'Our greatest blessings come to us by way of mania, provided it is given us by divine gift,' - says Socrates in Plato's Phaedrus. Certain forms of alteration of consciousness, considered to be inspired by supernatural forces, were actively sought in ancient Greece. Divine mania comprises a fascinating array of diverse experiences: numerous initiates underwent some kind of alteration of consciousness during mystery rites; sacred officials and inquirers attained revelations in major oracular centres; possession states were actively sought; finally, some thinkers, such as Pythagoras and Socrates, probably practiced manipulation of consciousness. These experiences, which could be voluntary or involuntary, intense or mild, were interpreted as an invasive divine power within one's mind, or illumination granted by a superhuman being. Greece was unique in its attitude to alteration of consciousness. From the perspective of individual and public freedom, the prominent position of the divine mania in Greek society reflects its acceptance of the inborn human proclivity to experience alteration of consciousness, interpreted in positive terms as god-sent.
These mental states were treated with cautious respect, and in contrast to the majority of complex societies, ancient and modern, were never suppressed or pushed to the cultural and social periphery.
Preface Acknowledgements Abbreviations Introduction Socrates on divine mania Mania: words and images Mania as mental disorder: definition and characteristics Madness in context: the importance of historicism Alterations of consciousness between unity and diversity: aspects of methodology and terminology The scope of this book and its sources * Prophetic mania Inspired prophecy: definitions, ancient and modern Inspired divination in Greece Prophetic priests Laymen who received oracular messages in sanctuaries Unaffiliated seers Inspired prophets as instruments of the gods Inspired prophecy in Greece as compared to other cultures Prophecy in Mesopotamia in comparison to Greece Prophecy in ancient Israel in comparison to Greece Conclusions 2. Telestic mania and near-death experiences Mystery initiations The nature of initiate's experience I: mania for mania's sake or for its treatment The Corybantic rites Bacchic and Sabaziac initiations The nature of the initiate's experience II: paradosis and epopteia The core experience in the 'great mysteries,' mania and alteration of consciousness Techniques of 'getting ready' for the core experience of mystery initiations and mania Mystery rites and near-death experiences Conclusions 3. Bakcheia Dionysus and individual madmen in myths Dionysus and destructive collective mania in myth Bakchai and bakchoi in myth, poetry and art Bakcheia and gender The historicity of the savage rites The dynamics of the thiasos Bakcheia from a comparative viewpoint Aspects of physiology and psychology of bakcheia Conclusions 4. Mania on the battlefield and on the march Combat fury: Lyssa Psychological injuries and combat stress: Phobos Panic Battlefield epiphanies Conclusions 5. Nympholepsy Nympholepsy and vatic abilities Possession by the nymphs Conclusions 6. Poetic mania The Muses, memory, and inspiration Music and alteration of consciousness The nature of poetic inspiration: Plato The nature of poetic inspiration: Aristotle Modern poets and musicians, and their inspiration Enthusiastic audiences Conclusions 7. Erotic mania Plato on the erotic mania Greeks on eros as mania Blessings of the erotic mania? Conclusions 8. The philosopher's mania and his path to truth Socrates' mania Plato's mystical experiences Mania and Archaic sages: Epimenides, Aethalides, and Hermotimus Mania and Presocratic philosophers: Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Parmenides Shamans and mystics? Coda: Democritus the mad philosopher Conclusions Epilogue. Perspectives on the divine mania