on The Birth of Tragedy, pts. 2, 3, and 4

from the text:

1. Apollo is a mere veil of the Dionysian
"In the Dionysiac dithyramb man is stimulated to the highest intensification of his symbolic powers; something that he has never felt before urgently demands to be expresseed: the destruction of the veil of maya, one-ness as the genius of humankind, indeed of nature itself. The essence of nature is bent on expressing itself; a new world of symbols is required, firstly the symbolism of the entire body, not just of the mouth, the face, the word, but the full gesture of dance with its rhythmical movement of every limb. Then there is a sudden, tempestuous growth in music's other symbolic powers, in rhythm, dynamics, and harmony. To comprehend this complete unchaining of all symbolic powers, a man must already have reached that height of self-abandonment which seeks symbolic expression in those powers: thus the dithyrambic servant of Dionysos can only be understood by his own kind! With what astonishment the Apolline Greeks must have regarded him! With an astonishment enlarged by the added horror of realizing that all this was not so foreign to them after all, indeed that their Apolline consciousness only hid this Dionysiac world from the like a veil" (21)

2. Apollo as the supreme Olympian
"The very same drive which assumed sensuous form in Apollo gave birth to that entire Olympian world, and in this sense we are entitled to regard Apollo as its father. What, then, was the enormous need that gave rise to such a luminous company of Olympic beings?" (22)

3. The symbiosis of Apolline vision and Dionysiac chaos
"Here, in the highest symbolism of art, we see before us that Apolline world of beauty and the ground on which it rests, that terrible wisdom of Silenus, and we grasp, intuitively, the reciprocal necessity of these two things. At the same time, however, we encounter Apollo as the deification of the principum individuationis in which alone the eternally attained goal of the primordial unity, its release and redemption through semblance, comes about; with sublime gestures he shows us that the whole world of agony is needed in order to compel the individual to generate the releasing and redemptive vision and then, lost in contemplation of that vision, to sit calmly in his rocking boat in the midst of the sea" (26).

(This goes back to the quote of Shopenhauer's: "Just as the boatman sits in his small boat, trusting his frail craft in a stormy sea that is boundless in every direction, rising and falling with the howling, mountainous waves, so in the midst of a world full of suffering and misery the individual man calmly sits, supported by and trusting in the principium individuationis" (World as Will and Representation, I, p. 416).)

4. The limits that apply to the 'semblance of semblance'
"As an ethical divinity Apollo demands measure from all who belong to him and, so that they may respect that measure, knowledge of themselves. Thus the aesthetic necessity of beauty is accompanied by the demands: 'Know thyself' and 'Not too much!', whereas getting above oneself and excess were regarded as the true hostile demonds of the non-Apolline sphere, and thus as qualities of the pre-Apolline period, the age of the Titans, and of the extra-Apolline world, that of the barbarians. Prometheus had to be torn apart by vultures on account of his Titanic love for mankind; Oedipus had to be plunged into a confusing maelstrom of atrocities because his unmeasured wisdom solved the riddle of the Sphinx; these examples show how the Delphic god interpreted the Greek past" (27).

And some from the Companion:

1. "Like the Dionysian, which is its source, the Apollinian also comes from nature, from Dionysus. This is an important clarification, because it helps to illustrate Nietzsche's 'anti-dialiectic.' Once again it would be easy, at this point in the essay, to see Apollo as 'civilization' and Dionysus as the opposite--nature. Yet through the tragic age, civilization and nature were not opposed. This is almost a perfect echo of Schiller's definition of the naive. In all of their myriad aspects, Nietzsche sees the two gods always as extreme ends of a continuum, rather than as opposites. In this way he tries to get away from the formation of a simple, logical antimony" (Lenson 46).

2. "Sparta is introduced as evidence that Apollinian consciousness reacted to the advent of Dionysus by becoming rigid, by creating a dictatorial political power to defend its precious illusions. The calm man in the boat, weathering the stormy sea, is now chained to the oarlucks just in case" (Lenson 49).
Written on August 15, 2007