Alteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece

TitoloAlteration of Consciousness in Ancient Greece
Publication TypeLibro
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsUstinova, Y
Ancient AuthorsPlato Phil. (TLG 0059), Aristoteles et Corpus Aristotelicum Phil. (TLG 0086)
Number of Pagesxvi + 395 pp.
CittàLondon; New York

‘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 super-human 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. []


BMCR 2018.10.19 Sabine Neumann

Table of Contents

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

1. 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

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

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

4. Mania on the battlefield and on the march
Combat fury: Lyssa
Psychological injuries and combat stress: Phobos
Battlefield epiphanies

5. Nympholepsy
Nympholepsy and vatic abilities
Possession by the nymphs

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

7. Erotic mania
Plato on the erotic mania
Greeks on erôs as mania
Blessings of the erotic mania?

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

Epilogue. Perspectives on the divine mania


© 2007-2012 MOISA: Società internazionale per lo studio della musica greca e romana e della sua eredità culturale.

Sito disegnato da Geoff Piersol a aggiornato da Stefan Hagel