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Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-modern World

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Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-modern World

Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-modern World

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Home Page > Spirituality > Religion > Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-modern World

Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-modern World

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Posted: Jun 29, 2007 |Comments: 0
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Dyadic Approaches to the Divine: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Religion and Gender in a Post-Modern World

Understanding the role religion could or should play in the modern era is a central topic in the study of religion. Today, in world where God is almost, but not quite dead, how can we translate traditional beliefs into the post-modern world? Furthermore, we must ask ourselves what role gender can then play in this newly born definition of religious experience. To answer these questions we must first, as a matter of logical of necessity, examine the nature of religious experience itself and see if a reasonable case can be put forward that there may be more than one type of approach to the divine, and if this is indeed the case, we must then see if a correlation can be made between religious experience itself and gender.

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In modernity three distinct spheres of culture are referred to; respectively these are known as the culture spheres of science, morality, and art – the basis of which is derived from the works of Kant (Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Pure Practical Reason, and Critic of Judgment). The three existence spheres formulated by Kierkegaard, the aesthetical, the ethical, and the religious seem to have been composed in a similar spirit to the three culture spheres of Kant. What is of great significance in the work of Kierkegaard is that he identified two separate strands of religious thought: Religiousness Type A and Religiousness Type B. These two diametrically opposed forms of religion can be defined in the following way: Religiousness Type A can be understood to embody the fourth culture sphere that has been glossed by the makers of modernity, and Religiousness Type B provides a critical principle and transcending perspective on the culture-spheres as culture-spheres, including religion as a culture-sphere along with those of science, morality and art. To further clarify the distinction between the two types, Religiousness A could be best described as an externalized mode, in which rituals and the regulations of social roles play a part. By contrast, in Religiousness B the stress is not so great on that of the communal role (or principle of communitas as it would be called by Victor Tuner) but is instead more reliant on the role of the individual. What matters in Religiousness Type B is the principle of being religious itself, and not the adherence to doctrines and practices formulated as in Religiousness Type A. What is being expressed by these two polarities, if indeed they are such, is a pattern of religious thinking which is quite similar in its bipolar opposition to the contrasting roles of Apollo and Dionysus, which formed the basis of Nietzsche’s work, The Birth of Tragedy. Not only did this idea have great impact on Nietzsche’s own work, but it has come to be widely regarded in other areas – its impact can still be felt in the art world and the journals of philosophy. Why, though, is this theory of Nietzsche’s connected to Religiousness Type A and B? To answer fully this question one first need to understand the roles of the two gods he used to draw this dichotomy with. Firstly, they both are gods of aesthetics. They occupy similar roles – but one (Apollo) is the god of Sculpture, of art with form. Dionysus, by contrast presides over music – his influence is unseen; it is only heard or felt. What he represents cannot be captured in form, for even in his role as the God of the Theatre, he is always masked. The face of Dionysus is never seen. Usually the two gods are examined in their relation to the art world – but their opposition echoes back to another area; that of religion and the nature of ones relation to the divine. Apollo communicates to his brethren through the sedate art of dream. Dionysus whispers the words of madness to one’s ear – the state of mind though which Dionysus communicates is via intoxication , whether this is in the form of theatre, music, madness or any other form of expression, what lies behind the Dionysian element is the expression of pathos, or emotion. As Nietzsche himself says, “In order to grasp these two tendencies, let us first conceive of them as the separate art-worlds of dreams and drunkenness. These physiological phenomena present a contrast analogous to that existing between the Apollonian and the Dionysian.” The representations of Dionysus appear irrational or subconscious, those of Apollo rational. Furthermore, Apollo is a god of boundary drawing – both ethical and conceptual – he is the god of the principium individuationis. Apollo, therefore represents a sense of unity but also of restriction. Dionysus, by way of contrast, expands his horizons by transcending boundaries – hence for the Dionysian religious type ‘intoxication’ is a transcendence of everyday consciousness in which we overcome individuality. The polarity reflected in these two divinities is here also reminiscent of the opposition seen in modernism where science is viewed as masculine, and religion as feminine. Though Apollo and Dionysus are both male deities, despite an ambiguous iconography which is found in some of the myths and depictions of both gods, in the past there has been a number of attempts to draw parallels between the two deities, depicting Apollo as the masculine force and Dionysus as the feminine force. Notably among the ranks of those scholars who have endeavored to transpose the image of the feminine onto Dionysus, was Bachofen, a contemporary of Nietzsche himself. Bachofen associates Dionysus with potent male sexuality inseparable from the earth, and thus with the first (tellurian) and the second (which he designates matriarchal) stages of existence because written and iconographical evidence links the god to woman: “The phallic god [Dionysus] cannot be thought of separately from feminine materiality.”

Though at first this overlaying of gender onto the two male gods may seem absurd, it is no more so than some of the dualistic notions that have been

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