archetypal awareness living into the dionysian

Therapeia: Some Introductory Conversations

Letting God In. Dionysian Consciousness.


Woundedness is initiatory to meeting Dionysus. When we speak of body, we are referring to body-as-image, the emotional, articulated body. The Dionysian body. “Through the suffering, comes a sense awareness. This kind of consciousness refers to mutilations and afflictions of the body organs that release the sparks of consciousness in these organs, resulting in an organ or body consciousness.”(bf162)

Falling apart and not coming together again, every organ in your body, every psychic organ, is now its own centre of consciousness. Body as imagination, a mode of experiencing consciousness. “With disintegration, healing comes from a consciousness breaking through dismemberment. The experience of the Dionysian body is also a death of our own habitual physical frame.”(bf162)

Imagination constructs reality. We who deal with physical, emotional, creative and spiritual afflictions, should know the body as symptom, every part as valid, an expression of psyche. Then ‘dehumanising’, in Hillman’s usage, means we are indeed deeply affected – but not attached to the affect. “The psyche’s autonomous ability to create illness, morbidity, disorder, abnormality, suffering in any aspect of its behaviour and to experience and imagine life through this deformed and afflicted perspective.”(rp57)

To neglect the primary validity of the soul’s sickness-imagery and sickness-experience distorts our notion of soul and our work with it. Physical illness is not an abnormality. Recall Alfred Ziegler, who reminds us that physical pathology and morbid abnormality is merely the starting point for an imaginal dialogue. “The denial of pathologising from the study of soul, refusing this mode of life, refusing this capacity to reflect on itself, means then that we have cut out soul.”(rp58)

Only a therapist (or shaman or priest), who can enter the dreaming with courage and ruthless compassion, is capable of bringing about transformation of a patient’s psyche. Only one who offers therapeia, literally ‘one who attends to the matters of sanctification in the temple’, is capable of entering into an intimate psychic dialogue with the patient whilst serving the divine, and this is the transmission point that allows for transformation – paradoxically by getting out of the way. An ex-stasis that encourages an en theos. “Serving soul implies letting it rule; it leads, we follow. ‘Pathologising the myth onward’ means staying in the mess while at the same time regarding what is going on from a mythical perspective. We try to follow the soul wherever it leads, trying to learn what the imagination is doing in its madness.”(rp74)

We are not trying to heal the person, we want to learn from and with the pathology, form a relationship to it, find a love with it and through that, form an erotic connection to the daimon, that angel for whose sake we behave. “The wound and the eye are one and the same. From the psyche’s viewpoint, pathology and insight are not opposites – as if we hurt because we have no insight and when we gain insight we shall no longer hurt. No. Pathologising is itself a way of seeing.”(rp107) 

The fantasy of the illness precedes the illness; imagination is primary. A person has many bodies. So when a person comes in for therapy, which of their bodies are we working with, who has arrived in the room? “Before any attempt to treat, or even understand, pathologised phenomena, we meet them in an act of faith, regarding them as authentic, real, and valuable as they are.”(rp75)

Memoria. Mythologizing events into experience. Could ConsciousBody work literally transform the cellular imprints of the trauma? “In other words, making soul means putting events through an imaginal process.”(rp189) 

En Theos. The living body of the divine. The experience of Job. Articulation. Being. What is this experience that we wish to attain, how would we articulate it and why would we need to? “The psyche would not be loved out of its pathology, nor forgiven. Grace, yes, and caritas, send down what you will, but do not forgive me the means by which the divine powers connect and become real: my complexes, which are my sacrifices to these powers. Until I sense them in my confusion, the Gods remain abstract and unreal.”(rp186)


all quotes, james hillman: bf = blue fire, rp = revisioning psychology