Monday, June 14, 2010


Fredrick Nietzsche was acutely aware of the existential problem of man – that he is "Apollonian," an egotistical entity divorced from his feeling nature, capable of inflicting death upon his world because he cannot find real life in himself.

Nietzsche’s answer to this was to invoke Dionysus, the ancient god of drunkenness and debauch. He felt society should abandon itself to primitive, instinctual urges in order to regain that lost sense of vitality.

Nietzsche’s reference to Apollo and Dionysus may seem quaint and irrelevant to a modern mentality that dismisses "gods." But C. G. Jung elucidates these same concepts using the terms consciousness and the unconscious.

Contemporary consciousness has been dominated by a sterile, self-serving rationality producing war, disease and all social and personal ills. The antidote, according to many, is wholehearted obedience to whatever makes them feel most alive - no matter how such behaviors may seem to conflict with existing moral or societal strictures.

The unconscious offers an endless variety of insights and impressions, but these are like clouds that materialize in the morning and quickly fade away. A person perceiving them feels wise, but such wisdom is ephemeral and transient unless integrated with conscious awareness.

"Dionysus," is (so to speak) lord the unconscious, though he doesn't require declarations of faith from his subjects. Loyalty and allegiance are permutations of consciousness, whereas the followers of Dionysus are not even aware of being possessed by him. They live "high" without knowing what is truly happening, or of comprehending that their experience - which seems so full - is only partial.

This is unavoidable since the unconscious does not represent the totality of existence. Dionysians seek ultimate fulfillment, yet lose their energies in an exhaustive attempt to find satiety. They are frustrated because it is impossible to debauch to complete satisfaction. However immense the orgasm, whether sexual, political, relational or otherwise, it has one fatal flaw: it ends!

The pleasure of surrender to sensation, though intense, is fleeting. Such experiences are NOT heaven on earth – in fact they might be construed as a definition of hell: Wonderful feelings that don’t last.

Dionysus knows no law, and exerts no limits upon his followers. The native unconscious is immensely powerful in both creativity and destructiveness, but cannot tell the difference between them. Bestiality is the inevitable result, thus Dionysus transforms into a bull at the height of his powers.

It is only the consciousness that can distinguish between health and disease, and determine how the energy of the unconscious can best be utilized. Only consciousness can apply morality, law, and judgment to the questions of life, and discern between right and wrong.

Yet the conscious without the unconscious is, as Nietzsche observed, prone to its own extremes of behavior, to inhumane acts of self interest at the expense of others.

The ultimate solution is for neither the conscious or the unconscious to dominate, but for both to come into balance. Wholeness is only possible when these blend and merge equally, and become in unison what neither could ever be apart and alone.

This is no mere logical or mechanical conjunction, but represents the emergence of a new state of being.  

Beyond the capability or even the knowledge of the Apollonian and Dionysian realms of which it is composed lies a further frontier . . .


  1. Hi Boris. Given from Wednesday's Dreaming here. I think of Dionysis as the masculine component of the unconscious - much more than the god of drunkeness and debauchery. While the masculine component may be the part which is actively seeking oblivion through altered states and wanton destructiveness there is the balancing component of the feminine sometimes represented by the Sumerian goddess of the underworld, Erishkigal. As I see it she represents the balancing component of creativity within the unconscious or in other words, the feminine.

    It is my contention that the 'ephemeral wisdom' of the unconscious is the creative spark without which the conscious mind becomes stuck in a numbing loop leading to consumerism, war and destruction.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and thanks for writing.

  2. Divine things are revealed unto each created spirit
    in proportion to its Powers.

    I deeply appreciate that in this phallocratic society
    (Die-On-Isis) that you are fully embracing integration,
    diving Heart and Soul inward to a further frontier...
    Big hug to Annie! ;)

  3. Jung writes, "In the Dionysian state the Greek was anything but a 'work of art'; on the contrary, he was gripped by his own barbaric nature, robbed of his individuality, dissolved into all his collective constituents, made one with the collective unconscious . . . To the Apollonian side which had already achieved a substantial domestication of Nature, this frenzied state that made a man forget both himself and his manhood and turned him into a mere creature of instinct, must have been altogether despicable; for this reason a violent conflict between the two instincts was inevitable." Psychological Types, p. 175.