There is a plague in the West that has been widespread and deadly for some time. Nietzsche, the troubled man who also predicted the Death of God at our hands, developed the idea of a dichotomy between “Dionysian” and “Apollonian”. These of course were named after the Greek gods and indeed brothers. Two extremes of the human condition and aspiration, one willing to pay suffering for glory, the other willing to pay glory to save themselves suffering and buy themselves a hedonistic transcendence. I will not go much further into explaining this, as many resources online can explain it in much clearer terms than I.
I am not in opposition to either way of being, I will say that now. The impulse for most people interested in religion in the West is to immediately reject the Dionysian as soulless hedonism. Stoics love to glorify the man who puts himself forth into the hell on Earth that can be found in just about every corner of life. To endure Hell is to have glory and honor, to shy from it is to be weak and shameful. Paglia suggests that it is the Dionysian, in fact, that is most related to Hell and darkness. I believe that in many ways it is in fact both. The Apollonian endures Hell on Earth as a means to achieve heavenly transcendence in his return, whether he is alive or dead. The Dionysian seeks heaven on Earth, in the sublime and comedic, but in this act he sees deep into the depths of Hell.
Regardless, I again do not believe one is more correct than the other, and this was certainly Nietzsche’s interpretation as well. He, in fact, viewed them as deeply interconnected – even dependent on each other.
So, what is the sickness? To put it plainly, we have lost both. The West, in practice at least, neither values the Apollonian conqueror nor the Dionysian king. There is no space in our economic and value system for either, in fact. Most people, it seems, simply drone away the days in their white collar cubicle; Some men who are lucky have blue collar jobs where they actually are given some autonomy. Regardless, Westerners (and this is increasingly becoming also true for the East) simply have no interest in either achieving Dionysian transcendence or Apollonian transcendence. There is no glory in war anymore, modern artillery has rendered War a purely hellish affair, with any glory that is achieved quickly disregarded by the general public. War was never a noble affair, but at least there was once honor in it.
War has become a way for our bravest and most independent men (and women) to either die, or return to home to an unfaithful spouse and intractable PTSD. Furthermore, there is no honor in what we aim to achieve strategically. In many cases, it is a very vague and often dishonest moral justification that involves some absurdly long-term “foresight” but is really just appeasement for military-industrial lobbyists. Nobody knows what it is anymore, if it is even war or simply an unnamed horror set upon the world by forces unbeknownst to the common man.
As for the Dionysian, those hopes of the Dionysian commoner died long ago with the rampant moralisms of the Catholic Church and others. Prosperity might have promised that once more even the middle class individual could be the “king of his castle” and at least strive for material and spiritual excellence in his own home. This did not happen
Those hopes never materialized in the times we had prosperity. America in particular was built on Puritan values, and there is nothing Puritanical about Dionysianism. I blame the Reformation itself even more than I do the Catholics. The Catholics valued architectural and material excellence, every cathedral an impeccable palace to God and his devotees. The Protestants took everything as simple decadence, and began to build churches that looked more like livestock barns than a house of God. I think we know what livestock these barns held in particular. Protestantism certainly had its valid points about the errors of the Catholic Church. It must be said, however, that this time was a particularly disastrous time for any thinking man intent on a religious organization that empowered his personal divinity as a sentient human being.
Nothing has changed thus far, things have only gotten worse. Our prosperity is mostly gone, and people don’t aspire for either path. Most people, even the deeply religious, have no idea exactly what they are aspiring for. Heaven? Be good and spread God’s golden word and up the pearly gates you go?
God did not give you free will for you to do nothing of value in life. Sure, converting a few randoms on Twitter is probably a good thing. Then what?
The Human Spirit is desperate for freedom and aspiration. In abstraction, I believe there are only two ways to achieve this. The path of Dionysus, or the path of Apollo. Few people in these times aspire for either. They languish, keep their heads down in their awful ‘work’. They become weak parents, unserving husbands and unserving wives. They have neither glory nor liberation. They are in true purgatory, and there they shall remain until their fate becomes unknowable.
In Nietzsche’s original observation of this dialectic, classical artwork was the centerpiece of this revelation. Where has this artwork gone? Gone are the cathedrals on the hill, gone are the pastoral scenes of earthly plentitude and suffering combined. Even then, we should be able in nature to find sublimity on our own. Yet, so many do not seek it out; so many do not see the grace in a sunset. There are so many who cannot even gaze upon rolling hills – like the bosom of heaven nor the sky-shattering mountains appearing like Jacob’s ladder into the blue depths of an infinite void. People merely see the car in front of them in traffic, concrete, ash.
This is all to say, it is not only culture that we have to blame. We, as individuals, must be more aspirational, we must appreciate our existence more. I believe it goes without saying that it is surely a blessing to have a life, whether a higher power exists or not. This is such a strange place, full on a planet full of vistas which are for some reason inexplicably “beautiful”. What is beauty when it is not a lover?
The Sod is a person who embraces both sides of himself: the Apollonian and the Dionysian. The only way to maintain such a feat in such a heartbreaking and barren spiritual culture is to have at the very least the faintest sense of gratitude for one’s own existence. You don’t have to suffer to be good, I am telling you this because you have likely been lied to. You should probably suffer for the ones you love, but you should not suffer for the ones you can’t even see. In a world so populated, so abstracted, we don’t ever seem to know what we are even working towards. Don’t destroy yourself for this, do not suffer for a thankless, soul crushing career. Learn to battle suffering, while also having grand dreams for yourself. No matter how meagre your means are, your habitation should be a palace; after all, the soul is divine, and divinity should be honored. You also should seek a higher calling, but do not be fooled by the common such “callings”: identify your own path of glory.
It all sounds very oversimplified, very optimistic. I know this, and to some extent it certainly is. I will not deceive you, I know little, and have just begun this path only years ago. If you are young, you can break free much easier than if you are older. I highly recommend you seize on the opportunity, especially if you know purgatory awaits you in your current path.
You may suffer for your choice, you may even suffer greatly; you will have gained your spiritual freedom, however. You may benefit great material from your choice; you will have retained your freedom to suffer for further glory. There is only one thing that will truly bring suffering beyond imagination, because it will be endless and unbreakable: mediocrity,
Spiritually, I should not go too into depth; I have not yet perfected even a core set of recommended worship practices for the Sod. I will say, however, you must value the esoteric. How?
There are a million people who say something similar to what I have just uttered: “just chase your dreams bro; don’t be afraid to take risks bro”. Here is where I will set myself apart, with something that few know or are comfortable with suggesting. Do not be afraid to delve into the depths of your own mind. The Apollonian often is running from his own psyche, desperate to transcend his psychic suffering through stoic gallantry. The true Dionysian, however, goes deep. If you are going to be act in the path of Bacchus, there are still risks you must take. Use the pleasure and leisure you have afforded yourself to explore the depths of your own twisted mind. That is not to say you should act on anything you find there; you shouldn’t. However, it is in these depths where you will find metaphysical and ontological truths that the pure Apollonian can only dream of understanding. However, there will be more information forthcoming about how exactly to try and go about this transcendence, but I have not been very ambiguous already.
Again, I must remind you, dear reader. I am but a Sod, hopeless, naive. I recognize this in myself, and you should at least recognize this in all people – including me. Therefore, these are all simply thoughts. In either case, all of this boils down to a simple dynamic: take risks, discover truths, and at the very least, liberate your soul – whatever that may be (though you will come to know it well).
This is the Sod’s path.
How does all of this tie into the concept of the Church of Sods? This is an important question, as without this connection this whole article could possibly be another disjointed “theory” on why your life sucks.
The soul of the Sod is very much so a dialectical thing, in my view. This article is to inform the reader about the ways in which they can interpret the spiritual desires of themselves. This is by no means a total solution. Like I have said, none of this can be sustained without appreciation for one’s existence, which chiefly will come from some belief in a higher power. This is merely a speck of theory in the nebula of Sods.
The next article will be about religious communities. Stay tuned.