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Nietzsche and Jung drew upon the characters and roles of Dionysus and Apollo to create a framework for principles of human art and behaviour.

Apollo has traditionally been understood as the god of light, prophecy, music, justice/revenge. In art he is often depicted without a beard (an eternal youth) with a lyre and a cold, distant, far-off expression. Jung cast him in the role of the “introvert”.


Dionysus (or Bacchus – he goes by many names) is associated with wine, drunkenness, ecstasy, insanity, wildness, “the other”, tragedy and comedy. The great Attic tragedies (e.g. Aeschylus’ Agamemnon; Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex/Oidipous Tyrannos) were written to be performed as part of an annual festival celebrated in Athens in honour of Dionysus. He is traditionally depicted with a beard, carrying a thyrsus, surrounded by satyrs, maenads, wild animals, and accompanied by Silenus (perhaps riding his donkey). Jung cast him in the role of the “extrovert”.


The categories of introvert and extrovert have been criticised over the years. People are now less comfortable applying them as blanket categories for a person’s psyche, but are generally happy to accept them in a more limited sense subject to context.

As humans, we are ultimately not self-sufficient, which creates problems for extreme introversion. The Doxology says, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below…” No man can satisfy himself of himself. The gifts that belong to us come from God: He gives us life; He gives us the power of emotion and the power of choice. He gives us ears to hear and mouths to speak. He created the world (orbis non saeculum) that stimulates us and is the voice of inspiration that enables human art (granted human perversion can pollute that inspiration).

On the other hand, extreme extroversion empties man of himself and renders him nothing. Such nothingness is not possible. Man is, and therefore is something. God made us individuals – individuals who are morally responsible for their choices. Man is condemned on the basis of his rejection of the Messiah, but that rejection would be meaningless if man were not capable of (moral) choice, and choice would be meaningless without the property of individuality.

Outward-looking and inward-looking…the problem with Greek classifications is that they often fail to take account of what the Bible has to say about us. Dionysus says to us: “Repress me, and I’ll tear you apart.” This is the dynamic at work in Euripides’ Hippolytus: Hippolytus shuns the power and awe of Aphrodite (for which I read Dionysus in this argument), and embraces the celibacy of virgin Artemis (=Diana in the Roman pantheon). Eventually Aphrodite manages to have him destroyed (ironically, considering his name, by horses).

As Christians, we run the risk of becoming Hippolytus ourselves, depending on how we understand Paul, when he tells us not to fulfil the “lusts of the flesh.” A proper understanding of fasting and other related doctrines and disciplines is important for being truly whole people. On the one hand, if we pretend we have no emotion, then the revenge of Dionysus will be upon us; on the other hand, if we indulge in the Bacchanal, then we will destroy ourselves.

The Apollonian dynamic presents us with similar problems. The world of one’s own thoughts can be a terrible prison…especially where depression is concerned. I have often likened it to being inside a locked box. As long as you try to approach the problem as if you were locked inside the box, you will never get out. The answer is external to the box – the key isn’t inside.

This is such an important principle for the life of the congregation, be ye “pastor” or “layman”: we are all vulnerable. As SF has said recently and as we should all affirm, “I am my brother’s keeper.” If you are troubled, the first thing you can do is ask someone else you know and trust within your Christian family. They can provide the externality, the objectivity that you need to answer those troubling questions. It is other people who will remind you, explicitly or not, of the fact that you are not alone. Meditate on the Scripture: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Jesus has promised, and His word shall stand. We need each other, and God in His wisdom and mercy formed us as a community.

The problem of this post, of course, is that it is rather Apollonian…thinking about my own thoughts on the introversion/extroversion issue is an introverted act. But…the point of this is not to add value judgements to these principles. They are what they are, and they are a part of the human experience. The point is to caution about extremes and provoke some thought and encourage some externality.