Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Dionysus and Spiritual Exile

Yet another fragmentary thought that fits into one of the sections of Immanence of Myth-- this one related to the concept of "spiritual exile" that I work with towards the end of the notes I presently have assembled, which is something of a synthesis of personal observation, Campbell's statements on the subject and Buber's I-and-Thou. However, the solution I see to this problem is different, though how to bring it into modern society without it destroying the already threadbare fabric... I don't know.

The Dionysian impulse is the solution to our spiritual exile not through escape, as in the mystical formulas which come from traditions that helped to invent spiritual exile in the first place, but through re-entry into the body-- not as a suit of flesh bearing consciousness but as consciousness itself-- no distinction, no division, expressed in the outpouring of a present that is so intensely alive that it devours, overflows, consumes.

That this state is only attained through extreme excess in our lives demonstrates nothing more than how ingrained our spiritual exile-- that is exile from the manifest reality-- truly is. Whether and to what extent this alienation is cultural or a biological symptom of our curious self consciousness is somewhat irrelevant.

A bit of relevant material from the IoM notes on this subject:
...This idea of estrangement is particularly worth highlighting.56 Though Christianity ostensibly did away with the need of a Priestly caste to act as an intermediary between man and God, this ideology was quickly brushed under the carpet as the Catholic church rose to power. Thus the early Judaic idea of estrangement or exile remained – along with this growing belief that the physical world itself was a sort of purgatory from the union with God. This myth obviously germinated in the cultural soil of a people who were constantly being kicked out of their chosen homeland(s). This belief most likely begins with one of the oldest monotheistic religions, Zoroastrianism, which originated somewhere between the 9th and 11th centuries BCE in or around what is modern day Afghanistan, oddly simultaneous with the roots of Judaism as well.

In these early monotheistic traditions, God took the role of an absolute Other, which makes a genuine relationship impossible: communication depends on commonality. To the average individual, this relationship continued with the older tradition of patriarchy; God became a father-figure so elevated that we could only follow his commands, but never understand him. Jewish mystics, however, recognized that a
God of this sort can only be intelligently spoken of as a “not,” to identify him as any actual element of being would be to limit him by caging him within our own mortal realm. The Jewish mystical system of Kabbalah in many ways is an intellectual means of making elements of the divine accessible, without limiting “his” essence, at least on paper. However, while there may be many other merits to this system, like the empty logical gesticulations of the Christian scholars to follow (such as Boethius, St. Anselm, and Thomas Aquinas), these intellectual or linguistic games change nothing.

To attempt to relate to this absolute, estranged Father-God, one can only cry up to the heavens in hope of a response that cannot come but through an intermediary – half divine himself – thus sharing part of our essence and part of his. It is of course in response to this need for an intermediary that Jesus, historic figure that he may be, took on the mythic resonance of an age, simultaneously adopting many of the elements of the male agrarian regenerative Gods that the Israelites had discarded. As the Christian cult grew from its early days into an institution, (most notably after the Council of Nicea and subsequent Nicene Creed), their leadership developed many political tools out of their myths. An example of this is original Sin, and as a result of the historic and mythic resonance of this belief, we have this “revolt against nature” which has been with us for the duration of Western Civilization. This is not a linear progression but rather a series of feedback loops, which moves temporally in one direction, but with resonances that can cross cultural boundaries, even inexplicably occur simultaneously in geographically disparate locations.

Read a book with Dionysus as the protagonist.


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