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Author Topic: "Apollonian" vs. "Dionysian"  (Read 22638 times)
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« Topic Start: August 12, 2009, 09:13:01 pm »

Apollonian and Dionysian are the first sort of terms I heard of for this concept, but perhaps there are others. Basically it is the pull between logic/reason and passion/wildness. I studied this theme a lot in a literature course last semester, and I'm reading Steven Pressfield's Last of the Amazons now, which is *very* centered around this too. The more religious nature of the Pressfield's story has me thinking about it more in terms of spirituality.

I like to think I balance the Apollonian and Dionysian sides of myself in my life and religion. But in reality I find myself overwhelmingly Apollonian, to my dismay. In Last of the Amazons (I'm about halfway through), I really sympathize with the Amazons as they face the loss of their way of life to the democratic perspective of Athens. It's kind of the same thing with the Native Americans and the settlers (kind of). I identify with the Dionysian so much, but in actuality it frightens me. I fear the loss of control that comes along with that side of life, so I shirk from it. It's quite hard for me to actually let loose and let my hair down. I'm hyper self-conscious a lot of the time.

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15

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« Reply #1: August 13, 2009, 04:48:26 am »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

Your whole post strikes a very familiar chord with me. I have extremes of both in my life (although generally one is more pervasive than the other at any given time) and am seeking a religious context for both. Thing is, I'm not sure that the answer lies in any one path and eclecticism doesn't offer me what I'm seeking. I certainly find the concept a useful tool for looking at different aspects of life.
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« Reply #2: August 13, 2009, 07:46:31 am »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

I lean more Apollonian for some strange reason having nothing I'm sure to do with being called by the deity the concept is named for.  Grin

As balance goes, I'm not worried about trying to keep the two in perfect balance.  In fact, I'm not convinced that it's useful for me to try to do that.  I feel like my values, my personality, my calling, my talents--all of these things are sort of predominantly Apollonian.  It makes sense to me, therefore, that my life follows suit.  To try to evenly balance the Apollonian with the Dionysian wouldn't be me.  The important thing, to me, is to just not go to extremes with it.  Moderation in all things.  Let loose sometimes.

I'm also not worried about balance because it's not something I necessarily consciously consider when looking at how I'd like my life to be.  I find it a useful way to describe my approach to religion and spirituality in general terms, but it's not something I work at sticking to.

Random associated thoughts--Heinlein has a great bit on this in Stranger.
Quote
People simplify "Apollonian" into "mild", and "calm", and "cool".  But "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" are two sides of one coin--a nun kneeling in her cell, holding perfectly still, can be in ecstacy more frenzied than any priestess of Pan Priapus celebrating the vernal equinox.

And here Jubal is actually specifically addressing the idea that a religious service doesn't have to be all, well, frenzied to be intense, that "quiet and easy", as Ben describes Mike's services, can pack just as much of a punch as a big high-energy revival.  But I like it as a general point, too.  The logic and reason and control inherent in the Apollonian side of things can, in its own way, be as spiritual and as ecstatic and provide as much connection as the passion and wildness and freedom of the Dionysian.
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« Reply #3: August 13, 2009, 07:57:40 am »

I like to think I balance the Apollonian and Dionysian sides of myself in my life and religion. But in reality I find myself overwhelmingly Apollonian, to my dismay.

Apollonian here, but very much not to my dismay. Smiley
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« Reply #4: August 13, 2009, 01:24:48 pm »


I'm stealth Dionysian and I walk the edge between.

I'm a little cranky about it, betimes.

See also this old post.
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« Reply #5: August 13, 2009, 07:36:18 pm »



What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

Most of the time I am Apollonian, but sometimes I can definitely be Dionysian.
When by myself, or at work, school, some social situations I am Apo. When with friends or partner I can lean more towards Diony.

So probably 70% (Ap) and 30% (Dion)

Cheers
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« Reply #6: August 13, 2009, 08:21:26 pm »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

Well, this is a loaded question for me. I'm going to try coming up with an answer and hope it makes sense. But right now I'll just say these two are incredibly more similar (like the quote Star posted) than what the surface presents. And if you have two much of one and not the other, things tend to go awry.

But for the sake of answering quickly, I'm Dionysian. Smiley
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« Reply #7: August 13, 2009, 10:10:32 pm »

Your whole post strikes a very familiar chord with me. I have extremes of both in my life (although generally one is more pervasive than the other at any given time) and am seeking a religious context for both.
I am also looking for a religious way of encouraging a healthy balance. I *want* to be more carefree, spontaneous, and downright wild. It's my 21st birthday at the end of the month for goodness sake... I "should" be having fun, right?! lol. I envy the seeming zest, light-heartedness, and passion of "party people," for lack of a better word.

But I shouldn't just talk about partying, because I realize it's probably just not my thing and that's fine. And Dionysian doesn't automatically equal party. It mainly comes down to a Dionysian lack of control that I fear but am also drawn to, and the more savage ways of life that I understand in my heart but do not exist for me elsewhere.

Just musing off your response... Smiley
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #8: August 13, 2009, 10:22:16 pm »

I lean more Apollonian for some strange reason having nothing I'm sure to do with being called by the deity the concept is named for.  Grin
No, not at all, I'm sure!

Quote
As balance goes, I'm not worried about trying to keep the two in perfect balance.  In fact, I'm not convinced that it's useful for me to try to do that.  I feel like my values, my personality, my calling, my talents--all of these things are sort of predominantly Apollonian.  It makes sense to me, therefore, that my life follows suit.  To try to evenly balance the Apollonian with the Dionysian wouldn't be me.  The important thing, to me, is to just not go to extremes with it.  Moderation in all things.  Let loose sometimes.

I'm also not worried about balance because it's not something I necessarily consciously consider when looking at how I'd like my life to be.  I find it a useful way to describe my approach to religion and spirituality in general terms, but it's not something I work at sticking to.
See, I do like balance. And I do think it's generally healthy to seek it. And it is probably quite Apollonian of me to be so conscious of balancing things. lol. I can see that you're totally at ease being Apollonian, and that's great. The reason I'm not so at ease with it myself is because I *don't* feel like it's "me." I get bogged down with it, perhaps you might even say mildly compulsive at times. Seeking order and logic can be a defense mechanism for me as well. I'm soo conscious in my thinking processes and analyzing situations and people that it holds me back; I think and overthink myself in circles and generally decide that non-action is best. It is difficult and extremely uncomfortable for me to let my guard down.

Not to say I'm uncomfortable with myself, but that it's hard for me to let loose even when I want to and that I become anally Apollonian when presented with any seemingly stressful situation.

Quote
And here Jubal is actually specifically addressing the idea that a religious service doesn't have to be all, well, frenzied to be intense, that "quiet and easy", as Ben describes Mike's services, can pack just as much of a punch as a big high-energy revival.  But I like it as a general point, too.  The logic and reason and control inherent in the Apollonian side of things can, in its own way, be as spiritual and as ecstatic and provide as much connection as the passion and wildness and freedom of the Dionysian.
Hmm... interesting. I'm not sure if I agree completely, or if I'm misunderstanding. I totally agree that "Apollonian" can also be ecstatic and passionate... I feel like I'm missing the "wild and free" part though.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #9: August 13, 2009, 10:24:40 pm »

I'm stealth Dionysian and I walk the edge between.

I'm a little cranky about it, betimes.

See also this old post.
I agree with the content in your link, and I do see the Dionysian as a necessary part of life. The issue of culture is an interesting and important one... and probably part of my issue. lol.
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #10: August 13, 2009, 10:25:28 pm »

Well, this is a loaded question for me. I'm going to try coming up with an answer and hope it makes sense. But right now I'll just say these two are incredibly more similar (like the quote Star posted) than what the surface presents. And if you have two much of one and not the other, things tend to go awry.

But for the sake of answering quickly, I'm Dionysian. Smiley
Well I hope you do post a full response then; I'm interested in what you'd have to say! Smiley
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"She who stands on tiptoe / doesn't stand firm. / She who rushes ahead / doesn't go far. / She who tries to shine / dims her own light. / She who defines herself / can't know who she really is. / She who has power over others / can't empower herself. / She who clings to her work / will create nothing that endures. / If you want to accord with the Tao, / just do your job, then let go." ~ Tao Te Ching, chp. 24

"Silent and thoughtful a prince's son should be / and bold in fighting; / cheerful and merry every man should be / until he waits for death." ~ Havamal, stanza 15
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« Reply #11: August 13, 2009, 10:28:35 pm »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion? Is it ever a struggle? Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

<--- is Apollonian at work, and a Dionysian in the sack Wink

The first time I encountered the dynamic tension between Apollonian & Dionysian was in an excellent fictional book by Elizabeth Hand, called Waking the Moon. She expanded on it in Black Light. In her universe, the Apollonian philosophy was embodied in the Benandanti - the 'Good Walkers' who stood for organized, civilized religion as a function of the State. They fought the Malendanti, who were closer to shamans, the ecstatic and murderous maenads who followed an eternal Goddess and killed their bright God off every year.

In my conspiracy-theory-loving mind, my perception of the Benandanti has blended w/the concept of the Illuminati, and I've developed this slightly absurd dislike for the Benandanti & the Apollonian because of it. A lot of the time I do have an internal conflict as well, because it's hard for me to pull my spontaneous, manic, inspired, ecstatic religious frenzies into my mundane, rigid, stolid, staid, orderly mundane world. I bemoan my lack of creativity and originality - but when I get drunk or get a spiritual high I'm extremely creative... I'm just not extremely coherent.
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« Reply #12: August 14, 2009, 01:26:51 am »

What side do you more lean towards, in your everyday life and then in your religion?

As far as the characteristics go, i'm a little bit of both. Mostly situational, but partially dependent on my mood.

Is it ever a struggle?

Not really, no.

Do you think this is an important or useful concept?

I find it a little too dualistic. Like most things, there's a rather massive spectrum.

My other issue with the comparison lies with the fact that it stems from what I find to be a very one-sided and overly-simplified view of Apollo and Dionysus. (More Apollo than Dionysus though) Personally, I find them to be a lot more alike than not- Apollo's er, darker (really, I don't like the "dark"/"light" dichotomy but nothing else works without being extremely wordy) and less calm, cool and rational sides are frequently ignored or overlooked.

Is it calm, cool and rational to kill off the sons of a woman who has made an insulting comment about your mother?

Is it calm, cool and rational to flay alive the loser of a musical contest?

Is it calm, cool and rational to kill the mother of your unborn child upon finding out that she's been unfaithful?

Nope, didn't think so. There's a great chapter taken from a book called The Gods Remain having a lot to do with Apollo and his less rational side here http://wwww.kolonospress.com/gods_remain_chapters/gods_rem_oidipous.html (This is the author's site, so there should be no copyright issues) Just for the record- there is a citation or two of Robert Graves that lead to one of his infamous invented references- though I have to say, invented or not, what is said makes perfect sense to me- but everything else that I've traced so far has checked out.

Why yes, I am a devotee of Apollo. Why do you ask? Now, I let the thread get back on topic.
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« Reply #13: August 14, 2009, 02:43:59 am »

Is it calm, cool and rational to kill off the sons of a woman who has made an insulting comment about your mother?
Maybe some things he has in common with his twin sister?

Not really on-topic, but maybe interesting:
http://www.neosalexandria.org/artemis_dionysos.htm
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« Reply #14: August 14, 2009, 08:17:21 am »

Hmm... interesting. I'm not sure if I agree completely, or if I'm misunderstanding. I totally agree that "Apollonian" can also be ecstatic and passionate... I feel like I'm missing the "wild and free" part though.

I think there may be some miscommunication in there somewhere, yes...  I didn't intend to claim "wild and free" for "Apollonian".  That, to me, goes firmly on the Dionysian side of the coin.  Wild and free vs. harnessed and controlled--but the point here is that if you get past that, both have the potential for being ecstatic.
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