Wednesday 15 September 2010

Innovation and Divine Madness

I've been reading E.R.Dodds "The Greeks and the Irrational" about ancient approaches to madness, and particularly Socrates's 4 categories of "divine madness": prophetic madness, telestic (ritual) madness, poetic madness and erotic madness. I've been thinking about these in relation to a discussion we had today regarding 'innovation'. It strikes me that when we say 'innovation', we mean 'play' and submission to forms of madness, but we can't say 'play' because it doesn't sound economically justifiable. The whole point of divine madness is that, providing it is controlled, it produces new things: idealism of prophecy makes us think the world can be better; ritual, worship, meditation can put us in a state where new creation can take shape; poetic thinking helps us to express new things in radical ways, and Freud would argue (rightly in my opinion) that erotic madness has probably lurked behind every significant scientific and artistic advance.

But we hide all this behind cold economic values like 'work' and 'innovation'? Why? because I think we don't have a grasp on how they work. I think we could get a better grasp on this sort of thing - but only by being honest about what's really going on... I wonder if the Greeks had a better grasp on it that we do....

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