Thoughts inspired by Dennis Patrick Slattery, “Dionysus, Apollo, and Asklepios: The Road from Dis-ease to Recovery, A Bio Mythic Narrative,” Jung Journal: Psyche and Culture 12:3 (Summer 2018): 45-53.

In a painfully detailed account of his battle with a blood-borne infection, Pacifica graduate Institute emeritus professor Dennis Slattery describes his experience as bodily visitations by the Greek gods Dionysus, Apollo, and Asklepios–Apollos’ son, represented by the snake on the well-known symbol of medicine. Of the three, he writes:

Dionysus demanded that I give up, yield, and surrender to a process that was imposed from without, driving self-determination into limbo and parking it there for an indefinite period. Fighting this powerful god’s presence and direction risks further dismemberment, which would inevitably insist on a longer recovery.”

“I credit Apollo the purifier for allowing me to put the pieces of my life back into alignment.”

Asklepios furthers his father’s work as purifier.”

I was curious–does Slattery literally believe he had been visited by gods, or was he using these concepts as metaphors for otherwise indescribable feelings?

So I asked him, and here’s what he said:

“The gods like myth itself, as James Hillman phrases it, never happened; therefore they are always happening. A bit paradoxical, to be sure.

“As to literal, no; but concrete, yes. They are parts of the psyche that stand for different propensities, patterns, presences that are active in our lives. They are imaginal creations but not to suggest that they are not “real” in the way that joy, resentments, love are real.

“So, yes, they are not to be taken literally but psychically as presences”

I wonder . . . what metaphors could I find to express the things that I find otherwise inexpressible. Water flowing under melting ice on the first warm day after winter. A falling star. The smell of spring.