On Apollon

Todd Jackson

You do not have to worship Apollo. It is possible that those who do not worship Apollo live miserable, thwarted lives. It is possible that the failure to worship Apollo leads one to a horrible afterlife – to a damnation of some sort – or to no afterlife whatsoever. If so, I am not aware of it. Nor is this anywhere written. Pascal’s wager makes a poor rationale for the worship of Apollo.

He is exactly the opposite of a jealous God, calling all worship into himself. Indeed, the existence of Apollo actively presupposes the existence of other Gods, and if it is your desire to become wise, or to save your soul, or simply to shed a few bad habits, the existence of Apollo presupposes one’s capacity to fulfill these wishes beneath the shade, or light, of some other deity. You do not have to worship Apollo. His existence does not even contradict the existence of that God whose existence would presume to contradict his. And more: no mortal can guarantee that Apollo has any interest in your worship, or in you. The claim, Apollo Loves You, must be won through experience, not doctrine. This might seem discouraging, but here there is something quite breathtaking. For if you are among those (Few? Many? We shall see) if you are among those who carry within them the feeling of Apollo’s interest, you may conclude that this interest is in you, distinctly, and in you, wholly, as a particular individual; that he has seen the path you alone have walked, and invites you onto a path that has been walked by few, or by none, before. There is something centrifugal in his nature, that sends force outward, onward, toward some far destination. His statuary suggests this. The statues of Apollo – think of the Belvedere, think of the Olympia – almost never face you, the mortal, with open arms, as though he himself were the destination of your path. Nor are they turned inward, as Buddhas are, toward silent contemplation. Instead, they draw your eye to some third point, upon which he, Archer, Striker From Afar, is rapt. You are invited to share this focus upon the third point, which is neither you nor he, but which, shared by you both, becomes the intersection of the mortal and the divine. To appreciate a statue of Apollo seems always to triangulate upon this third point, in the same manner that one tends not to gaze upon the Sun, before soon focusing upon that which the Sun illuminates. Even in the Apollo of Project: Apollo, one cannot long consider Apollo without soon considering that third thing, the Moon. You do not have to worship Apollo. But let us, for a moment, gaze into the Sun. Apollo has, of course, his special creatures. The wolf. The crow. The dolphin. Apparently disparate creatures, united in being, each, an irruption of intelligence within Nature; of intelligence as Nature’s fruit, rather than as Nature’s opposite. However, among the Olympians, Apollo does not shorthand very comfortably; he is notoriously resistant to synopsis. Apollo is Sun God, but not in the manner that Aphrodite is Love Goddess, Ares, God of War. Name Aphrodite Love Goddess and you have said something reductive, and crude, but for a given moment, adequate. One might then go on to consider all the depth and complexity of the field, Love. Do so with sufficient thoroughness, and you will have come to a conversational understanding of Aphrodite. It is not adequate to Apollo to name him Sun God. It becomes necessary, for instance, to understand the Sun as the Greeks did. Where we see a stillness around which we move, they saw a fireball that rose out of darkness, crossed the broad sky, and returned to darkness; and knowing this matters when you name Apollo Sun God. Then there is the entire business of Helios, and the uneasy dance between Sun God and Sun itself. Further, to the Greeks, Apollo was more importantly God of Medicine, of Prophecy, and of Purification, than Sun God. Of these, we all welcome Medicine; Prophecy is a minor cultural aside to most of us, belonging more to entertainment than to religion; and Purification means nothing to us, even less than nothing. And yet of all Apollo’s many facets, Purification is perhaps most crucial. It needs to be understood. A mystical concept, it can yet be approached rationally. As a question, Purification necessarily divides into two: Purification from what? and Purification toward what? These queries can be seen as two points that describe a Line. Purification toward what? has a straightforward answer: Purification toward the condition of Apollo. And this condition is, simply, perfection. Apollo is the antetype to man, standing beyond our far point, forever over the horizon of our possibility. Of all Gods known to man, none represents this aspect of divinity – divine excellence – so completely as Apollo. Excellence incarnate, excellence is his gift. Though we will never match him, we yet share the same Line. Even as there is this fundamental difference, still there is this fundamental bond. And the Delphic command, Know Thyself, means both Know that there is always a segment between his point and yours; and also, Know your position, precisely, along the Line. Know when you rise, shortening the segment, and Know when you have sunk, lengthening it. Apollo combines the impossibility of our becoming Gods and the invitation toward divinity. The Line segment between Apollo and ourselves is the segment upon which Icarus rose and fell. Traveling this Line is fraught with danger. Know Thyself is a warning. Don’t challenge the Gods to musical contests. If you see a Goddess bathing nude, look the other way. Don’t ask the Gods to show themselves in their true form. And yet, paradoxically, Purification is-inevitably- an invitation to ascent. There are those who have accepted this invitation. This is the ascent of Pythagoras. Of Socrates. Of Plato. Of Empedocles. Of Apollonius. Of Plotinus. This invitation, which is Apollo’s, is, through these men who worshiped him, the deep source of Western reason, science, and technology. And the fruit of this ascent, the ultimate third point, is the conceptualization of the One. You do not have to worship Apollo. But do so, and you will have stepped into the center of the center of Western civilization. For, Purity incarnate, incapable of fear, Apollo is the God who does not fear your thinking, nor where it might lead. Appropriate, that it was his son, his blood, who began raising the dead themselves, till Zeus cut him short. Stand back a distance, regarding the Line, and yourself as one point upon it, and an adequate synopsis for Apollo occurs: Apollo is the God of the Evolution of Man. No wonder that we look about ourselves, across Nature, in vain for that phenomenon that is the Sign of Apollo. We ourselves are the Sign of Apollo. You are a shadow he has cast upon time. Be Purified. Rise.

 

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