Achieving fellowship with Dionysus

Barbette asked:

Is it possible to achieve fellowship with the divine (Dionysus) and if so how?

Answer by Stuart Burns

Barbette, I cannot begin to answer your question without first establishing just what you are asking. Please explain just what you mean by ‘fellowship with the divine’, and why you specifically reference Dionysus — the Roman god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, or in Greek mythology, of ritual madness and ecstasy.

I am giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you mean this in some figurative/ poetic sense, since the Gods (none of them) do not really exist. It is therefore not possible to have ‘fellowship with the divine’ in the sense of friendship and companionship (or any relationship at all) with non-existent divine entities (Gods).


Answer by Geoffrey Klempner

One way would be to get together with some friends, drink lots of wine, and dance around naked. That’s what the Greeks did. For all our much vaunted freedoms, the Greeks were way ahead of us. You and I would just get arrested if we tried to emulate the Greeks. It’s not quite the same, dancing around your living room with the curtains tightly closed.

The Dionysian is something Nietzsche thought deeply about. Wagner’s operas embody the spirit of Dionysus. Arguably, all true art has something of this spirit, divine madness, lack of control. But to be art rather than just a mess, there has to be control in there too somewhere. Hence, the opposite element, the ‘Apollonian’ aspect of order and measure.

Rock music is, or would be, the nearest equivalent to the Dionysian were it not so formulaic and hidebound. The time for a god like Wagner has passed. Contemporary art is mostly petty and effete, ‘art’ only in name. That’s what Nietzsche would have said. Will the true spirit of Dionysus ever return? Until it does, I’ll stick to wine, lots of wine.


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