Chapter

Introduction

Yulia Ustinova

in Caves and the Ancient Greek Mind

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199548569
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720840 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199548569.003.0001
 Introduction

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The Greeks perceived mental experiences of exceptional intensity as resulting from divine intervention. To share in the immortals' knowledge, one had to liberate the soul from the burden of the mortal body by attaining ekstasis, mania, or enthousiasmos, that is, by merging with a superhuman being or possession by a deity. Whatever was perceived or uttered in such states—prophecy, poetry, or mystical insights—was considered inspired by the gods and immeasurably superior to anything perceived or deliberated in normal circumstances. These states were often attained by inspired mediums, ‘impresarios of gods’—prophets, poets, and sages—by means of descent into caves or underground chambers. The Introduction discusses the contrast between deductive and inspired divination. Inspired prophecy was comparatively rare in the ancient world, since it could be attained only by chosen individuals, in altered states of consciousness, and in special circumstances. The closing section introduces the sources for the book and its methodology.

Keywords: divination; possession; medium; ekstasis; mania; enthousiasmos

Chapter.  5062 words. 

Subjects: Classical Philosophy

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