdom fragments into many kings vying for supremacy. Telemachus wants to have his own house and property. Competing models of society in tension: strive to be chief king over others and strive to have one’s own individual domain in a society of others having their own individual domain.

The suitor Eurymachus says that who will be chief king is up to the gods, but the suitors will respect individual possessions.

A reader wrote in to complain that I had posted my notes on the Iliad. The reader implied that I was wasting their time by not posting my interpretations with the notes.

I cannot be expected to interpret every single sentence of Greek and Latin literature.

The notes I am posting include some interpretation of some passages. Passages that I mention but do not interpret I am leaving for future interpretors. I do not mention every passage, but have selected passages that I notice during my reading, passages that strike me as ripe for interpretation.

My goal is to provide a substantial enough overview, not a complete commentary on every line. It’s a survey. I’m exploring Greek and Latin literature with my Egodeath Theory tools, and making a sketch of a map of territory.

One area that I plan to change, however: I will type my notes from one book or section of the piece of literature before reading and taking notes on the next part. For the Iliad, I had written the notes in my notebook over the summer, but only typed and posted them in October. I typed and posted my notes on all 24 books over the course of only a few days. My memory of the passage and my initial recognition of its relevance had faded. This made the postings a bit thin.

Going forward, I will post on a book at a time, before moving on to the next book.

The invocation to the Muse at the opening of the Odyssey focuses on Odysseus’s attempts to save the life and homecoming of his comrades. The poem repeats the language used in Book 9 of the Iliad to describe the ‘choice’ of Achilles. There Achilles could depart the battle at Troy and save his psyche and nostos (homecoming) or stay, lose his psyche, and gain undying fame.

I interpreted the one side of that choice, the side of saving psyche and nostos, as an attempt to put off initiation into egodeath (see my posts on Iliad 9 and my summary post on the main story arc of the Iliad).

The choice can be understood to mean: save one’s lower thinking and return to early state, putting off initiation; or lose one’s lower thinking and recognize oneself frozen eternally in spacetime.

To acquire ‘fame’ in Homeric epic means to become the object of talk both by other characters and by narrator epic poet. This is analogous to the altered state experience of separating from one’s accustomed sense of self and perceiving oneself and one’s actions as fixed in the spacetime block.

In the beginning of the Odyssey, the poet introduces the epic by saying that Odysseus strives to save the psyche and nostos of his companions (1.5), the same key words found in Book 9 of the Iliad and the ‘choice of Achilles.’

For Achilles, the return home (nostos) meant avoiding allotted fate and surviving to bodily old age. Odysseus attempts to help his companions survive and return home. Understand Odysseus and his companions as parts of the soul: Odysseus is the higher thinking that survives initiation and the companions are the lower thinking that dies during initiation.

Although Odysseus wanted to save them, he did not (1.6). They died by their own blind folly (1.7): they ate the cattle of the sun god Helios, who took away their day of homecoming (1.8-9). However, the poem immediately cuts off this possibility, saying that he did not save them, although he wanted to (1.6). The poet explains that they died through their own blind folly (1.7); they ate the cattle of the sun god Helios, who took away their day of homecoming (1.8-9).

Remember: Odysseus is part of the soul, the companions are part of the soul, and the sun god is part of the soul. Odysseus is the higher thinking that survives initiation; the companions are lower thinking that dies during initiation; the sun god is the ultimate source of thoughts.

The companions eat up the cattle of the sun [entheogens; mushrooms in particular, probably], Odysseus tried to save them, but is unable to [self-control paralysis]. Helios the sun god took away their psyche and their nostos.

To preserve life/mind/soul/ego and return home. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey are interested in the topics of “preserve life/mind/soul/ego” and of “return home”, and in the relationship between those two topics.

A nexus of questions posed by the poems: What does it mean to preserve psyche (life/mind/soul/ego)? What does it mean to lose one’s psyche? Can it be preserved or must it change in some way? Likewise: what does it mean to return home? What changes and what stays the same?

What does the pairing of psyche and nostos in Homeric epic mean in terms of self-control cybernetics as defined in the Egodeath Theory? I am here approaching these terms not as individual terms to be defined, but as paired terms in the context of the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The larger task remains: how to understand a narrative that is a series of egodeath metaphors strung together, in which characters take on the different aspects of the soul as the egodeath metaphor demands, irrespective of their role in the narrative.

Nostos, or the return home, in the Iliad means surviving the war at Troy, either through success at capturing Troy or by abandoning the war, whether individually or as part of the entire group of Achaeans. In egodeath terms, nostos is dependent either on the success of the self-control battle or the failure to meet it. To not get one’s nostos in the Iliad is to die at Troy. In compensation, one receives memorialization by the Homeric poet. Homeric characters want a good reputation for bravery and skill, but the poet recounts the brave and cowardly, winners and losers alike. The Homeric poet remembers and recounts all, regardless of outcome. In eternalism experiencing, all actions are perceived as frozen in spacetime, and so all actions are available for recounting. All actions in the spacetime block are available to the Muses, the daughters of Memory, and so the poet invokes the Muse to tell the story.

In the Iliad, one goes to the self-control battle. One either survives the fight and returns or dies. Iliadic battle involves the intervention of the gods. Characters ask the gods for favor, recognize that the outcome of the fight is ultimately up to the gods/fate, or are helped or hindered by the gods directly. While there may be a sense that skill and bravery are factors in battle in the Iliad, the role of gods and fate is clear and obvious. Iliadic battle involves acknowledging the limits of individual, mortal control over the outcome.

The war at Troy is a series of battles, like a series of initiation sessions. Achilles focused on his own skill and the social respect he deserves. The poem does not focus on this angle, but I wonder if we are warranted in seeing this as an error or inconsistency in not attributing enough to the gods. He wants to follow the gods/fate (his championing of returning Apollo’s priest’s daughter and of the seer Calchas), but does not accept the social hierarchy and forms of society and recognize the god-given role of king Agamemnon. Instead he goes beyond that human king to the divine king through his special access via divine mother to surrogate divine father.

If one dies in battle, one still hopes to return to one’s native home. Characters ask their killers to return them to their home; there are fights over bodies to ensure that they are returned home; the gods intervene to ensure their return home. The story ends in the return of Hector’s body.

In the Odyssey, the context for nostos has changed, though it shares circumstances with the Iliad. The xontext is after the battles at Troy. First, there is the struggle to return home amid the threats during the trip. Second, there is the struggle at home, in returning to the peace time society and the family.


Metaphorical Psychedelic Eternalism
June 2020


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow cyberdisciple on