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The Apollonian and Dionysian Struggle Within The Human Personality PART TWO

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Dr. Wilson presents Nietzsche’s concepts of the two forces that compete for the artistic control in the human personality. He calls these two forces the Apollonian and the Dionysian: Apollo representing control and restraint, whereas; Dionysus represents complete abandonment to the emotional level of existence.

Author: Norman W Wilson

The Apollonian and Dionysian Struggle Within The Human Personality


Norman W Wilson, PhD

In Part One, I gave an overview of the two gods from Greek Mythology, Apollo, and Dionysius. Each represents an aspect of the human creative effort and each indicates implications for human personality. Apollo represents control; whereas, Dionysius represents wild unbridled emotion. The two serve as reminders of duality in human existence: male/female, sweet/sour, sadness/happiness, and hot/cold.

For psychiatrist Carl Jung, the Nietzsche Dionysian abandonment is the creative dynamism , the libido in instinctive form, that takes possession of an individual and that individual becomes the tool for the expression of creative dynamism itself. According to Jung’s way of thinking, man, the natural creature, is not a work of art; he is “nothing but sheer nature, unbridled, a raging torrent—not even an animal that is restricted to itself and the laws of its being.” Certainly dove tails with Nietzsche’s Dionysian concept, doesn’t it?

The Dionysian festivals, famous in Greek Mythology, are a drunken debauchery and are inconsistent with the Apollonian notion of control. Any reconciliation between these diametrically opposed forces is illusion. Whenever man is in the Dionysian state, he is anything but a creature of creation. His individuality dissolves into his collective parts. The personal identity is lost in the larger stream of life. Adding a single drop of water to a bucket of water amply illustrates the point. That drop is indistinguishable from the rest of the water.

This intoxicated state of the Dionysian turns man into mere instinct and it must be as Jung states, “an altogether despicable, and violent conflict between the Dionysian and the Apollonian impulses.”

Why not let loose these instincts of civilized man? Many feel the result would be a stream of sheer beauty gushing forth. Jung’s answer to this question is significant. He says the “error is due to a profound lack of psychological knowledge. The dammed-up instinctual forces in civilized man are immensely destructive and far more dangerous than the instincts of primitive man.” Don’t believe me? Just check the number of drive-by shootings and the incidence of road-rage.

Nietzsche disagrees. His views will be presented in Part Three.

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About the Author

Dr. Wilson is the author and co-author of college textbooks in the humanities. He is the author of three speculative fiction novels, a collection of essay called Shamanism: What It’s All About, over 150 articles on the internet. Additionally, he is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Book Reviews, and Novel Spot. He is a contributor to Camano Community.

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