The Nine Muses and the New Socratic or Philosophic Psychology

   The foundation of our current study of the soul is pre-Socratic, based upon a study of nature that is similar to pre-Socratic philosophy. Our medical psychiatry is at best partial, and in the current crisis, we encourage the study of the soul and man to follow the Socratic philosophers. Socrates, famously, turned from the direct study of nature to the study of virtue and the human things. That is: with Socrates, our psychiatry and psychology might be reset by making the turn to the study of the human things. Scientific psychology might be but a part, subordinated within a philosophic psychology. The only context for the study of the soul, or any genuine psychology, is the lifelong study of the liberal arts, through which each cuts their path, doing the best we are able in a mortal life span. Humans do not, we say, know man in any final science that would justify drugging each, or otherwise interfering as anything but an extreme last resort. We do not know what we are doing when it comes to man, with either education or the healing of the soul, but the most complete theoretical education is again the pre-requisite of any genuine science of the soul.

   The ancient Greeks identified nine muses, prior to Socrates, and these- together with the trivium and quadrivium- constitute what we would call high school studies, though none of us are sufficient even in these. Of the nine muses, two are directly concerned with sciences- Cleo is the muse of history, and Urania the muse of Astronomy. The study of the stars would also include geometry and arithmetic and physics. We add biology and chemistry.

   Three Muses are related to drama: Melpomene of tragedy, Thalia of comedy, and Terpsichore, of choral dance Calliope is she who cares for rhapsodes, and is over epic poetry, as at the opening of the Iliad. Polyhymnia cares for sacred poetry, Erato love poetry, and our favorite, Euterpe, the muse of the lyric poet. It is a good question what sort of poetry Hesiod’s poem would be. It is perhaps under all the muses.

   Music and gymnastics together are the classic education from ancient Greece and Rome.

   Above these studies is the university, where it is possible to complete the background that will allow for the best that can be done for the knowledge of the soul or a genuine psychology. The departments are called Philosophy, theology, politics, psychology, literature and history. Languages and departments such as Classics and Hebrew are possible supplements, and many variations to these study are pursued according to the excellences that happen to develop. But the theoretical background is necessary not only as a context for psychiatry or the practice of the healing of the soul, but also because it is the health of the soul, and its cultivation the best part of the best souls, on which too, a genuine psychiatry would depend. 

   Under these, and distinct from the liberal arts, are any professions, such as medicine, psychiatry and law, teaching or education, engineering business and such, sometimes a part of the university not only to support the enterprise with funds, but also to improve these practices by association with the theoretical or liberal pursuits. It is not clear that psychiatry or education should be professions at all, since Socrates refused to take any money for what he said was found within those he questioned. The subsistence of teachers might be secured for practical reasons, making the work possible, but Socrates again would not sacrifice a shred of his liberty.

   These studies are pursued by association with the greatest minds through the reading of the greatest books, and in the mortal span there is no replacement for this enterprise. The leaders are Plato, Aristotle Xenophon, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Lao Tzu, the Abrahamic texts and the like, expanding out into those responding to this tradition, aiming to include the twelve greatest minds, such as Homer and Rousseau.

   Consider the question of suicide in practical psychiatry, and how much difference it might make to know how to speak in terms of the faith of the subject. Another example is the neglected teaching oin divine madness from the Phaedrus: There are 4 kinds, and our psychiatry- in a sort of barbarism- might easily drug and suppress divine prophesy of love, according to the narrow human sense of the medical psychiatrist.

   Hesiod recommends the muses as a remedy for depression:

Mnemnosyne (Memory) queen of the  of Eleuther, bore these powers that make evils forgotten and bring a cessation to sorrows.

(Theogony, 55)

According to Hesiod R. M. Frazer translation), Kalliope, the muse of epic, is the most important of all…

…for she grants her ready attendance to honorable kings. He to whom these daughters of almighty Zeus are gracious every Zeus-nurtured king they look on with favor at birth, receives from them on his tongue a sweet pouring of heavenly dew, and from his mouth, words flow with gentleness. Then the people all look in honor to him interpreting the laws with verdicts showing straight justice; and he by his smooth and unerring speech swiftly brings to great disagreements a skillful solution. Kings are considered wise because whenever their people need some redress they in assembly see to it that they gain it easily, using their skill in the gentle art of persuasion… 





The First Meeting of Jerusalem and Ancient Greece: Josephus on Alexander, 333 B. C.

   Alexander, the pupil of Aristotle for a while, met with the High Priest at Jerusalem on his way to conquer Asia, as reported by Josephus. From Book xi. 4-5, Jaddua the high priest was in terror when he heard that Alexander was coming. Alexander had sent a letter to Jerusalem during his siege of Tyre, asking for provisions, auxiliaries, and suggesting that Jerusalem send tribute now instead to him rather than Darius. The high priest had answered Alexander that…”he had given his oath to Darius not to bear arms against him; and that he would not transgress this while Darius was in the land of the living.” After the siege of Tyre, when Alexander was approaching, he and the people then appealed to God for protection,…

…whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced; and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king. And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests, and the multitude of citizens…

Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine purple and scarlet clothing, with his miter on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the High priest. The Jews also did altogether, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind. However, Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the High priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, I did not adore him, but that God who hath honoured him with his high priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians. whence it is, that having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind. And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the High Priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city; and when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the High priest and the priests. And when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favors they pleased of him whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all that they desired; and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Medea to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired; and when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers he was willing to take them with him, many more were ready to accompany him in his wars.

One interesting point in this story is the double true or verdical dream.  That Alexander had seen the name on the breastplate, and the high priest was instructed to show the name is rather astonishing. There is nothing like this in all the history of dreams. Another is of course the interpretation of Daniel. The five are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, the legs being the East and West empires, then the feet and toes…5 from each, iron and clay, and from this will emerge 10 kings, in ch. 12, etc.

   A personal note: My first history lesson came from Mad Magazine, when at the age of 12 I read from Al Jaffe: Alexander the Great was not really so great.” I wondered about this through all my studies. One wonders why Alexander was not better advised- though he had dismissed Aristotle.


1) The goal is not world conquest. Don’t keep going east, but establish and consolidate- and enjoy! Rule for the good of the ruled and the realm: Why not?

2) Deal with the question of succession immediately, and work on institutions that secure Greek liberty. What if Alex had Thomas Jefferson and James Madison?

3) Don’t be all full of yourself. You MIGHT be lucky, but learn what a mortal god is- and go find Diogenes in his bucket!