Perhaps the most interesting facet of this is Socrates’ reliance on what the Greeks called his “daemonic sign”, an averting (ἀποτρεπτικός apotreptikos) inner voice Socrates heard only when he was about to make a mistake. It was this sign that prevented Socrates from entering into politics. In the Phaedrus, we are told Socrates considered this to be a form of “divine madness”, the sort of insanity that is a gift from the gods and gives us poetry, mysticism, love, and even philosophy itself. Alternately, the sign is often taken to be what we would call “intuition”; however, Socrates’ characterization of the phenomenon as “daemonic” may suggest that its origin is divine, mysterious, and independent of his own thoughts. Today, such a voice would be classified under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a command hallucination.
Phaedrus, the dialogue:
In the Phaedrus, Socrates makes the rather bold claim that some of life’s greatest blessings flow from madness; and he clarifies this later by noting that he is referring specifically to madness inspired by the gods. It should be noted that Phaedrus is Plato’s only dialogue that shows Socrates outside the city of Athens, out in the country. It was believed that spirits and nymphs inhabited the country, and Socrates specifically points this out after the long palinode with his comment about listening to the cicadas. After originally remarking that “landscapes and trees have nothing to teach me, only people do”,[Note 56] Socrates goes on to make constant remarks concerning the presence and action of the gods in general, nature gods such as Pan and the nymphs, and the Muses, in addition to the unusually explicit characterization of his own daemon. The importance of divine inspiration is demonstrated in its connection with and the importance of religion, poetry and art, and above all else, love. Eros, much like in the Symposium, is contrasted from mere desire of the pleasurable and given a higher, heavenly function. Unlike in the Ion, a dialogue dealing with madness and divine inspiration in poetry and literary criticism, madness here must go firmly hand in hand with reason, learning, and self-control in both love and art.
I have said that the ‘muse’ is a real phenomenon amongst artists. I have encountered this myself and it fills me full of creativity and ancient truths that have been forgotten or hidden.
Hypocritically, religion forces it’s followers to deny divine inspiration. A gift only allowed to those ordained or long dead and safely sainted. Yet, it is part of the human experience. Who has never felt an urge to do something out of character unexpectedly?