Divine Madness & Shamanic Trance


Divine madness, known in Ancient Greek as θεία μανία theía manía ( “ lit. “divine fury”), refers to unconventional, outrageous, unexpected, or unpredictable behavior linked to spiritual pursuits. It is usually explained as a manifestation of enlightened behavior by two-legged ones aka persons who have transcended societal norms, or as a means of spiritual practice among adepts and masters.

These behaviours are a form of spiritual ecstasy, or deliberate strategic, purposeful activity, by highly self-aware two legged ones aka individuals making strategic use of the theme of madness in the construction of one’s public personas. It is found in the ancient history and practices of many cultures and is often associated with spiritual figures who are seen as having a special connection to the divine or as being realised or enlightened. In many cases, these figures use unconventional or even shocking behaviour as a way to challenge societal norms and expectations and to provoke or initiate spiritual growth and transformation others.This can be seen as a form of spiritual practice or teaching, and it is often seen as a way to break free from the constraints of orthodox, conventional thinking and to re-open oneself up to new experiences and perspectives.Socrates’ (470–399 BCE) definition of divine madness, as presented in Plato’s (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BCE) Phaedrus, is that it is a form of madness that is sent as a gift from the gods. He suggests that this type of madness is not necessarily negative or harmful, but can actually be a positive force that leads to greater understanding and enlightenment. In particular, Socrates identifies four types of divine madness, which are associated with different Ancient Greek gods and goddesses.

Apollo at Delphi

These include the prophetic frenzy associated with Apollo, the mystical revelations associated with Dionysus, the poetic inspiration associated with the Muses, and the madness of love associated with Aphrodite and Eros. Socrates argues that all of these forms of divine madness can lead to greater understanding and enlightenment, and that they should be embraced rather than rejected.It’s worth noting that Plato’s dialogues, including the Phaedrus, are written accounts of philosophical conversations that Socrates had with his contemporaries. As such, it can be difficult to distinguish between Socrates’ views and Plato’s own ideas, which are presented through the character of Socrates in these dialogues. 

That being said, both Socrates and Plato seem to view divine madness as a positive force that can lead to greater understanding and enlightenment. However, there are some differences in how they approach the concept.

Socrates, as presented in the Phaedros, suggests that divine madness is a gift from the gods, and that it can take various forms, such as prophetic frenzy, mystical revelations, poetic inspiration, and the madness of love. He sees these forms of madness as a way to break free from conventional thinking and to achieve a deeper understanding of the world. Plato, on the other hand, expands on these ideas in his other dialogues, such as the Symposium and the Ion. In the Symposium, for example, Plato explores the idea of Eros, or divine love, as a form of madness that can lead to spiritual growth and transformation. In the Ion, Plato suggests that poets and performers are inspired by the Muses, and that their creativity is a form of divine madness.

While there may be some differences in how Socrates and Plato approach the concept of divine madness, both seem to view it as a positive force that can lead to greater understanding and enlightenment.


In Sanskrit, divine madness is known as दिव्य मद” divya mada. It refers to a state of ecstatic frenzy or divine intoxication that is believed to be brought on by the grace of a deity or through intense ecstatic spiritual practice.

It is often associated with Rudra Shiva, who is known as the lord of divine madness, and is depicted in mythology as dancing wildly in a state of divine frenzy.


Divine madness, as seen in some forms of shamanism, should not be confused with mental-emotional illness or an aberrant psychiatric condition. The key difference between the two lies in the shaman’s ability to maneuver or navigate non-ordinary states of consciousness, while those with a real mental-emotional illness have no such innate ability. 

Shamans are male or female spiritual practitioners who can enter a trance-like state aka non ordinary states of consciousness through ceremonies and rituals such as music and dance as well as through intake of entheogens aka psychodelics. This non ordinary states of consciousness allows them to communicate with the spirit world, perform healing and curing ceremonies and rituals, and gain insight into various aspects of life and beyond. 

The trance states are considered essential aspect of shamanic work and therapy and shamans have developed various extraordinary techniques to enter and exit these non ordinary states or consciousness at will. In contrast, mental-emotional illnesses are characterized by a lack of ability to navigate over one’s mental-emotional state, with symptoms and signs often arising painstakingly, spontaneously and persisting for extended periods. The experiences of those with mental-emotional illnesses may not have the same spiritual or cultural significance as the shaman’s trance or non ordinary states of consciousness, and they may not be able to use their experiences for the benefit of themselves or their community.

Thus the shaman’s ability i.e. skil to manoeuvre his/her own non ordinary states of consciousness and use it for spiritual and healing and curing purposes totally differentiates them from two legged-one’s aka individuals with mental-emotional illnesses.Rather than being a symptom and sign of a psychiatric disorder, divine madness in shamanism is seen as an extremely valuable and manoeuvred or navigated spiritual experience that serves a practical purpose within the shaman himself or herself and his/her community. To fully understand the complexity of shamanic work and healing, non ordinary states of consciousness and its so-called relationship to mental-emotional illness, it is important to consider the racial, ethical and sociocultural and historical contexts in which these practices, teachings and beliefs have evolved. While according to reductionist, conventional science, medicine, psychology and psychiatry some wee parallels can be somehow drawn, it is essential to clearly recognize the unique and special aspects of shamanic work and healing and cure and the non ordinary states of consciousness that distinguish it from psychiatric disorders and acknowledge the spiritual significance and value that these practices and teachings hold for the the shaman’s themselves and their communities in which they are thought and practiced. To close, despite racial, ethnical , cultural and historical differences, divine madness, θεία μανία theía manía, दिव्य मद” divya mada and shamanic trance , share the same idea of a state of ecstatic spiritual experiences that transcend ordinary states of consciousness in order to achieve a deeper connection with the divine.

©DrAndrewMacLeanPagonMDPhD2023( द्रुविद् रिषि द्रुवेद सरस्वती Druid Rishi Druveda Saraswati) All rights reserved.+++++

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