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Open Access Possessed and Inspired: Hermias on Divine Madness*

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Possessed and Inspired: Hermias on Divine Madness*

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Abstract Hermias of Alexandria (5th cent. A.D.) wrote down the lectures given on the Phaedrus by his teacher Syrianus, Head of the Neoplatonic School of Athens. In the preserved text the Platonic distinction of madness is presented in a Neoplatonic way. In the first section of the article we discuss Hermias’ treatment of possession. The philosopher examines four topics in his effort to present a Neoplatonic doctrine concerning possession. As he holds that divine possession is evident in all parts of the soul, he first argues that it is primarily applied to the one-in-the-soul. Secondly, he explains that possession is also applied to reason, opinion, imagination, thymos and desire, all the above being distinctive parts of the human soul, but not as important as the one-in-the-soul. The third issue he discusses is whether all causes of possession are identical to the divine. Then, Hermias examines the fact that possession is to be traced not only in the human soul but also in the statues. In the second section of the article Hermias’ analysis of the four kinds of Platonic madness is presented. The philosopher first analyzes the interdependence between all four divine kinds of madness and then describes their function on two levels, inside and outside the soul. The function within the soul is richer and is realized in four fields: (a) the restoration of the soul after its fall, (b) the restoration of the human being as a whole, (c) the Pythagorean mathematical system and (d) the logic processes. The function outside the soul deals with the manifestations of the soul in human society. Under this perspective, Hermias clearly proposes an original classification of the kinds of madness, on the basis of which we encounter poetic madness. After that follow the madness of the seer, the telestic madness, and the madness of love. The whole analysis incorporates Platonic, Aristotelian, Pythagorean and theurgic elements that cover the fields of psychology, logic and metaphysics.

Affiliations: 1: Hellenic Open University christinamanolea@hotmail.gr

Abstract Hermias of Alexandria (5th cent. A.D.) wrote down the lectures given on the Phaedrus by his teacher Syrianus, Head of the Neoplatonic School of Athens. In the preserved text the Platonic distinction of madness is presented in a Neoplatonic way. In the first section of the article we discuss Hermias’ treatment of possession. The philosopher examines four topics in his effort to present a Neoplatonic doctrine concerning possession. As he holds that divine possession is evident in all parts of the soul, he first argues that it is primarily applied to the one-in-the-soul. Secondly, he explains that possession is also applied to reason, opinion, imagination, thymos and desire, all the above being distinctive parts of the human soul, but not as important as the one-in-the-soul. The third issue he discusses is whether all causes of possession are identical to the divine. Then, Hermias examines the fact that possession is to be traced not only in the human soul but also in the statues. In the second section of the article Hermias’ analysis of the four kinds of Platonic madness is presented. The philosopher first analyzes the interdependence between all four divine kinds of madness and then describes their function on two levels, inside and outside the soul. The function within the soul is richer and is realized in four fields: (a) the restoration of the soul after its fall, (b) the restoration of the human being as a whole, (c) the Pythagorean mathematical system and (d) the logic processes. The function outside the soul deals with the manifestations of the soul in human society. Under this perspective, Hermias clearly proposes an original classification of the kinds of madness, on the basis of which we encounter poetic madness. After that follow the madness of the seer, the telestic madness, and the madness of love. The whole analysis incorporates Platonic, Aristotelian, Pythagorean and theurgic elements that cover the fields of psychology, logic and metaphysics.

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2013-01-01
2016-12-10

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