Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/691

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669
GENIUS AND MENTAL DISEASE.

wisdom, goodness, and all that is divine. . . . The mind of the philosopher alone has wings; he is ever initiated into perfect mysteries, and his soul alone becomes complete. But the vulgar deem him mad and rebuke him; they do not see that he is inspired. This divine madness is kindled through the renewed vision of beauty. . . . Love itself is madness."

The soothsayers, or diviners, to whom Plato ascribed the "nobler madness," were regarded mad, not only because of their wisdom, but because of their extravagant rage and noisy behavior.

Virgil describes the inspired priestess as full of enthusiastic rage, and fiercely raving in her struggle to disburden her soul of the influence of the mighty god. Indeed, raging, foaming, and yelling, accompanied with antic motions, was the usual way of expressing the influence of inspiration or "possession."

Since Aristotle held psychological views similar to those of Plato, his saying that "it is the essence of a great poet to be mad" adds nothing to the strength of the theory.

The "madness," referred to in the conversation between Horace and Damasippus, did not specially relate to intellectual conditions, or to what we know as insanity, as has been intimated, but rather to individual and social ethics. The "Satire" says: "The school and sect of Chrysippus deem every man mad whom vicious folly or whomsoever the ignorance of any truth drives blindly on. This definition takes in whole nations; this even great kings; the wise man alone being excepted. . . . Whoever is afflicted with evil ambition or the love of money; whoever is smitten with luxury, or gloomy superstition, or any other disease of the mind, . . . come near me, in order, while I convince you that you are mad. . . . Whoever shall form images foreign from truth, and be confused in the tumult of impiety, will always be reckoned disturbed in mind; . . . where there is foolish depravity, there will be the height of madness. He who is wicked will be frantic too."

I confess that, with such statements before us, it hardly seems necessary to discuss the value of ancient opinions on a subject which must be treated under the restrictions of modern definitions. We will, therefore, examine the question from the standpoint of more modern times, when the supernatural agency in insanity gives place to the deteriorating influences which unite it to other forms of nervous disease; and genius becomes a product of an age, in the expansive growth of the human mind.

That these extreme forms of mental expression are often associated, there is no doubt; and that genius is, at times, shadowed by mental disease is a fact well known; but our interest centers in the inquiry, whether this relationship is such an essential one as to justify Dryden in asserting—

"Great wits are sure to madness near allied,
 And thin partitions do their bounds divide."