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Hazel Barnes APOTHEOSIS AND DEIFICATION IN PLATO, NIETZSCHE AND HUXLEY The Myth of Er at the end of Plato's Republic, Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy, and Aldous Huxley's Time Must Have a Stop are all philosophical myths; that is, they are myths which have been deliberately invented by a single person. They are closer to genuine myth than to either allegory or philosophical exposition in that they draw upon a recognizable body of mythical material and present it in concrete imagery. The source is Orphism for Plato, Eastern religion for Huxley. Nietzsche has borrowed Apollo and Dionysus; the gods retain their Greek associations even though Nietzsche sets them in a new mythological framework based on Schopenhauer's distinction between the dream world of phenomena and the underlying reality of the Will. All three authors employ myth for the purpose of explaining and persuading us to the truth of a philosophical world outlook. In the work of Plato and Huxley the imagistic is accompanied by conceptual, analytic explanation. In Nietzsche's essay they are inseparable. Following the "Myth of Er," Plato closes with a brief paragraph insuring that the point of the myth has not been lost on us. Huxley provides a long section from Sebastian's journal of philosophical reflections. The stories by Plato and Huxley belong to established literary genres—a moral parable and a novel. Nietzsche, of course, has not written a narrative. On the surface, at least, he is writing literary criticism; he is trying to isolate and to analyze the two basic artistic impulses which produced Greek tragedy and which could usher in a new Tragic Age. Each of the three works is concerned with the relation of time and eternity, with the individual's role in the cosmos. In each the question of how man should live is primary. They all deal with material which, whether correctly or not, has been associated with the East and with Dionysus. Yet in each one of them the author's attitude toward this material is ambivalent. In no case are we to take the myth literally, and one may wonder whether every one of these works is not just 4 Philosophy and Literature a bit atypical of its author's attitude when the myth is put into relation with the rest of his writing. I should like to consider the three myths—separately and comparatively —in the terms which I have just suggested. In addition, I think that it would be particularly revealing and significant to examine them in the light of a distinction which Huxley makes in Time Must Have a Stop. Defining near synonyms as they are suited to his particular intention, not as the dictionary would define them, Huxley distinguishes between "apotheosis" and "deification." Interestingly, he first presents the distinction in relation to art—just as for Nietzsche the discussion of Apollo and Dionysus is introduced in the context of artistic and literary origins. "Michelangelo and Fra Angélico—apotheosis and deification." Apotheosis —the personality exalted and intensified to the point where the person ceases to be mere man or woman and becomes god-like, one of the Olympians, like that passionately pensive warrior, like those great titanesses brooding, naked, above the sarcophagi. And over against apotheosis, deification—personality annihilated in charity, in union, so that at last the man or woman can say, "Not I, but God in me".1 Huxley may or may not have been influenced here by Nietzsche. In one of Nietzsche's later books, The Gay Science, he speaks of an "art of apotheoses." As in The Birth of Tragedy, such art is associated with Apollo. It is, Nietzsche says, "dithyrambic like Rubens, or blissfully jesting with Hafiz, or bright and gracious like Goethe, spreading a Homeric light and glory over all things."2 In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche connects apotheosis specifically with the Olympian world of Homer. But my concern is not to demonstrate either conscious or unconscious influence upon Huxley.3 Rather, I see the opposed ideals of apotheosis and deification as representing a particular aspect of the tension between the temporal and the eternal which is central to all three of these myths...


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