top of page

'Don't Fear the Underworld: The Limits of Apollonianism'

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

As with all emanations that spring from the mystery of The Void and Oneness into duality, Apollo, The God of Light and The Sun is an ambivalent character. He brings clarity, optimism and innerstanding on a conscious level. His is the world of rationality, because what can be seen in the light of day is clear, understandable and knowable.

He is the "enemy of all darkness"...

Here we see the Achilles heel of getting caught in the need to be "in the light", in the Apollonian state, at all times. To be the enemy of all darkness implies a sense of separateness from one entirely valid and necessary half of The Whole (of God). And this is why his oracle was said to be “double-tongued and elusive” and that his arrows could destroy both men and monsters. The light of the Sun both heals and burns; Light illuminates and blinds. Following the Light can lift us out of despair and ignorance, but it can equally cut us off from the vast, renewing, transformative powers held with the dark.

Apollo was the son of Leta, Goddess of Night, so from the darkness, Light is born.

No darkness = no light.

Apollo is said to conquer the darkness of the feminine Underworld, but he is only one half of the whole equation and His light can only sustain for so long.

Night must follow day, for without "Night" "Day" has no meaning.

To focus too much on Apollo, on "the light", to obsess over our ability to rationally know what is "right", is to negate that vital process which goes on unconsciously in "the dark" - the gestation, the marinating, the deep mysterious brooding that gives birth to and surrounds conscious Apollonian thought/ awareness.

There is a time and a place to exert one's will, to make a "choice", to focus the light of our awareness in a particular direction, but to deny the mystery of where that impulse comes from, to claim that we can "know", "100%", the "right choice/ wrong choice" is to deny that beautiful, wild mystery from whence ALL springs. For there are processes within both our personal experiences, as well as on the macrocosmic level, that are inexplainable and inaccessible to rational, Apollonian awareness. Only through allowing ourselves to venture into the Underworld, resisting the pleas of the ego (Apollo) to avoid the un-comfortability of "not knowing", do we open ourselves up to the guidance that can well up from the Void that precedes Light (conscious awareness).

If we were to always be super-conscious, if we strive for an awareness constantly acting as a floodlight, we would never be able to glimpse/ feel the subtle intuitions that come through that liminal space between conscious and unconscious - those hunches, gut-feelings, dreams and synchronicities: that guidance that comes from a place (the unknowable dark) before conscious awareness. The brighter the light the darker the shadows, until they become so dark so that their secrets can never be uncovered.

You know it: if you go looking for synchronicities, or guidance from Source (i.e. you shine the floodlight in a wilful act) you will rarely find them, at least not the transcendent, mind-blowing epiphanies. But wait patiently, open and receptive - i.e. the principles of night and the feminine - and they will come and in ways which befuddle and defy rational understanding. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for Apollo! The Gift of insight comes from the unknowable Mystery, which the rational, conscious light of awareness is then able to interpret and innerstand the meaning of that inspired guidance.

But too much focus or striving for the sun’s kind of consciousness (The Light) results in an over emphasis on individual will being exerted. There is too much ego, in the sense of "my choice", "I know what's best", "I am certain". There is a place for will, for making choices, but it must balance with the patient, allowance of the mysterious unfolding of our destiny, one which evades a rational understanding.

What happens if you try to stay awake indefinitely (i.e. trying to remain in the sunlit world/ in the ‘overworld’)? You would eventually (and in not too great a time) pass over into the realms of the dead. The light of this ego at least would blink out. Common sense tells us that sleep (an absence of sun-consciousness, a submission to night and the unknown) is necessary for homeostatic, balanced health (health = whole)

Too much interference, too much will applied, too much light and a plant will not grow. There must be balance: day and night.

When we no longer resist "night", the "dark", "uncertainty" etc. we allow a re-wholing (whole = heal) of The Self.

For it is within those courageous explorations and a surrendering to the necessity of the underworld that we find the treasures, those lost aspects of our Self that hitherto we could not accept as being a vital part of God and therefore of ourselves: the guilt, the shame, the despair, the fear… all of those legitimate, authentic expressions within the human experience that the religions both old and new will tell you are "ungodly", or "unspiritual", or “low vibe”. But God created these experiences, seen and felt through a “you”, just as much as their polar opposites. Neither experience, "positive" or "negative" is more Godly.

Do we need to be held captivated by them, or in service to the Underworld experiences?

No! Well, maybe for a time... But to repress them or to deny their validity is to guarantee that they will influence your life, even when it isn't their season, and usually in not so pleasant ways. Those shadow qualities of Self are always seeking to be felt and re-cognised, growing louder and more demanding internally until they are literally screaming to be hear. Or they will be projected out into the world so that your Self has at least some way of experiencing that "negative" polarity of human experience: “THEY are full of fear”; “THEY have taken the black pill of despair”; “THEY are choosing the wrong path” etc etc.. In these ways, whether though repression or projection, we will remain captivated by these shadow qualities as they seek to be integrated as a valid and unrepressed aspects of The Whole - The Self that isn't in resistance to Night/ The Underworld/ The Shadow.

So long as there is a resistance to one polarity of God, denying the legitimacy of "negative" experiences, there will be true suffering. For as the Buddha so rightly elucidated:

"Pain is what the world does to you, suffering is what you do to yourself by the way you think about the pain you receive. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional".

So don't fear or resist The Underworld. In those unknowable depths, in the "negative" experiences, are the subtle seeds of transformation which are biding their time before seeking the Light of rational understanding. Don't burn those seeds through avoiding or resisting one half of God, of your Self.

Perhaps this is what is meant by "deep roots are not reached by the frost". By allowing ourselves to remain in connection to that deeper, darker, impenetrable by Light, space, we remain fed and watered by the unconsciousness, the womb from which we all spring. Winter (the womb) is inevitable and unavoidable, but this doesn't mean we must perish. What freezes us is the resistance to that season, that Journey of transformation, that wellspring of creativity.

A.J. Dunbar

+-+-+-+-+-+ 101010101 +-+-+-+-+-+


'When the Roots are Deep' by Sam Cannon

Mario Sanchez Nevado

The Fate of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld; Goddess of Spring, by Walter Crane


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page