It should come as no surprise to longtime readers of this site that I’ve been reading another book about heroes. After reading Beowulf, The Song of the Cid, and The Song of Roland, along with other books such as The Bronze Age Mindset, I realized just how important it is to have great, semi-real, semi-mythic men to look back upon and attempt to emulate. If we are to reject modernity and embrace tradition, as conservatives should at least attempt, then we need to have men in mind when we think of tradition. Having mythic, epic heroes is how we can do that.
It is with all that in mind that I saw Undying Glory: The Solar Path of Greek Heroes by Tom Billinge and knew that I had to read it. Billinge writes about the heroes of the Greek Ages far before the Classical or Hellenistic Eras, generally from the late Golden Age or early Bronze Age, and shows the reader what made them successful and what that implies for the modern man.
It’s a combination of heroic tales and life lessons to live by. What could be better? After finishing this review, you need to order and read a copy. You’ll be a better, more successful, more heroic person if you do.
Summary of Undying Glory by Tom Billinge
Rather, it is something of a combination of the two. Billinge does discuss the epic tales of Greek heroes on what he calls the “solar path” (more on what that is later).
For, as Billinge tells the reader early on, “This book is based in Greek mythology, but is an esoteric work intended to help men better understand their place in the world. It attempts to reconstruct a version of native European spirituality. This is not an academic thesis.“
From Jason and the Argonauts to Theseus to Herakles, some of the bravest and greatest heroes of antiquity find their way into the pages of Undying Glory. Perseus killing Medusa and saving Andromeda, Theseus volunteering to slay the Minotaur, and Herakles outwitting and outfighting opponent after opponent are some of the best stories, but there are many more.
Billinge uses those stories, the tales of each of the greatest heroes, to prove his point about “the solar path” of Apollo. In his words, “The upward [solar] path of the hero promotes spiritual and moral growth. It is a path that rejects a nihilistic, fatalist worldview and encourages men to act and seek that which is higher. It is a path of striving – the path of a strenuous life that rewards the hero for his efforts.“
What makes each of the heroes special, in Billinge’s view, is that “those on the Solar Path are for the light. They are for Apollonian order over Dionysian abandon.” Unfortunately, all but Herakles fail to stay on that Apollonian Solar Path to the end. They chase after worldly pleasure or power instead. They leave their wives, break their promises, or lust after too much power. Their taste of the glory that comes from continuing on the Solar Path for a time convinces them to leave behind the path that had been the reason for their success and plunge into the swamp of debauchery and temporary, worldly accolades instead.
An example of what happens when one steps off of the Solar Path comes from the story of Bellerophon:
“Seeing that Proitos was mistaken, Iobates showed Bellerophon the letter and asked him to tell the truth. He then asked for the hero’s forgiveness and gave his daughter Philonoë in marriage. Now heir to the throne of Lykia, Bellerophon allowed his success to go to his head. He mounted Pegasos and attempted to fly up to Olympos. Zeus, not wishing Bellerophon to ascend to the realm of the gods, sent a gadfly to bite Pegasos. The winged horse bucked and kicked Bellerophon down to the earth. Pegasos completed the journey and Zeus took possession of him, using the horse as bearer of his thunderbolts. Bellerophon landed in a thorn bush, rendering him lame and blind. He wandered the earth in this reduced state until he died.”
Bellerophon allowed his success and worldly accolades to go to his head. Rather than remain in his place, as would have been proper, he attempted to jump off of the long, winding, Solar Path to Olympus and fly to it instead. Because of that hubris, the gods cast him back to Earth. Had he remained on the path, he would have ended up in Olympus, glorified forever. Instead, he wandered the Earth lame and blind until he died.
Similarly, Theseus wasn’t able to stay on the Solar Path as he grew older. In Billinge’s words, “Theseus never fully embraces the role of the mature warrior, remaining in the youthful mindset of the Black Hunter. His acts as an adult are those of the young warrior on the frontier of society, still seeking to steal what he needs for his own gratification.”
Because he couldn’t grow up, Theseus never made it to Olympus. Nor could Jason. Nor cold Perseus.
In fact, as Billinge wraps up Undying Glory with, only Herakles stayed on the path to the end. Only he was able to shun the temporary pleasures of the Earth and attain immortality on Olympus. In Billinge’s words, “Herakles secured his immortality as one of the undying gods of Olympos. His fully realized divine masculine was paired with the divine feminine: Hebe. He attained Undying Glory through his own deeds and actions, forcing the gods to accept him as their equal.”
And that is what Undying Glory is all about- the value of shunning the Dionysian path and instead staying on the Solar Path of Apollo. Heroes are only successful so long as they behave as they should, rather than as they want.
My Take on Undying Glory by Tom Billinge
Of course, the mythology behind the stories in Undying Glory is, at best, only marginally true. As with Beowulf, there might be a kernel of truth in the stories, but the Olympian gods aren’t real, nor are the Gorgons, nor are the Harpies. Prometheus, Atlas, and the Minotaurs are made up. It’s likely that Perseus, Jason, and Herakles weren’t real either, or were only real in some small way.
But what they represent, the lessons behind the mythic stories, that’s what’s valuable for modern man.
For, as Billinge says, “A new Age of Heroes is upon us. We each have the choice before us: fall into nihilistic, Dionysian abandon through ecstasies of the flesh, or aim higher and take the uphill path to Apollonian solar glory. The first road is easy. To tread it we need simply give in to our basest instincts, give up, and hope a saviour will arise to remove our troubles.” Or, as BAP says in The Bronze Age Mindset, “In the Bronze Age men had life and force…I see this spirit returning surely in our time.”
The spirit of heroes is returning to us but, right now, it appears that Americans are drifting toward Dionysian abandon. They chase sex, drugs, and pleasure. Rather than fight and triumph over whatever challenges they are presented with, they seek the easiest route. Rather than be individuals, as the greats of the Bronze Age (or American Revolution) chose to do, men today are weak, servile creatures that would rather bend the knee and become part of the masses. They want whatever scraps their anonymous masters deign to give them as they chase after the pleasures of the flesh.
That’s not how man is meant to live. Rather, we’re meant to follow the Apollonian Solar Path, a path of glory, achievement, and perseverance. Rather than flee from struggle we should embrace it. Instead of fearing danger, we should welcome it. By championing individuality, fighting back the evil that is constantly circling society, and by always being heroic, we can once again become a race of heroes.
That is why Undying Glory is an excellent book. Although myths are a significant part of it, the lessons within it aren’t reliant on the veracity of a story from the Bronze Age. It doesn’t matter if Perseus, Theseus, or Herakles were real, nor does it matter if the monsters they slayed and tyrants they overthrew were real. The stories themselves are what matter; it matters that each hero other than Herakles, when they stray from the Solar Path, fail and die in disgrace, Bellerophon wandering blind and lame and Jason weeping under the rotting timbers of the Argo.
That lesson, that one can only attain one’s highest state of being by remaining on the path of righteousness and manly virtue, is one that men today must relearn.
The way to learn it is to look back upon the past with fondness and attempt to emulate the best parts of it. For example, the Lacedemonians (Spartans) were descendants of Jason and his Argonauts, the best men of Greece. As Billinge tells the story, “The rest of the Argonauts slept with the Lemnian women, siring sons known as the “Minyans”…The Minyans were eventually driven out of Lemnos, settling in Lakedaimon, which became Sparta.”
That race of hardy, warlike men became the Spartans and they were the ones that remained on the Solar Path the best. Rather than slip into debauchery, chase after wealth, or waste time pursuing pleasure, the Lacedemonians trained constantly. They taught their youth tough lessons, all trained to fight to the death, and were known to never surrender. They didn’t stray from the path and became the masters of Hellas after the Peloponnesian War because of it.
Those are the men we should look back upon. They were better and stronger than the Athenians, and even the Athenians were better than us, as BAP says in The Bronze Age Mindset:
“Physically, spiritually and in intellect they exceed us in every way. I give example: our elite athletes, our special forces operators, are nothing compared to them. We find Paleolithic bones, the femur, so robust that nothing from our runners or power-lifters equals. These men were capable of sustained speeds unimaginable today. You know about Marathon, but not the whole story. The real physical feat wasn’t just the soldier who ran the twenty miles or so back to Athens to warn the people. The entire army ranged on the beach in heavy bronze armor, facing the enemy. After the Persians landed, the Greeks charged them from more than a mile away. The Persians were amazed at the line of gleaming bronze running toward them and their war cry. These men ran a mile in very heavy armor and also carried six-foot-plus ashen spear-spike. They drove the invaders into the sea. And right after this great effort they marched, still in armor, all the way back to Athens without pause, to prevent the Persians from making an opportune landing there. I don’t think any special military units would be able to equal this feat today, and these were the average citizens of Athens.”
We should be warriors like the Spartans, brave like Theseus, and unwilling to stray from the path we know to be right like Herakles. Their paths, when they stayed on them, led to glory and a better world. Straying from them led to evils and a lack of renown. That’s why you should read Undying Glory, that’s what it’ll teach you.
Conclusion: The Verdict
Should you read Undying Glory? Absolutely. It’s a fabulous book full of thrilling stories and important lessons. Learn how to live life better by reading it thoroughly.