Friday, July 08, 2011

From Fragmentation to Integration 20

More Greek Myths

The greek God Apollo
Anyone acquainted with philosophy or literature will have heard of the Apollonian and Dionysian principles.  Again this theory refers to the creative balancing of polar opposites, the reconciliation of opposites, the healthy tension of opposites, call it what you wish, which is at the very heart of Creative Arts Therapy, and indeed all therapy, because one could certainly boil it down to what the psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Storr calls personal "integration."  Friedrich Nietzsche was first credited with drawing attention to the creative interplay of the Apollonian and Dionysian elements in the human make-up.  Before it was applied to the human psyche it was a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology.


In Greek mythology, Apollo and Dionysus are both sons of Zeus. Apollo is the god of the Sun, and also of dreams, and, most importantly that of reason while Dionysus is the god of wine, ecstasy, wildness and intoxication. The ancient Greeks did not consider the two gods to be opposites or rivals. However, Parnassus, the mythical home of poetry and all art, was strongly associated with each of the two gods in separate legends.

The WIKI puts the interplay or dialectic or dynamic tension between these two opposing but complementary principles most aptly indeed:

The relationship between the Apollonian and Dionysian juxtapositions is apparent, Nietzsche claimed in The Birth of Tragedy, in the interplay of Greek Tragedy: the tragic hero of the drama, the main protagonist, struggles to make order (in the Apollonian sense) of his unjust and chaotic (Dionysian) Fate, though he dies unfulfilled in the end. For the audience of such a drama, Nietzsche claimed, this tragedy allows us to sense an underlying essence, what he called the "Primordial Unity", which revives our Dionysian nature - which is almost indescribably pleasurable. Though he later dropped this concept saying it was “...burdened with all the errors of youth” (Attempt at Self Criticism, §2), the overarching theme was a sort of metaphysical solace or connection to the heart of creation, so to speak.  (See A and D)
As I've stated above Apollo is the god of the Sun, and also of dreams, order and measure, and, most importantly that of reason while Dionysus is the god of wine, ecstasy, wildness, frenzy, wild sexual abandon, communal celebration and intoxication.  Now, it was pure genius on Nietzsche's part to see the importance of joining the two in a healthy tension or polarity or balance of opposites.  For him, true tragedians like Aeschylus and Sophocles (but not Euripides), managed to bring the art of tragic drama to its highest pointr by combining the Apollonian perfection of poetry, reason and diction with the Dionysian energy of music and dance.  The true effect of tragedy is to hold both these worlds together in dynamic tension.  Now, it is important to state that mythology sees Orpheus as a son of Apollo.  Once again the the music of Orpheus, like that of Apollo, is the calm, soothing strains of the lyre.

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