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Dionysos [and the Dionysian Mysteries]

Category: Mystic groups and systems

Richelieu - the Louvre

Dionysos was the god of ecstasy in Greek mythology – spiritual experience.  He was thus the god who personified the mystic side of the Greek religion. If we wish to find out how the Greeks obtained spiritual experience, it is to him and the Mysteries that we need to turn.

He was possibly at one time a real and very gifted shaman, whose legend went before him.  In time, however, he came to be a personification of spiritual experience in its full sense.

His name can be found in tablets that show he was being feted from at least c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: but there is every reason to believe that the Mysteries of Dionysos have been around a long time.  Other traces of Dionysos have been found in ancient Minoan Crete.   His origins are variously described by the ‘experts’ as Thracian or Ethiopian.  But to look for origins seems to me to be somewhat pointless as the existence of a Dionysian type figure is an almost worldwide belief. It is to be found in the Hindu, Polynesian, Siberian shamanic, native American Indian and Aboriginal cultures, not to mention most of the African cultures.

In Wikipedia he is described as “the god of epiphany,  - the god that comes”. I know they were totally unaware of the humour of this statement, but this is wrong,  because he is actually the god who doesn’t come, because the principal mechanism by which Dionysios achieved spiritual experiences, was kundalini energy generated by sexual stimulation – or its various equivalents.

Epiphany more correctly means the manifestation of the spiritual world to man; the ‘sensible sign by which the presence of the spiritual world  is revealed’, so we get to know about the spiritual world througn Dionysos.  Dionysos is our Higher spirit.

He was, fairly naturally, a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theatre, of which more in a moment.

The Golden Bough – Sir James Frazer
The religion spread like wildfire through Greece until the god ....had become the most popular figure of the pantheon.

Dionysos as our Higher spirit

So, ‘Dionysos’ is our Higher spirit.  We each have a Dionysos. 

We have seen that the names given to this Higher spirit vary enormously in different cultures, but any culture capable of spiritual experience recognises the existence of this higher spirit.  The Piute Indians refer to it as Wakanda, the ancient Egyptians referred to it as the Khoo.

In Polynesian belief it was both male and female and was an 'older [meaning  wise], parental [so it cared for you, trustworthy , acted on your behalf and could be trusted] spirit'.  It was incapable of cruelty and totally averse to cruelty, as such sacrifices of any sort or hurt of any sort, would simply have sent it away.  By hurting others, you lost connection to the Higher spirit.  All spiritual experience of any seriousness was directed via this spirit.  All prayers and rites were directed to this spirit and it was Loved, deeply loved.  No sacrifices were offered to it, no bribes were offered.  It did not command the lower selves but acted in the same way that a parent acts to a child.

In the true Mysteries Dionysos was male and female – androgynous.  He had fair skin and long curls, but was also depicted as a man.  Caravaggio’s painting is a perfect representation – the body of a man and the feminine face and sensuality of a woman.

Resurrection

Dionysos in his shamanic person is classified as a ‘dying god’.  A dying god is one who had been through a genuine rebirth experience – who had figuratively [not literally] died and then been ‘born again’.

Genuine rebirth experiences are not only rare but terrifying.

During the experience you feel as though you really are dying.  Not only can you not leave the experience – you are normally catatonic or paralysed at the time, - your heart rate sinks to an almost imperceptible thud, you become very very cold and you can hear nothing, the physical world disappears.  There is a real feeling that you will never come back.  Die.


 
A vase showing symbolic 'beheading'

You are also so far gone that you are incapable of dragging yourself out of the process.  Shamans who went through this experience felt themselves dismembered, pierced with arrows, crucified, cut up into pieces, boiled alive plus any number of other visionary nightmares - including beheading.  You can be sent to a purple ink area where you feel as though you are being pulled apart – like a sort of cloud that gets separated then reformed.

The objective spiritually is to ‘rewrite your software’ – make you into a genuine shaman/god with new gifts – the ability to heal and prophesy,  with new wisdom.

In the Christian church there is a heated internal debate that rages about whether Jesus was an example of a dying god, or whether his crucifixion was ‘real’.  It may be that both happened – he was killed but he was also spiritually and thus figuratively crucified.

I don’t want to enter this debate because there are plenty of other examples of ‘dying gods’ we can use instead. 

The section on Shinto has an example of one man who went through a figurative ‘boiling in a cauldon’; and  within ancient Near Eastern and Greek cultures we can find  Baal,  Melqart, Adonis,  Eshmun,  Attis,  Tammuz,  Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as Ra, Osiris, and  Zalmoxis.  In northern legends we find Odin. Female examples are Inanna, Ishtar and Persephone, the central figure of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

I think all these were real people who went through this rebirth experience.  They aren’t myths rewritten, they are stories of the people who went through this and thus became ‘gods’ – humans with superhuman capabilities.

Sir James Frazer was English, Christian and wrote in the early 1900s.  His Golden Bough is both a wonderful source of information about ancient cultures, but at the same time a travesty of misunderstanding – inevitable give the time and his background.  But his descriptions are worth quoting………….

The Golden Bough – Sir James Frazer
… Dionysus was believed to have died a violent death, but to have been brought to life again; and his sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted in his sacred rites. His tragic story is thus told by the poet Nonnus.
Zeus in the form of a serpent visited Persephone, and she bore him Zagreus, that is, Dionysus, a horned infant. Scarcely was he born, when the babe mounted the throne of his father Zeus and mimicked the great god by brandishing the lightning in his tiny hand. But he did not occupy the throne long; for the treacherous Titans, their faces whitened with chalk, attacked him with knives while he was looking at himself in a mirror.
For a time he evaded their assaults by turning himself into various shapes, assuming the likeness successively of Zeus and Cronus, of a young man, of a lion, a horse, and a serpent. Finally, in the form of a bull, he was cut to pieces by the murderous knives of his enemies.
His Cretan myth, as related by Firmicus Niaternus, ran thus. He was said to have been the bastard son of Jupiter, a Cretan king  …. whose wife Juno cherished a jealous dislike of the child ………..   Juno …… lured him into an ambush, where her satellites, the Titans, rushed upon him, cut him limb from limb, boiled his body with various herbs, and ate it. But his sister Minerva, who had shared in the deed, kept his heart and gave it to Jupiter on his return, revealing to him the whole history of the crime.

Athena and the rebirth experience of 'being consumed'

So Dionysos was real and the illegitimate son of two other shamanic figures whose exploits were so famous they too became gods – Zeus and Persephone.  The symbol of lightning is a reference here to the kundalini experience, thus Dionysos had a very early kundalini experience as a child.

He clearly did not want the rebirth experience so he ‘shape shifted’.  When you are out of body, it is possible if you are well practised, to change your shape [I am not making this up].  If you turn to the Shinto and Kahuna sections and the Ninjutsu description you will find plenty of examples of shape shifting.   But he ended up having the rebirth experience anyway and experienced it as knives and dismemberment, a fairly common figurative feeling.

The Hindu goddess Kali undergoing dis-integration of the mental body-image as dismemberment, and the sensation of splitting into multiple selves.

The Theatre and masks

Our conscious self is our Personality, but behind our conscious self lies the true us – our Higher self, our Higher spirit.  Personality is the mask.

Dionysos was the Greek god of the theatre and drama.  Numerous plays and festivals were held in his name.  During these plays and festivals actors wore masks.

Mask belonging to author

Mythical birth of Dionysos - a 'virgin birth'

Principle mechanisms

The principle mechanism of spiritual experience used in the Dionysian Mysteries was sexual.  The act of generating the kundalini energy in Dionysian rites was both controlled, ordered and seemed to be well known.  It was not an accidental occurrence but a ceremonial act, preceded by several days if not weeks of preparation.

The act itself was performed by ‘high priestesses’ upon an initiate. Thus the person was helped through the experience by those who had themselves been through the experience.  This is known because the attendants in frescos that depict this ceremony are shown as ‘gods’, satyrs, and so on.

If you read any web-site, there are graphic descriptions of torture, flagellation, terror and so on which, given that none of the writers seems ever to have had a spiritual experience, is a remarkable act of imagination. They are called the Mysteries because they were kept a mystery for a reason, there was no torture or flagellation.  It seems that even in the time they were enacted, the secrecy employed led to speculation and that speculation always involved – because of course speculation reflects the mind of the speculator – acts of bestiality, rape and lechery.

The person experienced a controlled kundalini experience and this is of great interest.  Gopi Krishna experienced a kundalini experience when he was not prepared and it made him ill and greatly frightened him.   Knowledge of these techniques today would have helped a lot of people who have had a kundalini experience and have become ill from it because they were not helped.

The Degradation of the Dionysian Mysteries

Eros and Dionysos

Of all the techniques used within this system you will not find a single one that could be deemed cruel or unacceptable.  None ‘hurt’ anyone.

But it is clear that as time proceeded and particularly as the cult spread abroad to Italy, it was hugely corrupted and misused and a savage, violent and occasionally really evil set of practises started to appear. 

In a desperate bid to stop the trend, the Dionysian Mysteries became restricted to fewer and fewer people.  The Orphic Mysteries were also instituted in order to try to rescue the cult from degenerating even further.  The Orphic Mysteries were true to the original concept, involved no hurt and also kept to the original purpose which was positive spiritual experience on a spiritual path.

The Dionysian Mysteries were based on love.  Love for the people that helped each other to gain the experience and also love for your higher spirit – your Dionysos.  The aim was that through human love one would attain Divine love.  This was symbolically shown in all the frescos one sees of the rites by the constant appearance of Cupid or Eros.

But the battle seems eventually to have been lost and the whole movement ‘went underground’.

I do not believe it was ever truly lost, but emerged in the guise of alchemy and the early freemasons, the Hermetic traditions and the Rosicruceans as well as a number of other key mystic groups, but in Greece it died.

 

Eventual Persecution

Here is an account of what happened in Italy when a version was introduced to Rome.  I have extracted some salient paragraphs, as the description is very long.  It needs to be remembered that one cannot run an Empire with expanding borders on love and sex and pleasure.  This has to be removed otherwise you have no army, or as Gerald Heard once said - cannon fodder .......…

Livy – History of Rome [around 186 BC]

They had started as a rite for women, and it was the rule that no man should be admitted.  There had been three fixed days in a year on which initiations took place, at daytime, into the Bacchic mysteries; and it was the custom for the matrons to be chosen as priestesses in rotation. But when paculla Annia of Campania was priestess she altered all this, ostensibly on the advice of the gods.  She had been the first to initiate men, her sons, Minius and Herennius Cerrinius; and she had performed the ceremonies by night instead of by day, and in place of three days in a year she had appointed five days of initiation in each month.

From the time when the rites were held promiscuously, with men and women mixed together, and when the license offered by darkness had been added, no sort of crime, no kind of immorality, was left unattempted. There were more obscenities practiced between men than between men and women. Anyone refusing to submit to outrage or reluctant to commit crimes was slaughtered as a sacrificial victim. ………………

 

When wine had inflamed their feelings, and night and the mingling of the sexes and of different ages had extinguished all power of moral judgment, all sorts of corruption began to be practiced, since each person had ready to hand the chance of gratifying the particular desire to which he was naturally inclined. The corruption was not confined to one kind of evil, the promiscuous violation of free men and of women; the cult was also a source of supply of false witnesses, forged documents and wills, and perjured evidence, dealing also in poisons and in wholesale murders among the devotees, and sometimes ensuring that not even the bodies were found for burial. Many such outrages were committed by craft, and even more by violence; and the violence was concealed because no cries for help could be heard against the shriekings, the banging of drums and the clashing of cymbals in the scene of debauchery and bloodshed.

This evil, with all its disastrous influence, spread from Etruria to Rome like an epidemic……

To regard nothing as forbidden was among these people the summit of religious achievement. Men, apparently out of their wits, would utter prophecies with frenzied bodily convulsions, matrons, attired as Bacchantes, with their hair dishevelled and carrying blazing torches, would run down to the Tiber, plunge their torches into the water and bring them out still alight - because they contained a mixture of live sulphur and calcium. Men were said to have been carried off by the gods - because they had been attached to a machine and whisked away out of sight to hidden caves; they were people who refused to enter the conspiracy or to join in the crimes, or to submit to violation.

There was, she alleged, a vast number of initiates, and by this time they almost made up a second people; some men and women of rank were to be found among them. She added that in the last two years it had been laid down that no one over twenty should be initiated; they were looking for young people of an age open to corruption of mind and body……………

Given the possible consequences of attending the initiation, one wonders why so many people appeared to join up, but there is no smoke without fire so here is some more….

Dionysus and his retinue find the sleeping Ariadne
whom Theseus has just abandoned on the
island of Naxos - Elsie Russell

Livy – History of Rome [around 186 BC]

The Bacchic rites have for a long time been performed all over Italy, and recently they have been celebrated even in many places in Rome itself; I am quite sure that you have been made aware of this, not only by rumours but also by the bangings and howlings heard in the night, which echo throughout the city. But I am equally sure that you do not know what this thing really is.

Some believe it to be a kind of worship of the gods; others suppose it a permitted sport and relaxation; and that, whatever kind of thing it may be, it involves only a few people. As for their number, if I tell you that there are many thousands of  them, you are bound to be scared out of your wits straightway, unless I go on to describe who they are and what kind of people they are.

Titian

In the first place, then, a great part of them are women, and they are the source of this evil thing; next, there are males, scarcely distinguishable from females. Debauched and debauchers, frenzied devotees, bereft of their senses by lack of sleep, by drink, by the hubbub and the shouting that goes on through the night.

Up to now this conspiracy has no strength, but it is gaining a vast increase in strength in that its followers grow more numerous as the days go by……………….

In the end, the authorities had a crack-down ……………..

Livy – History of Rome [around 186 BC]

The names of many suspects were reported to the authorities and some of these, men and women, committed suicide. It was said that more than 7,000 men and women were involved in the conspiracy; but it was generally agreed that the ringleaders were Marcus and Gaius Atinius, members of the Roman plebs, Lucius Opicernius of the Falisci, and Minius Cerrinius of Campania.

These men, it was said, were the source of all the crimes and immoralities: they were the chief priests and the founders of the cult. Energetic steps were taken to ensure their arrest at the first opportunity; they were brought before the consul; they confessed, and made no attempt to delay their trial.

Ho hum, plus ca change.

The Orphic Lamella from Thessally

 

I am parched with thirst and perishing
But drink of me, the ever flowing spring on the right
There is a fair cyprus
Who are you?
Where are you from?
I am a child of Earth and of starry Heaven
But my race is of heaven alone


Observations

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