- Dionysus: Myth and Cult
- The Occult Revival
- Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733
- Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome.
- Dionysus, Live at the Apollo: The Modern Rock Concert as Ecstatic Spectacle
Bacchum vinctum ad se perducerent. The plot of which is as follows: Pentheus, son of Echion and Agave, king of Thebes, resented that Father Liber, born from his aunt Semele, was worshipped as a god; as soon as he heard that Liber was on Mount Cithaeron, he sent servants to bring Liber bound to him. When they did not find Liber himself, they captured Acoetes, one of his comrades, and brought him to Pentheus. While Pentheus pondered a worse punishment for him, he ordered him to be locked away in the meantime, bound as he was, when out of their own accord the doors of the prison flew open and the bonds fell off Acoetes.
Pentheus was astonished and set out for Mount Cithaeron to spy on the rites of Father Liber…. There are hints in this direction, but by leaving out an epiphany and keeping his god firmly offstage, Ovid ensures that we recognize Bacchus only when he appears as what he is not, as a character who recedes ever further back into the realm of miraculous narrative. At the same time, the duplicitous nature of Acoetes-as-Bacchus gives the overall utterance a rather ominous force. By not understanding the message implicit in the embedded narrative, namely that Bacchus is a god who demands recognition and respect, Pentheus proves that he belongs among the latter.
It is undoubtedly significant that he never considers the possibility that there may be more to the stranger than meets the eye, thus committing an offense with fatal consequences in classical literature, from Homer to tragedy and beyond. But as the god of drama, he has been present from the first act of the Theban story, the birth of the Sown Men, compared in a simile as they rise from the earth to the figures appearing on a theatre curtain as it is raised 3. Like the famous simile at Aeneid 4. And this is not a challenge to be undertaken lightly — or in the ham-fisted fashion of a Pentheus.
Seidensticker Another tradition explains his loss of eyesight as the result of seeing the goddess Athena naked at her bath; infuriated, she struck him blind, but then felt remorse and granted him the gift of prophecy in recompense. John Henderson. Zeitlin 74— A legendary cycle gradually assimilated to the career of Alexander the Great featuring eastern expeditions and, above all, conquests in India, rose to prominence in the Hellenistic period and passed into popular art, as well as the iconography of various Hellenistic kings and Roman generals: see further Zissos Creative Commons - Attribution 4.
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Search inside the book. Table of contents. Cite Share. Cited by. The Set Text: Pentheus and Bacchus p. Text Notes. Full text. Zoom in Original jpeg, 40k. Zoom in Original jpeg, 36k. Ovid similarly characterizes Romulus and Remus, the founde Zoom in Original jpeg, 20k. Zoom in Original jpeg, 39k. Notes 47 See Comm. John Henderson 59 See Comm. List of illustrations Caption Fig. Read Open Access. Freemium Recommend to your library for acquisition. Buy Print version Open Book Publishers amazon.
Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, generated 11 octobre ISBN: Gildenhard, I. The Set Text: Pentheus and Bacchus. In Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3. He did so, and when he touched the waters the power passed into them, and the river sands changed into gold. This was an etiological myth that explained why the sands of the Pactolus were rich in gold.
Euripides composed a tragedy about the destructive nature of Dionysus in The Bacchae. Since Euripides wrote this play while in the court of King Archelaus I of Macedon, some scholars believe that the cult of Dionysus was malicious in Macedon but benign in Athens. In the play, Dionysus returns to his birthplace, Thebes, which is ruled by his cousin Pentheus. Dionysus wants to exact revenge on Pentheus and the women of Thebes his aunts Agave, Ino and Autonoe for not believing his mother Semele's claims of being impregnated by Zeus , and for denying Dionysus's divinity and therefore not worshiping him.
The Maenads are in an insane frenzy when Pentheus sees them earlier in the play they had ripped apart a herd of cattle , and they catch him but mistake him for a wild animal. Pentheus is torn to shreds, and his mother Agave, one of the Maenads , not recognizing her own son because of her madness, brutally tears his limbs off as he begs for his life. When King Lycurgus of Thrace heard that Dionysus was in his kingdom, he imprisoned all the followers of Dionysus; the god fled, taking refuge with Thetis , and sent a drought which stirred the people into revolt.
Dionysus then made King Lycurgus insane, having him slice his own son into pieces with an axe, thinking he was a patch of ivy, a plant holy to Dionysus. An oracle then claimed that the land would stay dry and barren as long as Lycurgus was alive, so his people had him drawn and quartered; with Lycurgus dead, Dionysus lifted the curse.
This story was told in Homer's epic, Iliad 6. In an alternative version, sometimes shown in art, Lycurgus tried to kill Ambrosia, a follower of Dionysus, who was transformed into a vine that twined around the enraged king and restrained him, eventually killing him. A better-known story is that of his descent to Hades to rescue his mother Semele , whom he placed among the stars. He was guided by Prosymnus or Polymnus, who requested, as his reward, to be Dionysus' lover.
Prosymnus died before Dionysus could honor his pledge, so in order to satisfy Prosymnus' shade, Dionysus fashioned a phallus from an olive branch and sat on it at Prosymnus' tomb. It appears to have served as an explanation of the secret objects that were revealed in the Dionysian Mysteries. Another myth according to Nonnus involves Ampelos, a satyr. The Fates granted Ampelos a second life as a vine, from which Dionysus squeezed the first wine. Young Dionysus was also said to have been one of the many famous pupils of the centaur Chiron.
According to Ptolemy Chennus in the Library of Photius, "Dionysius was loved by Chiron, from whom he learned chants and dances, the bacchic rites and initiations. When Hephaestus bound Hera to a magical chair, Dionysus got him drunk and brought her back to Olympus after he passed out. Dionysus, as patron of the Athenian dramatic festival, the Dionysia , wants to bring back to life one of the great tragedians.
After a competition Aeschylus is chosen in preference to Euripides. When Theseus abandoned Ariadne sleeping on Naxos, Dionysus found and married her. She bore him a son named Oenopion, but he committed suicide or was killed by Perseus. In some variants, he had her crown put into the heavens as the constellation Corona; in others, he descended into Hades to restore her to the gods on Olympus.
Callirrhoe was a Calydonian woman who scorned a priest of Dionysus who threatened to afflict all the women of Calydon with insanity. The priest was ordered to sacrifice Callirhoe but he killed himself instead. Callirhoe threw herself into a well which was later named after her. Powell, and Peter Wick, among others, argue that Dionysian religion and Christianity have notable parallels.
They point to the symbolism of wine and the importance it held in the mythology surrounding both Dionysus and Jesus Christ;   though, Wick argues that the use of wine symbolism in the Gospel of John , including the story of the Marriage at Cana at which Jesus turns water into wine, was intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus. Additionally, some scholars of comparative mythology argue that both Dionysus and Jesus represent the "dying-and-returning god" mythological archetype.
Another parallel can be seen in The Bacchae wherein Dionysus appears before King Pentheus on charges of claiming divinity is compared to the New Testament scene of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilate. Kessler in a symposium Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire , Exeter, 17—20 July , argues that Dionysian cult had developed into strict monotheism by the 4th century CE; together with Mithraism and other sects the cult formed an instance of "pagan monotheism" in direct competition with Early Christianity during Late Antiquity. The god appeared on many kraters and other wine vessels from classical Greece.
His iconography became more complex in the Hellenistic period, between severe archaising or Neo Attic types such as the Dionysus Sardanapalus and types showing him as an indolent and androgynous young man and often shown nude. The 4th century Lycurgus Cup in the British Museum is a spectacular cage cup which changes colour when light comes through the glass; it shows the bound King Lycurgus of Thrace being taunted by the god and attacked by a satyr.
Elizabeth Kessler has theorized that a mosaic appearing on the triclinium floor of the House of Aion in Nea Paphos, Cyprus , details a monotheistic worship of Dionysus. Dionysus has remained an inspiration to artists, philosophers and writers into the modern era. In The Birth of Tragedy , the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche contrasted Dionysus with the god Apollo as a symbol of the fundamental, unrestrained aesthetic principle of force, music, and intoxication versus the principle of sight, form, and beauty represented by the latter.
Nietzsche also claimed that the oldest forms of Greek Tragedy were entirely based on suffering of Dionysus. Nietzsche continued to contemplate the character of Dionysus, which he revisited in the final pages of his work Beyond Good and Evil. This reconceived Nietzschean Dionysus was invoked as an embodiment of the central will to power concept in Nietzsche's later works The Twilight of the Idols , The Antichrist and Ecce Homo. The Russian poet and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov elaborated the theory of Dionysianism, which traces the roots of literary art in general and the art of tragedy in particular to ancient Dionysian mysteries.
Inspired by James Frazer, some have labeled Dionysus a life-death-rebirth deity. The mythographer Karl Kerenyi devoted much energy to Dionysus over his long career; he summed up his thoughts in Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life Bollingen, Princeton Dionysus is the main character of Aristophanes' play The Frogs , later updated to a modern version by Burt Shevelove libretto and Stephen Sondheim] music and lyrics "The time is the present. The place is ancient Greece. In the play, Dionysus and his slave Xanthius venture to Hades to bring a famed writer back from the dead, with the hopes that the writer's presence in the world will fix all nature of earthly problems.
The Romanised equivalent of Dionysus was referenced in the plantation literature novel Aunt Phillis's Cabin is alive , which featured a character named Uncle Bacchus, who was so-named due to his excessive alcoholism. Both Eddie Campbell and Grant Morrison have utilised the character. Morrison claims that the myth of Dionysus provides the inspiration for his violent and explicit graphic novel Kill Your Boyfriend , whilst Campbell used the character in his Deadface series to explore both the conventions of super-hero comic books and artistic endeavour.
Walt Disney has depicted the character on a number of occasions. In keeping with the more fun-loving Roman god, he is portrayed as an overweight, happily drunk man wearing a tunic and cloak, grape leaves on his head, carrying a goblet of wine, and riding a drunken donkey named Jacchus "jackass". He is friends with the fauns and centaurs , and is shown celebrating a harvest festival.
Dionysus: Myth and Cult
Other portrayals have appeared in both the Disney movie and spin-off TV series of Hercules. He was depicted as an overweight drunkard as opposed to his youthful descriptions in myths. He has bright pink skin and rosy red cheeks hinting at his drunkenness.
He always carries either a bottle or glass of wine in his hand, and like in the myths, wears a wreath of grape leaves upon his head. He is known by his Roman name in the series 'Bacchus', and in one episode headlines his own festival known as the 'Bacchanal'. In music Dionysius together with Demeter was used as an archetype for the character Tori by contemporary artist Tori Amos in her album American Doll Posse , and the Canadian rock band Rush refer to a confrontation and hatred between Dionysus and Apollo in the Cygnus X-1 duology.
In literature, Dionysius has proven equally inspiring. Rick Riordan's series of books Percy Jackson and The Olympians presents Dionysus as an uncaring, childish and spoilt god who as a punishment has to work in Camp Half-Blood. In Fred Saberhagen's novel, God of the Golden Fleece, a young man in a post-apocalyptic world picks up an ancient piece of technology shaped in the likeness of the Dionysus. Here, Dionysus is depicted as a relatively weak god, albeit a subversive one whose powers are able to undermine the authority of tyrants.
A version of Bacchus also appears in C. Lewis ' Prince Caspian , part of the Chronicles of Narnia. Lewis depicts him as dangerous-looking, androgynous young boy who helps Aslan awaken the spirits of the Narnian trees and rivers. He does not appear in the film version. In the poet Stephen Howarth and veteran theatre producer Andrew Hobbs collaborated on a play entitled Bacchus in Rehab with Dionysus as the central character.
The women who serve Dionysus are wholly similar, in their actions and their suffering, to the female attendants who are inseparably bound to him in the myth. A naive interpretation, which we encounter even in antiquity, sees cult practices of this type as a reflection, that is to say, as an imitation of myth. More recent scholarship emphatically rejects this thesis and interprets mythology, on the contrary, as a product of the imagination evoked by cult practices.
When it comes into existence, moreover, its true meaning has often long since been forgotten. This proposal seems to be supported by a type of legendary story which was obviously invented to explain names and customs which had become unintelligible, and is, therefore, called aetiological. One should think, however, that such inventions can never completely conceal their premeditated purpose, and by this very fact they are different from the old creations in which the unbiased observer is unable to discover anything tendentious.
Actually no reasonable man believes that all myths were produced in as rational a manner as this. Rather, they are supposed to be a translation of the ritualistic practices into the form of sacred old events, a poetic metamorphosis of a cult act into a story in which gods and heroes now assumed the roles which, in reality, man in his worship had acted out. Still, one only has to imagine the way in which this so-called transference came about to become certain that no participant in cultus ever would have thought of it, if the world of myth into whose theatre its practices were transferred had not already been in existence.
There is no doubt that both sides are both right as well as wrong. Cultus was not called to life by myth, nor was myth by cultus. Both presuppositions lead of necessity to absurdity, if we try to think them through to their conclusions. And yet modern theory has misunderstood and disparaged this explanation more than have all previous speculations and reveries.
Completely dominated and blinded by the self-confidence of the rational and technical civilization of its time, modern theory has never recognized the astonishing dimensions of cultus, grasping merely that part of its living essence which a mind receptive only to what is useful would grasp of the living essence of a cathedral. Were the phenomenon of artistic creation completely lost to us at some time, we would first have to approach it with wonder before we would dare to penetrate to its meaning.
So, the phenomenon of cultus, which has, as a matter of fact, been lost to us except for a few ancient remnants, should awaken in us, above all, a deep sense of awe. Cultus as a totality belongs to the monumental creations of the human spirit. To get a proper perspective of it, we must rank it with architecture, art, poetry, and music-all of which once served religion. It is one of the great languages with which mankind speaks to the Almighty, speaking to Him for no other reason than that it must. The Almighty or "God" did not earn these names of Almighty or God only by striking fear into man and forcing him to win His good will by favors.
The proof of His greatness is the power it engenders. Man owes the highest of which he is capable to the feeling of His presence. And this highest is his power to speak, a power which bears witness to the marvelous encounter through which it is conceived and brought into being. Every manifestation also unlocks the soul of man, and this immediately It 19 results in creative activity.
Man must give utterance to the feeling of awe which has seized him.
One can call them the habitations of godhead, and yet this term expresses only an insignificant part of their great meaning. They are the mirror, the expression of the Divine, born of a spirit which must express itself in plastic form when the splendor of greatness has touched it. The most sacred of these great languages is the language of cultus. Its age lies far behind us, and it is really not surprising that it is precisely its language which has become more alien to us than all the others. It testifies that the Almighty was so near that man had to offer his own being as the form in which this proximity could be expressed-an expression that the other languages were called upon to create, from a greater distance, through the media of stone, color, tones, and words.
For this reason they have become more powerful as the proximity of deity disappeared, while cultus slowly lost its vitality.
The Occult Revival
But it continued as the companion of other languages for thousands of years, and many of its forms still had the power, even in later ages, to evoke a deity whose presence they had summoned up in time past. None of this contradicts the fact that the deity is offered something in cultus which will delight it, something which should have value for it. None of it contradicts the fact that this is accompanied by man's natural wish to be blessed by the good will of deity.
Wherever men are united by awe and love, the first impulse of reverence and giving is the need to express great emotion. Yet if we suspect self-interest, we consider the giver's sentiments to be base or his piety unwarranted. If so, let us stop using words as awe-inspiring as "faith" and "worship.
The man. The forms of cultus are determined by the proximity of deity. Hence many of them have the characteristics of immediate communion with it. Sacrifice makes its appearance as a gift which deity is to receive, a repast in which it is to participate. Prayer is a salutation, a eulogy, or a request. But the position which the worshipper assumes, his physical acts, are unquestionably older than his words and more primal expressions of his feeling that the god is present.
Its force we can no longer conceive of by considering the emotion of which man in our experience is capable. That which he later built out of stones to honor God and his cathedrals still tell us of this today , that very thing he, himself, once was, with his arms stretched out to heaven, standing upright like a column or kneeling. And if, in the course of centuries, the only element which remained generally undc;rstood in the infinite meaning of that act was the act of supplication, just a tiny remnant of that meaning, then that is merely an example of the same poverty of understanding from which other forms of cultus also suffered in later ages.
The rite of the blood sacrifice is a creation whose greatness we can still experience, even though its significance was, for the most part, already lost in the time when it was still being practiced. If we were in a position to feel once more what it means for a god to be in our immediate presence, only an experience of this imminence could open our eyes.. Even to hope for such an experience is presumptuous. But thIS should not make us incapable of recognizing, in the powerful drama of the animal which sheds its life-blood, the expression of a state of mind, the sublimity of which can be found paralleled only in the great works of art.
Nothing makes less sense than to confuse the element of expediency, which is never completely lacking in any genuine act of creation, with the spirit which has produced the created whole. To do this is to take the process of fossilization for the process of life. The more the creative spirit is eclipsed, the more prominent interest and utility always become.
If we were to adhere to the utility thesis, we would have absolutely no way of dealing with those acts of cultus for which the analogies of our own existence would no longer permit us to divine a purpose. I think of dances, processions, dramatic scenes of highly divergent types. Let us not be confused any longer by the barren ideology with which the members of retrograde cultures presume to explain their customs which still survive but are no longer understood.
The serious observer cannot doubt that the dances and evolutions of " cultus were set into motion and given form by a contact with the Divine. The idea we like so much today-that man wanted to be transformed into a god-coincides, at best, with a late interpretation. But God had, as yet, no history which could be related and imitated.
His myth lived in cult activity, and the actions of cultus expressed in plastic form what He was and what He did. Before the faithful visualized the image of their God, and gave verbal expression to His life and works, He was so close to them that their spirit, touched by His breath, was aroused to holy activity. With their own bodies they created His image. His living reality was mirrored in the solemnity of their actions long before this mute or inarticulate myth was made eloquent and poetic.
The great era of this myth, strictly speaking, dawned only after cultus began to lose its original freshness and creative vitality and become fixed. At that time great sculptors drew anew from the same divine abundance out of which practices of cultus had arisen. In its emotion-filled richness they found a diversity of Being and Becoming which cultus had not made apparent. Living reality is always inexhaustible. Other people may have received in the presence of godhead holy laws and most secret wisdom, but the Greek genius was given the key to a great theatre, whose scenes revealed the wonders of ,the world of the gods with a clarity which is unparalleled.
The sacred Being, which, in the cult of every god, led irresistibly to ritual, became clear, and was revealed in an abundance of forms. That is the way of the Greeks. Are we to call it less religious than others because here faith in God does not reveal laws, penance, and the denial of the world,. For this religion, myth, as such, is no less of a Witness than cultus. Actually, it yields more information because the forms of cultus are less well known to us and are, unfortunately, all too often obscure.
The language of myth, on the other hand, is not only more mobile but also more distinct.. In the course of the years, moreover, man has used his poetic imagination to subject myth to. Viewed as a whole, however, it still remains the noblest phenomenon of Greek religion.
Such is. The greater their creative power was, the surer their belief in an Existence which has reality and the majesty of the One who set all into motion. Even the more modest followers of the great masters could not dispense with the idea of inspiration. Scholarship, unfortunately, has neglected to appreciate the significance of this phenomenon. To be sure, it has been struck by the greatness of the occurrence in which living and life-creating elements were generated, but it believes that it can judge the event itself without regard for the experiences of those who were involved with their whole being in an occurrence of this type.
What is known about man-man, as society shows him to be, who has the power to manipulate to his own advantage certain attributes of thought and action, and who allows himself, at times, to be edified by cultural achievements which have long since been createdthis well-known fact, given its proper magnification, is all scholarship needs, so it seems, to understand the most powerful thing that has ever been created. Modern man's preoccupation with primitive cultures has supposedly given this narrow point of view a broader focus. But this is an illusion; for it is sheer prejudice that the views and the capabilities which are commonly met in all of these cultures could really explain the structure of their ancient state institutions and cults.
The creative phenomenon must be its own witness. And its testimony has only one meaning: that the human mind cannot become creative by itself, even under the most favorable circumstances, but that it needs to be touched and inspired by a wonderful Otherness; that the efficacy of this Otherness forms the most important part of the total creative process, no matter how gifted men are thought to be. This is what the creative ones have told us in all ages when they appealed to an The true purpose of our critical analysis, however, is to recognize the opinionated-the trivial-for what it is, and to distinguish it from the great features by which the Divine made itself visible to the Greek spirit, which was born to observe.
The more recent scholarship in religion is surprisingly indIfferent to the ontological content of this belief. As a matter of fact, all of its methodology tacitly assumes that there could not be an essence which would justify the cults and the myths. As a basis for the cult practices of antiquity, it acknowledges nothing objective with which we would not be intimately acquainted in our everyday lives-nothing we w? Wilamowitz still says too lIttle when he remarks in the introduction of his book "!
But if we listen to Goethe when he earnestly assures us that great thoughts belong to no man but must be accepted thankfully and reverently as a gift and a blessing, then we learn to see the professions of a Homer, a Hesiod, and many others, in a new light. Whether we believe in Apollo and the Muses or not, we must acknowledge that the living consciousness of the presence of a higher Being necessarily is part of creative acts in the high style, and that our judgment can never do justice to the phenomenon of this type of creation if it ignores this fact.
Even the lesser minds who produce new forms of a more polished order in an area which has long since been delineated are probably aware of the mysterious, marvelous thing which is happening to them. But the closer we get to the great, the primal, the epoch-making creations, the clearer and more powerful this awareness becomes. Cultus, more than all other creations, bears witness to an encounter with the supernatural. In the beginning, however, the distinction was not as great as it seems today. The many different creations which we call the arts were formerly much closer to cultus, in fact, belonged to its own particular province.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733
Even language was, without a doubt, created in the commerce with the transcendent power which moves the world. Before it could contribute to the mutual understanding of mankind, it emerged with primal force in the form of glorification and prayer. From the arts, we can still observe how they freed themselves from their connection with cultus and became secular.
They were unquestionably called into life by a more powerful, a more deeply experienced afflatus of the miraculous, whose presence is attested to by the emotions of ecstasy and grace even today when the arts seem to have a completely independent existence. When we look, therefore, at origins, at fundamental forces, we must characterize all of the creative activities of man, without distinction, as cult practices.
But among these there is a more intimate nucleus which could never be secularized because here man himself, as a being having body and mind, is the substance in which the Almighty becomes form. These are the cult forms, in a special sense of the word. They could lose their resilience, they could disappear, but they could not be secularized. The others are somewhat removed from the mystery of the marvelous, and even if they could not exist or continue to exist without receiving the spark of life from the marvelous, still we cannot fail to think of this distance as 26 a part of them.
It is the special characteristic of the creation of cultus that it lacks this distance. It is so closely associated with a compelling awareness of the nearness of the supernatural that man is drawn with his whole being into the creative act of form-making. Sculptors and creators of every kind are aware of inspiration and flashes of insight; and the greater they are, the more reverence they show as they refer to the mystery which guides them.
Cultus, on the other hand, bears witness to the manifestation of godhead. At the center of all religion stands the appearance of God. That He has come, that He is present-this gives meaning and life to all of religion's primal forms. With this we have arrived at a primary occurrence which can no longer be understood as a product of man's thought, his constructs of knowledge, his everyday life, but rather as a prerequisite for them.
For even when we say "idea," we must insist that we are dealing with an irreducible something, with an instigator and director of thought processes, not with one of their results. The derivation of this primary "something" from the wellknown laws of thought and sense-perception has become the main concern of scholars in recent years. When these laws do not suffice, other categories of thought analogous to them are assumed so, for example, Ernst Cassirer.
These, supposedly, have made the same contribution to the establishment of a mythic world view as our categories of thought seem to be making to the establishment of our empirical world. The remaining hypotheses, which are quite contrived, at least in part, do not consider the basic phenomenon of the religious element at all. In fact, they are there just to avoid recognizing it, as far as they are able. But what good does it do to refer to the laws of the intellect if there is no recognition of that which has given rational thought its direction and purpose?
What is gained by referring to human needs, human wishes, and human forms of reality when it is just these elements which need explaining most? We really should understand that it is hopeless to derive the main forms of religious belief from an already completed store of ideas, necessities, and ideals. For these, even if they seem to correspond to certain given conditions in the external and internal world, still need something identifying them as a whole before they become what they are.
It is only our fragmentized way of looking at things which deceives us in this matter. We focus on individual necessities and needs, thought processes, wishes, goals, and ideals and do not consider the whole. We neglect to see that all of these are actually only single forms of a collective life pattern whose creation is a greater miracle than the accomplishments of the most distinguished creators and inventors.
And with that we have returned to the great act of creation. Everything refers back to it, and through it all forms-be they called works, necessities, or convictions-are shown the way. In the center of everything significant, in the center of every final intention stands the image of man himself-the form in which he wishes to see himself.
It is asinine to say that he lent this image to the Almighty, and thus the forms of men's gods came into being. It was in godhead that this image first appeared to him. Before man was in the position to see himself God manifested Himself to him. What the form and nature of man could and should be, man learned from the appearance of the Divine.
At the beginning stands always the god. By Him first are created the goal and the road to that goal; by Him, too, the suffering He is supposed to alleviate. It was not because man had wishes that a god appeared to man to grant him fulfillment, but the needs and the wishes, like the granting of the needs and wishes, flowed from the reality of godhead. Too much time has been spent on the senseless task of deriving the efficacious from the impotent. There is nothing in the world which has shown such productivity as the image of deity. Let us finally be convinced that it is foolish to trace what is most productive back to the unproductive: to wishes, to anxieties, to yearnings; that it is foolish to trace living ideas, which first made rational thought possible, back to rational 29 31 DIONYSUS MYTH AND CULTUS processes; or the understanding of the essential, which first gives purposeful aspirations their scope and direction, to a concept of utility.
The road on which all of them lie has been delineated by the primal phenomenon of the myth-and not by human intentions and circumstances.
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I suppose we do not want to base creativity, particularly in those aspects in which it is most significant, totally on an event which originates in godhead, separating it in the process from all of the human powers, capabilities, and inclinations we know from experience. We have the habit of looking at the great spiritual processes with uncreative minds.
Consequently, this concept must seem paradoxical to the highest degree. But paradox belongs to the nature of everything that is creative. There is meaning here in the statement that man's most intimate activity is not his own, that an "otherness" allies itself with him in all creation, and that this "otherness" has far more significance than the sum total of everything he instinctively experiences as his own intentions and faculties.
Anyone who investigates the cults and myths and does not permit himself to be confused by the concept of theoretical man who never would have produced anything like this must see immediately that the paradoxical contradiction which distinguishes all genuine acts of creation, is imperatively evident in cult and myth.
In them we acknowledge the greatest creations which give direction to all other creations; for it is they which are supported by such a vital and powerful awareness of a higher presence that man's activity no longer just works together enigmatically with the godlike but has become an out-and-out witness to the higher Being. All religions bear witness to the experience that every great instance of human efficacy is a revelation of divine efficacy.
And at the moment when the first forms of the whole formmaking process come into being, that is to say, at the moment when cults and myths appear, this experience becomes an 30 5 Whether we investigate the cultus and belief of a particular culture or human life as it is expressed in it, we always arrive at a great act of creation, which cannot be explained by any of the individual configurations of this culture but has endowed them all with their intrinsic nature, and hence, their being. The total Gestalt of what we call culture rests upon a commanding myth which is inseparably bound to the myth of godhead.
With the creation of this myth, culture and a national ethos are established. Prior to this they are not there at all. Of course, we do not mean by this that all of the varied perspectives of myth had to enter the world at one moment. The vitality which produced the great event could and had to create constantly something new-constantly new, and yet always the same.
If, thus, the experiencing of an almighty presence, of which cult practices give us overwhelming evidence, is the first link in every chain of vital evolution; if, in short, it cannot be explained by any of the phenomena which succeed it but rather is itself indispensable to the foundation of all future creative activity, then we must label it as the primal phenomenon and must recognize that the manifestation of godhead, from which all religions take their point of departure, is not only not a delusion but the most real of all realities. And we must admit that the doctrine of the manifestation of deity expresses adequately that which actually occurred and continued to occur as long as cultus and myth continued to give living testimony.
As for myth and cultus, they, too, are supposed to have become alive only through a secondary intellectual activity. The reality to which our observations have led us is far different. That which confronts mankind in epiphanies is not a reality which is completely unrecognizable and imperceptible, affecting only the soul which turns its back on the world, but the world itself as a divine form, as a plenitude of divine configurations.
These are the primal appearances which stand at the beginning of all of the more profound human activities and endeavors. They transform the horde into the community, the community into the nation, and go on to leave their mark on the creations of all of the basic forms of human existence. Thus none of the institutions and practices which affect the basic existence of a people is to be completely separated from cult.
Rather, all of them, in their periods of most vital growth, no matter how practical and useful they may be, are at the same time cult practices, that is to say, expressions or imitations of the glories of being which appeared at the beginning and established the culture through their appearance. As for these realities, in their totality they were nothing else but the divine vision of the world, seen even as a particular people was called upon to see it and be possessed by it.
But his idea of the "holy" is an objectiveness which manifests itself only psychologically and can be comprehended only by the methods of psychology. The soul, we are told, reaches a state where the emotions of terror and nothingness combine with those of rapture and adoration to produce a miraculous experience-the experience of an unquestionable reality. But this reality can be perceived only in emotional seizures of this type. Before it can be related to the objects of empirical knowledge, a special kind of mental activity is needed vis-a.
Rather, it is the "wholly other," something completely different from anything in our world. As such, it is revealed directly only to the experience of the soul, that is to say, to an entirely mystical experience. There can be no question that this doctrine, too, places at the beginning that which was to come later, even though it does advocate emphatically the reality of revelation.
Thus the secret retreat of the soul which has become fearful and confused and has been thrown back upon itself is placed be- 34 DIONYSUS 7 Current opinion to the contrary, therefore, it is not the application of unusual means to the achievement of a thoroughly natural aim, but the absence of expediency which makes cult practices so alien and strange to the modern mind.
Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome.
The basic character of these acts is not determined by the fact that the men who first participated in them wished to bring about some desirable objective, but the fact that they already possessed the most desirable of objectives-the imminence of deity. That a faith in future salvation should associate itself with an activity which sprang from such plenitude is natural and inevitable. From time immemorial man has considered it beneficial to assimilate the great occurrences of the earth and the universe.
A profound sense taught him to adjust his own actions to their forms and movements: to the course of the sun by turning toward the right; to the three- and four-fold divisions of heaven's and earth's expanse and to the passage of time by ordering his own existence, and so forth. But the assumption that practical considerations impelled him to do all of this, and not the necessity to pour out his heart and surrender himself to the great god, produces a prejudice whose persistence is explained all too easily by modern man's convictions.
To support this assumption, the intellect of ancient man had to be credited with something completely absurd: the notion that certain purely schematic practices affect objects with which they have no contact at all. A circle drawn around an endangered area was supposed to have been credited with the power of protecting everything found within that circle. And, in fact, ancient man is supposed to have thought that these practices had the power to force results even though they had only the most superficial resemblance to that which was wished.
Since, however, every sensible man knows today that they really have no power, we have the task of constructing a way of thought or view of life in which such ideas are something natural. This we call the world-view of magic. Its artificially organized system has the virtue of being closely related to modern man's way of thinking. Of course, it is admittedly composed of nothing but gross misconceptions, but here, too, it amounts to a mechanism of isolated causes and isolated results, and here, too, its chief relationship to the world is the will to master it.
The modern theoretician would rather credit his ancestors with the crudest blunders in their choice of means than ascribe to them serious actions which did not originate from some concept of utility. Otherwise he would be forced to admit that his own viewpoint could not act as the standard for the conduct of primitive peoples-in fact, it might even be restricting man's intellectual horizon to a serious degree. The problems which this point of view has forced upon us, leading as they have to some very pretentious theories of evolution, are nothing but sham problems.
Dionysus, Live at the Apollo: The Modern Rock Concert as Ecstatic Spectacle
There is, to be sure, a mental attitude which we are completely justified in calling "magical. Here, external occurrences are considered secondary and non-essential even though their help is gladly utilized. This is what the true magicians of all ages and all regions tell us-from the miracle workers in primitive tribes to Paracelsus and his followers. But even though there may have been communities which were dominated by this attitude, this much is certain: those who were destined to live in the world of cultus and myth could never have belonged to these communities.
Magic is dependent upon the formless world to be found in the inner recesses of the soul-a realm of the infinite, composed of the most mysterious powers. Myth and cultus, on the other hand, are meant to serve the true reality of the world of the earth and the stars. This genuine magic, the significance of which we shall in no way contest, had its name and prestige preempted by that system of absurd practices which is supposedly earlier in origin than myths and cults.
If it had not been for this, we would have been more suspicious of certain customs of primitive peoples and of the northern European peasants. We would have been far more aware of the ways in which the rituals failed to coincide with the ideas out of which they supposedly arose-even though the participants themselves may, on occasion, have accounted for the former in terms of the latter. Anyone who examines the nature of these rituals without prejudice must come away with the impression that they could exist only thanks to a great emotion, a feeling of passionate exaltation.
And such exaltation can have been aroused only by a mythic vision which had taken possession of the human spirit. Whatever type of myth this waswhether it revealed the essential form of the animal, or the drama of an awakening procreative force, the story of the course of the sun, the spirit of combat, etc. That was the form in which it existed among men, whether it ever was presented as narrative or not. But when the life of this myth is extinguished and the mechanical action is passed on from generation to generation, phantom ideas begin to inhabit the empty shell.
Then the declining and MYTH AND CULTUS 37 impoverished culture might well believe that this artistic structure was erected out of practical needs, the only thing it still understands; and scholarship believes that it must inquire only how that mentality was created which could ascribe an effective force to empty forms. How this relates at all to the customs of today's primitive man, to the fact that these customs are as non-mythic and as mechanical as theory assumes, will not be investigated here.
It is only after the essential greatness whose myth had given cult its meaning has disappeared from man's consciousness that the impoverished followers of static traditions could become the victims of the superstition that a mysterious power inhabited things done per se. The essence of superstition, in spite of what Tylor tells us, is not that it clings to something which has already been discarded, even though its presupppositions have long since lost their vitality, but that it adapts behavior which once arose from a great idea to a barren and prosaic train of thought, and makes it serve self-interest.
But the concept of utility, however early it may have attached itself to the cult act, is always secondary and contributes nothing to the understanding of the origins of the act.
The more it moves into the foreground, the greater the distance becomes between ritual and the spirit in which it was conceived. Wherever the concept of utility reigns supreme, cult actions have become completely superficial. This natural process has been reversed by scholars who have mistaken the static end product for the beginning of life. The simple ancient traditions, which they ignore with haughty contempt, deserve far greater respect. They placed, therefore, a great event at the beginning, and to this extent they are entirely consistent with the true nature of the creation of cult. No matter what may have happened to call a cult into life, it must necessarily have been of such a nature that no configuration suited it better than the story which we find in the tradition.
Something great must have occurred, a revelation of such miraculous force that the community of men made a living monument for it out of themselves, surrendering themselves completely to the holy ecstasy of being, in themselves, an answer to, and an expression of, the transcendent. What has been stated here in general terms could and should be illustrated in detail by numerous examples.
For the time being, however, it may be enough to advance a few instances which seemed unusually favorable to the modern point of view, and then, finally, to make reference to a few which openly contradict it. There was a very old ritual of expiation and purification which was widespread in the ancient world. This ritual stipulated that one or two men were to be led through the entire city; they were then to be killed outside the city; and their bodies were to be completely destroyed.
In other words, it was supposedly believed that the dangerous and the perilous clung to a man's being as an external defilement and could be removed by a very simple expedient much like the scrubbings we give our bodies. He was then killed and burned or taken over the border of the country just as one wipes a dirty table off with a sponge and then throws the sponge away That is quite primitive and understandable.
In the case we have before us, the disparity between the act itself and the thought process foisted upon it is so great that the naive self-assurance of the modern mind must astound us almost more than the so-called superstition of "primitive" 38 man. In spite of the fragmentary nature of the source material, the grandeur of the original act still reveals itself clearly enough.
The chosen one was beaten with branches, as if he were being blessed, and he was led around to the music of the flute. As we are explicitly told once, he was clad in holy garments and wreathed with sacred plants. Previously he had also been fed at public expense on especially pure foods. The entire celebration took place partly because of special circumstances when a pestilence raged in the land, partly at regular intervals at the time when the fruits of the field were approaching maturity.
It would be foolhardy to wish to interpret all of the particulars of the rite. They are not what is significant here, moreover, and the scholars who have fought over them have lost sight of the main point in the process. A man is clad and garlanded with great ceremony, he is led past every home to the accompaniment of music, and he is finally killed, either by being thrown off a cliff or by stoning.
And all of this is done to purify and protect the entire community. The horrifying pomp of thIS tragedy, however, demands, as its counterpart, something portentous-a sinister, lofty greatness to whose presence the community responded with such terrible seriousness. There is no name we can give to this dark Being whose giant shadow fell over the habitations of mankind. His myth was the cult practices themselves which created for the destroyer his image in a gruesome drama.
But this image would never have been created if he had not been overwhelmingly revealed from a position of immediate imminence. More exactly expressed-their ceremonial actions and the revelation of this colossal form were one and the same thing. Nor would they have been a. This only came second, as in all creativity, but It made ItS appearance quite naturally and necessarily. Just as the artist who gives expression and voice to the spirit of a great destiny in an eloquent painting frees himself from that spirit by this act and simultaneously saves everyone who is affected by his work, so the dreadful was abolished after it was given form in cult.
The city was purged of its sins, and freedom and health were regained. But the greater the focus was on goals and intentions, the more impoverished the essence of the ceremonial activity became, and where they alone ruled, it had become completely static and lifeless. This latter situation the evolutionists, with rare misunderstanding, have taken to be the original one. Their interpretation of the act of expiation proceeded wholly from the concept of utility allied with it, as if it were self-evident that the original meaning of the elements of this act could be divulged only by this concept.
That which seemed "primitive" and "understandable" to the evolutionists was that which was secondary in nature: the regard for material well-being, which, it is true, soon had to be valued as the most important element by the unoriginal thinkers of later generations and was suited here, as elsewhere, to make sacred rites into acts of good common sense. In the process, of course, the ancient forms remained behind as highly paradoxical remnants, and it was reserved for our age to be the first to talk of them as evidence for a practical common-sense point of view.
The sacrifice of men or animals on whom the burden of sin of the whole community is loaded is something quite different. We know of such acts from primitive cultures, too for example, in the detailed descriptions in G. Basden's book on the Ibos of Nigeria They also have nothing to do with the materialistic and mechanistic thinking which seems so natural to us. That which distinguishes them from cult practices per se is an idea which must seem just as absurd to the scholarly mind of our day as all cultic matters do. This is the stupendous idea of redemption through a life which has taken upon itself the guilt of all.
Grim customs like these are offset by more cheerful ones which give expression to the idea of divine assistance. The god himself, as the story goes, once freed the city from a pestilence by making the rounds in this way, and the ritual was established to commemorate this event.