Friday, September 16, 2005


Schizophrenia is an accepted diagnosis of mental disorder and we cannot underestimate the positive contribution of such science. But many Christians, including Christian psychologists, believe the causes of violence in people suffering physical and mental illness can be connected to violent images and stories in popular media. Some believe curable, and incurable conditions like schizophrenia, should be approached both scientifically and spiritually during diagnosis and treatment. This presupposes a psychological influence of supernatural evil in some cases, and applies a literal interpretation to the words of Jesus that the Evil One is "a murderer" (John 8:44). Satan's violent autosuggestions influence the mind that rejects the voice of God and fills it with "envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice" (Romans 1:29).
Early cultures often interpreted such difficult psychological expressions through metaphysics. In Greece, Dionysus was the intoxicating god of unbridled human passion. He was the presence that is otherwise defined as the craving within man that longs to "let itself go" and to "give itself over" to evil human desires. What a Christian might resist as the evil thoughts of the carnal man, the followers of Dionysus embraced as the incarnate power that would, in the next life, liberate mankind from the constraints of this present world, and from the customs which sought to define respectability through a person's obedience to moral law.
Until then, worshippers of Dionysus attempted to bring themselves into union with their god through ritual casting off of the bonds of sexual denial and primal constraint by seeking to attain a higher state of ecstasy. The uninhibited rituals of ecstasy (Greek for "outside the body") supposedly brought the followers of Dionysus into a supernatural condition that enabled them to escape the temporary limitations of the body and mind, and to achieve a state of enthousiasmos, or, "outside the body and inside the god." In this sense Dionysus represented a dichotomy within the Greek religion, as the primary maxim of the Greek culture was one of moderation, or, "nothing too extreme." But Dionysus embodied the absolute extreme in that he sought to inflame the forbidden passions and murderous thoughts of the human mind. Interestingly, as most students of psychology will understand, this gave Dionysus a stronger allure among many Greeks who otherwise tried in so many ways to suppress and control the wild and secret lusts of the human mind.
But Dionysus resisted every such effort, and, according to myth, visited a terrible madness upon those who tried to deny him his free expression. The Dionystic idea of mental disease resulting from the suppression of secret inner desires, especially aberrant sexual desires, was later reflected in the atheistic teachings of Sigmund Freud. Thus, Freudianism might be called the grandchild of the cult of Dionysus.
Conversely, the person who gave himself over to the will of Dionysus was rewarded with unlimited psychological and physical delights. Such mythical systems of mental punishments and physical rewards based on resistance and/or submission to Dionysus, were both symbolically and literally illustrated in the cult rituals of the Bacchae (the female participants of the Dionystic mysteries), as the Bacchae women migrated in frenzied hillside groups, dressed transvestite in fawn skins and accompanied by screaming, music, dancing, blood letting, and licentious behavior. When, for instance, a baby animal was too young and lacking in instinct to sense the danger and run away from the revelers, it was picked up and suckled by nursing mothers who participated in the hillside rituals. But when older animals sought to escape the marauding Bacchae, they were considered "resistant" to the will of Dionysus and were torn apart and eaten alive as a part of the fevered ritual.
Human participants were sometimes subjected to the same orgiastic cruelty, as the rule of the cult was "anything goes," including rape and other acts of interpersonal violence. Later versions of the ritual (Bacchanalia) expanded to include pedophilia and male revelers, and perversions of sexual behavior were often worse between men than they were between men and women. Any creature that dared to resist such perversion of Dionysus was subjected to sparagmos ("torn apart') and omophagia ("consumed raw"). In B.C. 410, Euripides wrote of the bloody rituals of the Bacchae in his famous play, The Bacchantes:
Bacchantes [with] hands that bore no weapon of steel, attacked our cattle as they browsed. Then wouldst thou have seen Agave mastering some sleek lowing calf, while others rent the heifers limb from limb. Before thy eyes there would have been hurling of ribs and hoofs this way and that, and strips of flesh, all blood be-dabbled, dripped as they hung from the pine branches. Wild bulls, that glared but now with rage along their horns, found themselves tripped up, dragged down to earth by countless maidens hands.Euripedes went on to describe how Pentheus, the King of Thebes, was torn apart and eaten alive by his own mother as, according to the play, she fell under the spell of Dionysus.
The tearing apart and eating alive of a sacrificial victim may refer to the earliest history of the murderous voice of Satan. An ancient and violent cult idea existing since the dawn of paganism stipulated that, by eating alive, or by drinking the blood, of an enemy or an animal, a person might somehow capture the essence or "soul-strength" of the victim. The earliest Norwegian huntsmen believed this, and they drank the blood of bears in an effort to capture their physical strength. East African Masai warriors also practiced omophagia, and they sought to gain the strength of the wild by drinking the blood of lions. Human victims were treated this way by Arabs before Mohammed, and head-hunters of the East Indies practiced omophagia in an effort to capture the essence of their enemies.
Today, omophagia is practiced by certain Voodoo sects as well as by cult Satanists. Eating human flesh and drinking human blood as an attempt to "become one" with the devoured is, in many cases, a demonization of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. But sparagmos and omophagia, as practiced by the followers of Dionysus, was not an attempt of transubstantiation (as in the Catholic Eucharist), nor of consubstantiation (as in the Lutheran communion), nor yet of a symbolic ordinance (as in the fundamentalist denomination), all of which have as a common goal--the elevating of the worshipper into a sacramental communion with God. The goal of the Bacchae was the opposite: The frenzied dance, the thunderous song, the licentious behavior, the murderous activity, all were efforts on the part of the Bacchae to capture the "voice" of the god (Dionysus) and bring him down into an incarnated rage within man. The idea was not one of holy communion, but of possession by the spirit of Dionysus.


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