About Thomas Sefton
tgr book cover

Certain things helped me to see all this, and first and foremost of these was the side of Chinese thought found in Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism. Second was the late Dr. Ted Hoffman, professor of Asian studies at University of South Florida. Dr. Hoffman was one of those rare people (much more common in the sixties than now) who actually knew what he was talking about.

I began in Biology, I moved to Psychology, then to Philosophy. Then I realized that not only can nothing real can be said philosophically, but nothing real can be said directly in any way. Is it then impossible to say anything that isn't just an abstraction or an assertion? Is it impossible to say something that is actually part of the real world? Is it possible to actually touch anything? I quickly saw that this was indeed possible, but that it could only be done indirectly through some kind of literature. When I saw that, I moved from Philosophy to General Humanities and then to Asian Studies. Chinese thought taught me what perception is and what the real world is. But being European and not Asian, I had questions in my genes that Asians could not answer, and I moved to the thought that is the subject of The Gods Remain. That is not a surprising move. The thought that I found in Aeschylos, Sopkokles, Homer, etc. and in classic Scandinavian literature such as the Volsungasaga is in many ways closer to Chinese thought than to the European thought that followed it. It is not abstract or theoretical, and like the best Chinese thought, it cannot any way be separated from the world that we perceive around us. However, it is concerned with the individual and what the individual does in the face of the overwhelming natural forces that impel his life like a dry leaf on a welling current. In other words it is tragic, and tragedy is something the Chinese simply do not understand.

Most or all people all over the world have a religion, and each person's religion is individual to an extent and shared with other people to an extent. But the purpose of each person's religion is to remain shallow— to reduce the vibrant, living world around us to dead, meaningless pictures, and to reduce our living selves to a pattern of dead, meaningless pictures. We do this because we find it easier to live in a world without magic or poetry or truth, a world of depthless, artificial images with artificial rules and boundaries, in a video game basically, than in the real one. And there is a real one. And that brings me to the third thing that helped me to see all this: the horde of conventional academic people who took these breathing, living songs and reduced them to dead, meaningless images and who utterly failed to understand the songs, but who preserved their forms. Without such preservation we could still hear the songs, since they are inside us, but they would seem like individual feelings. We could never know how ancient, how timeless they are, and how universal they are, and we could never know how basic they are to our own humanity.