When Gods Die
During the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14–37), the news of Pan’s death came to one Thamus, a sailor on his way to Italy by way of the island of Paxi. A divine voice hailed him across the salt water, “Thamus, are you there? When you reach Palodes, take care to proclaim that the great god Pan is dead.” Which Thamus did, and the news was greeted from shore with groans and laments. — “The Death of Pan”
Sound familiar? Yes, indeed, Nietzsche is s modern Thamus proclaiming the death of its god. Gods do die, although not for long. Pan suffered the fate of being resurrected as the Christian Archfiend.
The death of Pan marked the sunset of the Age of Myth and the advent of history. Some say that it marked the end of mythology and the advent of theology. But in whatever way you put it — history or theology — the issue is the coming of philosophy and the mental structure of consciousness. For similar reasons, Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God foreshadows the end of the Pauline Age, dating from the death of Pan. For Nietzsche, it was the return of Dionysus. For Rosenstock-Huessy, who was anxious to promote a “post-Nietzschean” understanding, it was rather the advent of the Johannine Age — the Age of the Spirit and of Revelation.
But these might not be so far apart as they might seem.
It might seem strange, in this context, to bring up the name “Miley Cyrus”, who is, if anything, a symbol of the pandaemonium of post-modern popular culture. But the story of her confusion and struggle with her sexual identity until she realised she was “pansexual” has a certain relevance for our understanding of the return of the repressed. Pan, who is associated with Dionysus, was himself not very discriminating in his choice of sexual partners, male or female, human or beast, animate or inanimate. His name, which means “All”, is very probably an allusion to his sexual proclivities. Miley Cyrus’s eroticism is simply the return of Pan who is, coincidentally, also associated with music.
Pan’s name is associated with other things, too — like panic and pandaemonium,. also orgy and revelry, and with the wild and chaotic and is, in those terms, the quintessential Nature god. And there are quite a few ways in which Nietzsche, having aligned himself with Dionysus and against the Apollonian consciousness, resembles Pan, for Pan with his pipes and Apollo with his lyre were musical competitors. Pan might even be said to be the god of chaotic transition, for he is himself this admixture and confusion, as it were, of divine, human, and animal. Very probably there is an etymological connection between his name, Pan, and the word “pagan” (or pagus, meaning “country” or as living in a state of nature).
There is also a touch of Pan in William Blake, in terms of his praise of sensuousness and of sexual energy. There are quite a few aspects in which it may be safe to say that Pan is really the presiding deity over post-modern pandaemonium and chaotic transition, for he is also referred to as “the Piper at the Gates of Dawn”.