Sex in history, by Gordan Rattray Taylor

But this does not exhaust the symbolism of this powerful, myth. For as Euripides strove to show, the central problem is the control of these powerful instinctive forces by the conscious mind. As King Pentheus discovered, to try and suppress them entirely is suicidal. The attempt provokes an explosion in which all barriers are overthrown. The conscious mind must ride these forces as a man rides a powerful horse. This explains, what has puzzled so many, why the worship of Apollo at Delphi was combined with the worship of Dionysos. It was Nietzsche who started the confusion with his false antithesis between Apollonian and Dionysiac religions. Since then, numerous writers have classified not only theoleptic religions, but periods such as Romanticism, as Dionysiac; and have treated religions and periods of cerebral control (including Classicism) as being Apollonian. But Apollo was the symbol of moderation, the golden mean, the Greek conception of measure. The extremes of patrist Puritanism are not Apollonoian, while, on the other hand, the Romantics never abandoned themselves to group orgies. Apollo did not deny the unconscious, and the Delphic sibyl, who spoke from the unconscious in a state of trance, was under his aegis. Apollo and Dionysos are not opponents but partners.

The fertility ceremonies often called for sexual abstinence immediately prior to the annual rites; the theoleptic religions actually moved in the direction of demanding sexual continence as part of their programme of detaching the mind from earthly matters, but this was left to the conscience of the individual; they prescribed no punishments and set up no system of supervision. Still less did they attempt to intervene in the regulations governing married life and the civil laws governing sexual offences. Since religion was conceived as a special kind of experience, those who failed to prepare themselves suitably might fail to experience the revelation: to enforce an outward conformity without the inward desire to achieve the experience would be pointless.

In any case, by no means everyone devoted themselves to these theoleptic religions. In Greece, the bright new pantheon of Olympian gods, cheerfully brawling and wenching, gradually pushed the older fertility deities into the background, and in Rome much the same occurred. These gods cared only that they should not be spoken of disrespectfully and that the appropriate rituals should be performed. They offered no rewards for good behaviour. In Rome, indeed, the performance of rituals became almost entirely a matter for professional priests, and the ordinary man had little to do except to keep quiet. (88)