Η γλώσσα κόκαλα δεν έχει, αλλά κόκαλα τσακίζει (the pen is mightier than the sword)
Wine and children speak the truth. - Greek Proverb
It begins in Greece. Lycurgus sets the groundwork for others to build upon. Thales, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Xenophon and so on. The Greek Mythos is an astounding compendium of gods, parables, and life lessons. The West has been erected on the foundation of myth and law, the dance between the irrational and the rational. Within the dance is where the wonder of life, and civilized life for that matter, dwells.
We walk the earth as vessels that contain the ability to calculate the rotation of the earth while also being able to create Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Humans are amazing - both Bayesian and romantic, disciplined and wild. Thus, the Greeks knew the importance of the dichotomy which is anthropomorphized through Apollo and Dionysus.
The psychology (as Socrates might use the word) and theology of the two Middle dialogues Symposium and Phaedo are neatly complementary. Dionysus himself, the god and the beverage, and Dionysiac ecstasis are salient themes in the former, while Apollo, guardian of the boundary between mortals and gods, presides over the "Death dialogue." Each offers, to his initiates, different access to deity, even to deification, corresponding respectively to what true philosophers can experience during their lifetimes (Symposium) and to that for which their "practice of death" prepares them – that is, of course, their psukhai – following this "life" in the prison of a body (Phaedo).
The excess of a virtue is a vice. - Greek Proverb
In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of the sun, of rational thinking and order, and appeals to logic, prudence and purity. Dionysus is the god of wine and dance, of irrationality and chaos, and appeals to emotions and instincts.
Despite his being a purely imaginary being, the Greek god Apollo has long been an object of interest, if not fascination or reverence, in our culture. Many people have even gone so far as to identify or characterize themselves in terms of what they believe to be one or another of his salient attributes, such as reason, feeling: inspiration, creativity, etc.-or to reject Apollo altogether, preferring instead to personally identify with a different god such as Dionysius (the classical Greeks themselves did not see Apollo and Dionysus as opposing figures), Prometheus, Epimetheus, etc.
Moreover, the practice of Apollo worship or emulation continues to the present day, generally among those who fancy themselves to be more in the refined emotionally restrained tradition-respecting "Classical" mode. Each of these groups thinks that they understand something essential about Apollo's nature and character, either in terms of philosophical aspects of his personality, his behavioral traits, or his social persona.
The Apollonian and Dionysian live in us all. The beauty is discovered between the artful dance one does between the two. An Aristotelian mean if you will.
Apollo represents harmony, progress, clarity, logic and the principle of individuation, whereas Dionysus represents disorder, intoxication, emotion, ecstasy and unity, the omission of individuation. Here is where one sees the importance of looking behind the apparent dichotomy to see the actual synthesis of the two figures. Each person, community and nation for that matter contain logic and ecstasy. This is how both laws and culture emerge.
With stupidity even the gods themselves struggle in vain - Shiller
The Apollonian is light and structured while the Dionysian is dark and primitive. However, it is to be noted that the primitive nature of the Dionysian attributes is not to be considered hedonic, it is a way that is expressive and deeply tortuous. Beauty emerges from the depths of darkness.
For most, the primitive is associated with females, wild/chaotic nature, and unconstrained sex/procreation. In contrast, the Apollonian is associated with males, clarity, celibacy, rationality/reason, and solidity, and the goal of oriented progress.
There is a biological basis to the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy. The dance between Apollo and Dionysus is the dance between the higher cortex and the older limbic and reptilian brains.
That city is well fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick. - Lycurgus
The progress of human civilization is a nod to masculinity revolting against the primitive forces of nature, and turning instead to the Apollonian trait of ordered creation. The Dionysian is a force of chaos and destruction, the chaotic state of wild nature.
Nietzsche introduces a dichotomy between the Dionysian and the Apollonian - reality as disordered and undifferentiated, versus reality as ordered and differentiated. Life always involves a struggle between these two, each vying for control over the existence of humanity.
In Nietzsche's words, 'Wherever the Dionysian prevailed, the Apollonian was checked and destroyed... wherever the first Dionysian onslaught was successfully withstood, the authority and majesty of the Delphic god Apollo exhibited itself as more rigid and menacing than ever.'"
The issue is how to experience the Dionysian side of life without destroying the obvious values of the Apollonian side. It is not healthy for an individual, or for a whole society, to become entirely absorbed in the rule of one or the other. The healthiest foothold is in both. A strong society is both reasoned and creative. Innovation and growth do not come from logic alone, culture inspires progress and progress inspires culture.
Portraying Western culture as a struggle between heavenly religion on the one hand and primitive earth-religion on the other, leads to Apollo with order, structure, and symmetry, and Dionysus with chaos, disorder, and nature.
On July 16, 1969, one million people, from all over the United States, converged on Cape Kennedy, Florida, to witness the launching of Apollo 11. On August 15, 1969 three hundred thousand people, from all over the United States, converged on Bethel, New York, near the town of Woodstock, to witness a rock music festival.
What the conflict of reason versus irrational emotion means is Apollo 11 versus the Woodstock festival. One is asked to make a choice between these two — and that the whole weight of today’s culture is being used to push one to the side of and into Woodstock’s mud.
Again, Apollo is the symbol of beauty, order, wisdom, efficacy the symbol of reason. Dionysus is the symbol of drunkenness or, rather: wild, primeval feelings, orgiastic joy, the dark, the savage, the unintelligible element in man — the symbol of emotion. Its easy to see the distinction between those that would gravitate to NASA vs Woodstock, but that is a surface level notion as the same people that worked on the Apollo 11 listened to the same music and likely did the same drugs as those that attended the Woodstock festival.
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. - Walt Whitman
Apollo represents the principle of individuality, while Dionysus leads man 'into complete self-forgetfulness' and into merging with the 'oneness' of nature.
Reason is the faculty of an individual, to be exercised individually; and it is only dark, irrational emotions, obliterating his mind, that can enable a man to melt, merge and dissolve into a mob or a tribe.
One million people came to Cape Kennedy for the launching of Apollo. Those people were not a stampeding herd nor a manipulated mob; they did not wreck the Florida communities, they did not devastate the countryside, they did not throw themselves, like whining thugs, at the mercy of their victims; they did not create any victims. They came as responsible individuals able to project the reality of two or three days ahead and to provide for their own needs.
There were people of every age, creed, color, educational level and economic status. They lived and slept in tents or in their cars, some of them for several days, in great discomfort and unbearable heat; they did it gamely, cheerfully, gaily. They projected a general feeling of confident goodwill, the bond of a common enthusiasm; they created a public spectacle of responsible privacy — and they departed as they had come, without benefit of press agents.
The most profound breach in America is not between the rich and the poor, but between the people and the intellectuals. In their view of life, the American people are predominantly Apollonian; the 'mainstream' intellectuals are Dionysian. Another comparison to consider is the master/slave dichotomy.
The golden god of the sun, Apollo was the archetypal divine hero of classical mythology – the original Olympian Superman. His divine attributes or powers were extremely varied – the sun and light, but also archery, prophecy and truth, music and poetry, healing and more. In popular religion, Apollo had a strong function as protector from evil – in short, he stood for truth, justice and the Grecian way.
For Nietzsche, the Apollonian stood for the forces of reason and logic, control and clarity, structure and order, art and science – in short, the ideal of perfection
The people are reality/commonsense/technology-oriented ('materialistic' and 'middle-class'); the intellectuals are emotion-oriented and seek, in panic, an escape from a reality they are unable to deal with, from a technological civilization that ignores their feelings. And this is the whole shabby secret: to some men, the sight of an achievement is a reproach, a reminder that their own lives are irrational and that there is no loophole, no escape from reason and reality. Their resentment is the cornered Dionysian element baring its teeth.
On the other hand, Dionysus was a foreign newcomer to Olympian pantheon and the god most associated with mortality – the son of a mortal mother (by Zeus) and a god who died to be reborn. He was also a darker figure as the god of intoxication in all its forms – ecstasy, fear and madness.
For Nietzsche, the Dionysian stood for the forces of passion and emotion, chaos and mysticism, music and intoxication – in short, the ideal of a romantic.
APOLLONIAN UBERMENSCH VS DIONYSIAN PRODIGY
Alas, society has to applaud the Apollonian Ubermensch. Nietzsche and his latter-day neo-Dionysian disciples attribute human civilization and progress to the Apollonian, while the Dionysian provides beauty in the arts, music, and culture. The more Apollonian society builds rocket ships, one only has to look to the 1960’s, where the Apollonian went to the moon. While the Dionysian got high and made beautiful music and art.
Society is stable only when the Apollonian and the Dionysian are present. Only through the interplay of the two seemly opposed ways of nature can a society and its people thrive. Now let’s celebrate with poetry, fine arts, and cold calculations. This intersection is where the uniqueness of art, money, and technology intertwine in the metaverse on a blockchain in the form of NFT’s… but this is for another essay.