Christ & Dionysos

Bruce Michael

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Shalom Friends,

I like what Archbishop Temple says in his very inspiring book, Readings in the Gospel of St. John"The modest water saw its God, and blushed". This is quoted by Alfred Heindenreich in his "The Unknown in the Gospels".

More from there:
".....The Fourth Gospel by Sir Edwyn Hoskyns. This great scholar draws our attention to the fact that the change of water into wine also has its background not only in the Hermetic literature, but even in Greek philosophy and poetry. He quotes from one of Plato's dialogues where he says that poets are inspired and possessed "like Bacchic maidens, who draw milk and honey from the rivers, when they are under the influence of Dionysos, but not when they are in their right mind." Plato suggests that the maidens connected with the cult of Bacchus or Dionysos, in a certain state of mind, draw milk and honey from the rivers."
"This happens when the devotees of Bacchus, of Dionysos, go out under the spell, under the influence-you might say, under the blessing - of the god.
It is somewhat on those lines, on that level, that we now approach the understanding of this significant deed recorded in St. John's Gospel."

"Had we been called to a wedding in ancient times, what would we have seen? Let us assume that the customary beverage, wine, had all been used. What would have happened? Given the right conditions of blood-relationship among the members of this wedding party, we might have experienced, for instance, that the water which, at a later moment of the feast, had been offered in place of the wine had been experienced as wine by the guests, through the magical force of consanguineous love."

"Wine, not water, would have been drunk had the proper magical conditions prevailed among these people. Do not say that the wine would have been water none the less, for it is reasonable to say that, in such circumstances, things are what they do to us, what effect they have on our organism, not what they appear to be . . The power to experience in this manner prevailed among those who were present at the marriage at Cana in Galilee.

"In a subsequent lecture (XIV in the same course R.Steiner) he comes back to this once more, and says that through his special training the author of the Fourth Gospel "understood that it was possible to transform that which appears outwardly as water so that it becomes changed into wine by being taken into the human organism when it is drunk".

"There is another detail in the story which has puzzled theologians. You remember there are the six pots of water according to the Jewish custom of ceremonial ablution. They are described as holding between them something like one hundred and fifty gallons-a colossal amount. Although they were filled, however, the Gospel in the Greek suggests that the servants now go out once more and draw. It was Bishop Westcott who drew attention for the first time to that peculiar phrase, a phrase used now, "draw again from the source". Steiner says this is vital, and it shows just how accurate John is.

"What kind of water was required by Christ? He needed water drawn from the sources of nature. Hence it must be expressly stated that the water had been freshly drawn. Water that had not yet lost the inner life force which any element possesses so long as it remains united with nature such water alone could be suitable for His purpose."

"Steiner sums up his discussion on this first sign by saying that special importance is attached to the fact that the Christ-power worked upon the other soul prepared to receive it so that a result was evoked.
The essential point is that the Christ force has the power to prepare the other soul so that these effects can show themselves. Christ rendered the wedding guests susceptible so that they also tasted the water as wine."

"Putting it in terms of the ancient mysteries, He acted like Dionysus. This is by no means a far-fetched idea; if you go to Rome and visit the catacombs, some of the tombs excavated under St. Peter's, you find Christ actually depicted by the early Christians as Dionysus. Perhaps we can see why."
The other point is, that up to the Mystery of Golgotha alcohol had not completed its mission. This was the "turning point of time" and alcohol then worked in a different way. The Christ now brought us the full power of the Self.

Hi Bruce –

In light of the above, Pope Benedict XVI's first Encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" (God is Love) draws out the distinction between the Hermetic and Bacchic 'eros' of inspiration – an ecstacy in which the individual loses all sense of self – and the Christian 'agape'.

It is this distinction, between eros and agape – and the way in which the terms are used in an original way when compared to the texts of antiquity – that illuminates a number of texts, and one that scholars have drawn attention too as a necessary prerequisite to understand the Christian Mysteries.


Not to drag the conversation in a different direction, but isn't it a mere assertion to state that there even can be a distinction between eros and agape love in the first place? And then if there can, is it also a mere assertion that they have conflicting attributes, just as when a seesaw rises on one side, it necessarily lowers on the other?
Hi Eclectic Mystic —

Not to drag the conversation in a different direction, but isn't it a mere assertion to state that there even can be a distinction between eros and agape love in the first place?

Well the answer I made is 'mere assertation' — but I do point to the deeper understanding.

To fully grasp what 'eros' and 'agape' means in terms of Christian theology requires that one reviews the terms in comparison with their usage in the literature of the time — are they being used in the same way, or are they signifying something other, and if so are they being redefined with proper philosophical and theological argument?

To answer that requires a working familiarity with the texts of antiquity, a huge amount of reading and research — of etymology, epistemology, philosophy and hermeneutics. This is what scholars have done, and this is what the current understandings are based on, so no, it is in no sense a 'mere assertation' in that sense — its something that has been studied in great depth.

In fact I would say the opposite is invariably the case — that if the same word appears in this literature and that literature, the assumption is the same thing is implied in both.

That's not the case, if it were, philosophy, for example, would not have advanced one step.

Two points:
1 - The meanings of words change as we grow in understanding.
— Plato, for example, had a very low opinion of 'rhetoric' as a linguistic device, and regarded it as something of a linguistic con trick — for him a rhetorician was no better than a snake-oil salesman.

Aristotle investigated the word further, and brought out profound levels of understanding, demonstrating that Plato's understanding was somewhat superficial and dismissive. In Aristotle rhetoric became one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (with dialectic and grammar) in the Western philosophical tradition, and was carried into the universities.

2 - The meaning often 'slips back' to its most superficial and generalised understanding in common usage (people are not philosophers).
— 'metaphor' as taught in schools is nowhere near as sophisticated as it is in Aristotle — and then people read a theologian who says 'metaphor' and assume the most superficial and generalised meaning of the term, and thus invariably miss the point entirely.