Friday, November 16, 2012

False Start Friday 2: Electric Boogaloo

Last week I took the plunge and discussed (for the first time ever, I think) some old and ambitious plans for a world-spanning novel.  At the heart of that novel was going to be a rediscovered ancient manuscript called the Theothany that described the death of the Greek gods.

FYI, I honestly don't know how I would have inserted these ancient words into the "present-day" action of the novel.  It probably would have been too ham-fisted just to include the whole thing, in feaux epic-poem translation, but I would have hated to give only small pieces.  Like I said last week, a huge majority of my research time was devoted to the ancient manuscript instead of to the story of my idealized alter-ego.

Anyway, after digging through my Theothany notes, I found my detailed (and dot-matrix printed!) outline of the ancient manuscript, dated September 24, 1989. I didn't read it last week, but I did now.

Urgh... I think I just rolled my eyes almost as much as I did in my last post.  Bloated and disjointed to say the least.  But I'll press on!  ;-)  Hopefully my fortysomething brain will mold my twentysomething thoughts into something that makes a little more sense as I summarize...

Live from New York, it's the fire bearer!
It starts with Prometheus.  You know his deal: bound to a rock and tortured for crimes against the gods.  Not only for giving fire and forethought to mankind, but also for refusing to tell Zeus the name of the woman he will impregnate with the son that is fated to dethrone him, as Zeus overthrew his own father.

I have in my notes that Prometheus said he wished to become mortal at the end of Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, to end the pain of the torture. So, in my alternate take on the story, I had Zeus grow exasperated enough to eventually grant that request: "Sure, BE mortal. Try to lead men as I lead the gods and see what I have to put up with!"

Prometheus is released, now mortal.  He still has his memory and knowledge, so he doesn't wander far before people realize he's special.  I noted in my outline that this occurred in 1464 BC (der... why so exact?) so it turns out he gets crowned king of Minoan Crete.  His people appreciate his limited future-sight, but they remain distant from him because of his sullen and solemn nature.

A wandering dude soon appears at Prometheus' court.  He is Senenmut, recently exiled from Egypt because of some intrigue with the queen.  He's traveled far, and he's learned many things.  He knows that many past generations of gods have come and gone throughout human history. He teaches Prometheus about their eternal cycles.  They become friends and initiate a cultural renaissance (giving rise to the Atlantis legends, to boot).

Prometheus eventually finds a wife and has a son.  The son, Glaucos ("bright one"), dies from some malady, and Senenmut uses his Egyptian healing arts to bring him back.  But one of Hades' minions sees that the butterfly-like soul of Glaucos started to enter the underworld, but then flitted back up to the world of the living.  Hades reports this anomaly to Zeus, and Zeus thunderbolts Senenmut for messing with things he shouldn't.  This brings back all of Prometheus' prior rebellious rage, and he swears a very loud and vocal oath that all of the immortals will DIE on this very spot within the next 1000 years.

Zeus no like that, so to punish this whole Minoan renaissance, he thunderbolts the island of Thera, whose volcano is known to have destroyed said civilization.  My notes have some suggestions for Prometheus to survive this devastation, make it to the island of Samothrace, start up their mystery cult, and live out the rest of his days in exile.  Kind of anticlimactic, though.  But Prometheus and Senenmut (the latter becoming the model for legends of the healer Asklepios) live on as shades in the underworld, and hold their grudges.

Anyway, flash forward to 456 BC.  Two men have re-sparked Zeus' fear of being overthrown.  One is the playwright Aeschylus (whose entire Prometheia trilogy is conveniently lost to us), who was accused of revealing the secrets of mystery religions on the stage.  The other was a brash Olympic athlete named Brisos -- my notes mention similarities to this guy, who I recall being very full of himself.  Brisos was a distant descendant of Achilles, and thus a carrier of the blood of Thetis, one of the possible fated mothers of Zeus' dethroner.

Long story short: Zeus thunderbolts these guys, too.  Sigh. I said it was disjointed.  Now there are FOUR ghosts in the underworld who are carrying a torch (pun unintended) for the death of the gods.  Their hopes are to be fulfilled by young Socrates.

The infamously disagreeable philosopher is contacted by the ghosts, who can't accomplish much in the living world in their ethereal state.  Socrates has some ideas of his own, too.  He proposes they find a temporary ally among the gods who would be a natural supporter of mankind's bid for "independence."  That ally ends up being Pallas Athena.  She has a soft spot for Prometheus (who helped her be born from Zeus' skull), and is well balanced in her wisdom.

Socrates travels around and uses that persuasive rhetorical power of his to convince Greeks to elevate Athena to a more prominent position in their worship.  Over years, they do, and she absorbs this new power and sets herself up on another mountain as a rival to Zeus.  Guess who begins to become increasingly jealous?

Zeus eventually destroys Athena (gah, I repeated that trope a lot).  This causes Metis -- the mother of Athena, still tucked away inside Zeus' head -- to freak out.  "That's enough!"  Zeus' head throbs and throbs, and eventually explodes him with a golden light.

What emerges is a golden, youthful god, the second child of Metis, whom Socrates (seeing this in a vision, I think) recognizes as Phanes of the Orphic mysteries. Phanes had some primordial "Logos" action going on, since he actually existed before any of the other gods, but was also ever-new.  Phanes extracts the immortal "ichor" from all of the gods (including himself) and disperses it, much diluted, to all of humanity, present and future. This is a kind of "grounding" of the heavenly energy back down to the earth.

Socrates wakes up from his vision, and the world looks fresh and new.  No more gods -- we must be our own inspiration from now on.  His final line is "I have so much to learn...."


Like I said, not too polished!  I probably tightened up the plot in a bunch of small ways in the act of typing out the above, and I can think of many more things that could be done to improve it.  But do I want to?!?  I should make it clear that I was hugely inspired by Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.  At the time, I even memorized the final few stanzas that began,
This is the day, which down the void abysm
At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism...
Yes, yes, Romantic angst mixed with Nietzsche's "Gott ist tot."  Fun for 1989-me; much less my bag in 2012.


  1. 'This is a kind of "grounding" of the heavenly energy back down to the earth.'

    Cyg, had you read Low at the time that you wrote this?

    Well, my dear friend. I want you to know that I read every word. That I will read every word again and that I do not feel meet, at the moment, to comment intelligently!

    So, I will be back. As I always am. :)

    1. No, I was a couple of years from discovering him on the much-missed Usenet. So I was a crypto-Kabbalist even then?! :-)

    2. I would have to say, looks like it!

  2. My greek mythology is a little rusty but it sounds interesting. Isn't it fun to look at these old manuscripts. I enjoy seeing how I saw the world back then.

    1. FSF has led me to unearth a lot of myself from that time period... both the good and the bad. The Greeks invented catharsis, right? :-)

  3. So, the piece would have been kind of a light romantic comedy, right?


    Sheesh, Zeus has some anger issues, don't you think? But it works in context -- The Greeks sure liked their gods to embody somewhat less-than-divine emotional failings, didn't they? Guess it made for better soap-opera / reality-TV type drama.

    Truthfully, I'm still loving the concept.

    Also love the Bill and Ted shot. Gnarly!

    1. My wife would probably agree that I haven't lost that penchance for the absurdly dramatic. :-)

      I labored for a while, trying to figure out the perfect spelling that would convey Bill and Ted's two-syllable pronounciation for that Athenian philosopher's name, but no luck. ("Soh-craytes" may be close, but still ambiguous.)..

  4. If you did this as a comic book, people would be all over it.

    1. Ha! Know an artist with nothing to do (and no expectation of payment up front)? :-)

      Comics probably did affect this in various ways. Watchmen was still fresh in my brain in the late 1980s, of course, as well as Miller's apocalytpic Dark Knight Returns. Gray Morrow's haunting revival of The Spectre is less talked about these days, but that had some powerful mythological imagery, too.

  5. It's mind-boggling how much research and plot-planning you put into this. Could it be that the research and intellectual exercise of planning was really where it was "at" for you, more so than actually putting it all together into a book?

    1. You're probably right

      (he said ignoring the fact that, even now, he starts way more projects of this nature than he finishes).


  6. Dot matrix printed... funny how this seems older than the concept of Zeus thunderbolting... I am very much enjoying these plot revelations and the sense of you revisiting your younger self :-)

    1. My college roommate had the only printer on the floor for a while... and a jar: 25 cents a printout. :-)

      This has been a lot of fun.

  7. Okay, so is the universe telling me it's time to be back? :)

    1. Btw, you know I'm a neoplatonist!

    2. I'm not sure which factoid to write first:

      (1) The neo-platonists had a big impact on the "emanationism" of Kabbalah.

      (2) My picture up there from Bill & Ted contains both Plato's teacher... and "Neo!" :-)