Sir James Frazer describes Adonis as a "dying-god" who "represented the yearly decay and revival of life, especally of vegetable life" (p. 6). The evolution of this mythological motif illustrates how human consciousness gradually absorbs unconscious material. In the first stage, Adonis is a god. In the next stage, represented by Ovid's version of the story, Adonis becomes a mortal with whom a goddess falls in love. In other words, human consciusness can now see Adonis's situation or dilemma as real, even if the interaction itself is imagined as occasioned by divine factors. In the third stage, represented by Dorian and Sibyl, both protagonists are mortal, and the entire encounter occurs in realistic terms. Dorian's experiences still retain the basic pattern of the myth, but he can make decisions in a way that neither the original dying-god nor Ovid's protagonist can. In this way, numinous experiences are slowly assimilated or integrated by consciousness, allowing the ego to assume ever greater responsibility for his actions.


Frazer, J. (1922) The Golden Bough, Part IV, vol 1. London: Macmillan.

Last modified 7 March 2002