Dionysian Impulse

Dionysus | Powers, Personality, Symbols, & Facts | Britannica

The Ancient Greeks knew of an important dichotomy woven into our existence — the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Two opposing forces that refer to the worship of Apollo — the god of light, gentle reason and intellectual order and the worship of Dionysus — the god of wine, ecstatic revelry and the chaotic pursuit of orgiastic pleasure. The Apollonian represents a state of measured restraint where man holds mastery over his emotions and maintains separation from his instinctual self. On the other hand, the Dionysian represents the state of drunkenness where man embraces his inner chaotic emotions and is moved by inspiration and wild passions.

These two forces are said to exist in delicate balance in both man and nature. In the context of art, the Dionysian in his frenzied expression lacks the form and structure to make a coherent piece of art. However without the Dionysian influence, the Apollonian in pursuit of rationalized perfection and logical structure loses the passion and vitality necessary for art to elicit a visceral appeal. Although the spirit of the Dionysian and Apollonian are diametrically opposite, they are intimately intertwined.

Nietzsche held a deep fascination with the Dionysian impulse—the mad impulse to riot, to dance, to sing and to live. The character of Dionysus contrasted with Apollo revealed all that was wrong with Christian morality and scientific mentality that further applies to the state of modernity — the drive to binarily divide the world into good and evil, to value unnaturally imposed order above figurative myth and to disregard all that is whimsical or superfluous beyond logical reason — are all derived from Apollonian ideals. One must embrace Dionysian drunken disorder and wild creative passion in order to attain primordial balance, a state beyond social barriers and narrowed thinking.

“There are people who, from the lack of experience or thick-headedness, turn away from such manifestations as from “folk-diseases,” mocking or with pity derived from their own sense of a superior health.

But of course these poor people have no idea how corpse-like and ghostly their so-called “health” looks when the glowing life of the Dionysian swarm buzzes past them.” - Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy


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