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


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previously expressed in modern discussions of gender. The word itself, gender, is firstly by way of explanation, an artificial construct. The gender of a body may or may not be an exact match for the sex of a body. Gender can therefore be explained as an expression of sexuality, rather than that of the biological sex. Given the binary nature of the sexes, it is completely erroneous to approach the topic of sex or gender without adopting a dualistic approach to doing so. Such ideas of duality have their ideological roots as far back as 1974 when Ortner wrote “Is female to nature what male is to culture?” The context of this work was based on an assumption that the category female is metaphorically connected to nature while that of male is connected to culture. The logic of this notion rests on the basis that women as reproducers remain bound to nature, while men, who cannot reproduce, produce and are therefore bound to culture. In terms of taking the dualistic approach to finding a resolution via gender, ironically another dichotomy is encountered – the opposition between sex and the new terminology of gender forms yet another dichotomy. For many theorists in this area, sex is seen to be real (nature) and gender is artificial (culture). In terms of relating sex and/or gender back to the original Apollo/Dionysus dichotomy, this duality could also be easily compared. Gender, as an artificial and hence cultural construct, could be linked back to the supra-rational Apollonian sphere. Sex, as the more natural category of definition would lie in the realm of the Dionysian. It is worth noting at this point that Nietzsche himself, at the beginning of the Birth of Tragedy likens the contrast of the Apollonian and the Dionysian elements to that of the sexes: ‘the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian reality: just as procreation depends on the duality of the sexes, involving perpetual strife with only periodically intervening reconciliations.’ The fact that even at the earliest stage of his formation of this core concept in his philosophy, Nietzsche is aware enough of the similarities between the two rival deities and the relationship between the sexes that he chooses to employ this metaphor hints at the possibility of this association being evident to Nietzsche even at the time of its composition. However, this is merely a metaphor, not a tautological statement – for there is in truth no clear boundary between the Apollonian nature and the Dionysian nature; there is always within one an element of the other, for as Nietzsche says “There is no Dionysian appearance [Schein] without an Apollonian reflection [Wierderschein]” . Therefore, if the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy were to be rendered applicable to the new ideologies imposed by the modern understanding of gender, we must accept the fact that it is a logical impossibility for one to be purely Apollonian or Dionysian, for one always contains an element of the other. If we were to apply this relation to the concept of gender, we could say that though one is biologically male or female, there will always be some ‘essence’ of the other to their aspect. If the comparison holds true, though one could be purely masculine or feminine in appearance, in terms of gender, the sexuality of the individual (in contrast to the individuals biological sex) would not be purely composed of either the male or the female essence – rather the Apollonian/masculine and Dionysian/feminine elements would coexist as matter of parts or percentages than as a ‘pure’ essence of masculinity or femininity.

Having examined the rudimentary distinctions betwixt Apollo and Dionysus, and their possible relation to gender, how then does this relate to Kierkegaard’s’ Religiousness Type A and Religiousness Type B? To complete the image and the association found here, we need to also examine Nietzsche’s theories on religion. His famous proclamation, “God is Dead” is of course well known; what is lesser known however is the complex chain of references that connect this statement to other key points within his philosophy. One of these is to found within the poem ‘Ariadne’s Lament’ in Zarathustra, in which the poem hints at another concept of Nietzsche’s known as the ‘the ladder of religious cruelty’. The three rungs of the ladder represent three stages in the development of the sacrifice: in times of archaic religion people sacrificed humans to their gods; in times of moral belief people sacrificed their strongest drives and instincts to their gods; in a time yet to come people will sacrifice god himself (representative of any belief in consolation and salvation) as a final act of cruelty against themselves. . This three step model of the evolution of religion is important as it ties in with another key point in Nietzsche’s philosophy – the doctrine of eternal reoccurrence or the eternal return. Both the idea of the eternal return and the ladder of cruelty are derived directly from an earlier intellectual influence on Nietzsche, namely the philosopher Schopenhauer. To Schopenhauer dealing with death is the first, and most essential, function of any authentic religion. It is in this sense, by failing to provide a solution to the problem of death, that Schopenhauer regarded Judaism and Graeco-Roman ‘paganism’ as failed religions since they lack a properly developed doctrine of immortality. To Nietzsche’s mind of course, Graeco-Roman ‘paganism’ did provide such a doctrine, for Dionysus, like Christ, is a ‘dying god’ – he dies to be reborn through sacrifice, and in the Greek myths of Dionysus comparisons are draw between the concepts of earthly life (Bios) and eternal life (Zoë) found in the Dionysian Mystery Traditions of Ancient Greece. The Dionysian aesthetic presented in this work is therefore also to be interoperated as an answer to the problem of redemption ( a response to the Schopenhauerian philosophy of redemption), and to the problem of how man can justify his own individual existence in the face of the ‘terrifying’ and ‘absurd’ abyss of life.

The more one examines not the philosophy of Nietzsche, but his personal beliefs on religion, the more it becomes clear that he favoured not the Apollonian pole, but the Dionysian one. Furthermore, his rejection of Christianity in preference to a highly individualized conception of the Dionysian Mystery Traditions paints a very clear picture of Nietzsche’s own religious essence – in the terminology of Kierkegaard what Nietzsche is expressing is a strong emanation of Religiousness Type B. Moreover, not only can Religiousness Type B be connected with Nietzsche’s own beliefs, they can be directly tied to the relationship between Apollo and Dionysus themselves. The essence that emanates from the Apollonian current is an external mode of worship: his formal rites could be seen and were accessible to all, and as the god of sculpture/form his aesthetics could be experienced by all. Those of the Dionysian current, by contrast, are not seen, they can only be ‘felt’, either through music or via the Dionysian mode of worship, which involved induced states of ecstasy, and as this could only be experienced on an individual basis, it was not accessible to all. Thus it can be seen that the Dionysian invokes an internal form of religion and aesthetics, whilst the Apollonian evokes an external form of religion and aesthetics. In terms of both art and religion this is the primary difference between the two deities. Given the previous definitions for Religiousness Type A and Religiousness Type B, it now becomes very easy to relate the more external and communal Religiousness Type A to the nature of the Apollonian and the highly individual nature of Religiousness Type B to the Dionysian. By employing the comparison between Apollo and the masculine element of gender, and Dionysus as the feminine element of gender, Religiousness Type A then becomes associated with the masculine, and Religiousness Type B with the feminine. It is also here important to remember that Religiousness Type B, in its rejection of need for religious ceremonies in favour of highly personalized worship, is distinctly a feature of post-modernism. Modernism, derived from the Latin root modo, means now or the present age. Post-modernism then, cannot be thought of correctly in a chronological sense, for it is impossible to exist outside of the present moment. Modernism and post-modernism seem to be held as extreme polarities, in which neither pole can ever meet the other – thus essentially providing another seemingly irreconcilable dyad. Modernism is thought of as being representational of secular thought, unity and order. Post-modernism, by contrast is characterized by possessing the features of spirituality and diversity. This then reduces all the dichotomies involved down to the following hypothesis: There are two very similar gods in Greek mythology which embody certain characteristics that relate to religion and art which are diametrically opposed in a dyadic or binary relationship. These two gods are Dionysus and Apollo. In mythology and the classical tradition, one of these gods, though being externally male, has many feminine connections in classical myth, even at times being portrayed as a hermaphrodite. Furthermore the nature of Apollo is more akin the Kierkegaard’s Religiousness Type A and modernism, Dionysus to Religiousness type B and post-modernism.

Before concluding one additional fact also needs to be brought to light – the concept of the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy was preexistent to Nietzsche, and interestingly enough remnants of this idea can be found within Hinduism. Though this idea may appear to be original, Nietzsche himself always regarded Dionysus as having emigrated to Greece from ‘Asia’ and

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