In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates speaks of the four types of Divine madness(ecstasy) – prophetic, initiatory, poetic and erotic – which humans can obtain as gifts from the Gods. The gift of prophecy exemplified by the oracle at Delphi comes from Apollo, the mystic rites which bring relief from hardship are a gift from Dionysus, the gift of poetry is seen in those artists who are possessed by the Muses and lastly, the gift of love, which Socrates calls the best of the four, is derived from Eros. This fourth madness is the universal love manifested by the mystic; it is, according to Socrates, “imputed to him who, when he sees the beauty of earth, is transported with the recollection of the true beauty; he would like to fly away, but he cannot; he is like a bird fluttering and looking upward and careless of the world below; and he is therefore thought to be mad”.
There is a golden thread which knits together the lives of all sages. Behind their unique beatific personalities and inimitable ways of expression, they are all manifesting the same Divine Consciousness. It is this underlying unity which forms the basis for the similar phenomena that are visible in their lives. This article examines their ability to utter those aphoristic Truths which continue to resonate long after they are gone.