The Phaedrus and
(See also an outline
of the third speech in The Phaedrus)
One of the themes in The Phaedrus
is the soul's connection with The Eternal, the realm of the essences
(depicted in the Plato's Cave film as that mountaintop experience).
According to Plato (and/or Socrates)
- our connection to physical things is
by means of our senses
- our connection to the mental and mathematical
world is by means of the mind
- our connection to eternal things
is by means of various forms of divine madness
The most significant form of divine madness
in this dialog is that of being a lover of the beautiful, which is what
eros is all about. Socrates' descriptions of what it is like to be completely
awestruck in the presence of beauty (whether that be beauty of a person,
a sunrise, a storm at sea, a piece of art, or any other beautiful thing)
clearly fit the experience of anyone who has been so struck.
It also clearly fits the experience of those
who have felt the soul-wrenching power of an encounter with The Divine
(about which we read in the scriptural writings of most of the world's
great spiritual traditions).
Divine madness is, for Plato, one of the
main avenues that human beings have for encounter with The Holy.
For anyone interested in exploring these
things further, two of the many good books written on these themes are:
James' classic Varieties
of Religious Experience. This is a collection of the famous
Gifford lectures given in England by the most renowned and beloved
classical American Philosopher William James, brother of the novelist
Henry James. In these lectures he collected a wide variety of first
person accounts of religious experience and interspersed them with
his own analyses and attempts to understand what they mean. Extremely
Otto, The Idea of The Holy (the English translation from
the German "Das Heilige.") I think a more accurate translation
would be The Experience of The Holy, since it is an analysis
of those numinous experiences characterized by what Otto terms the
encounter with the "mysterium tremendum."