I’ve just been reading the section of Phenomenology of Spirit where Hegel talks about Socrates. Now whenever you get lists of famous people who hear voices Socrates is usually on it (charities often do this to normalise the experience). Here’s what Hegel writes about what is quite clearly Socrates’ method of dealing with his voices:
“Just as that wise man of old searched in his own thought for what was good and beautiful, but left it for his ‘daemon’ to know the petty contingent content of what he wanted to know – whether it would be good for him to keep company with this or that person, or good for one of his acquaintances to go on a journey, and similar unimportant things; in the same way the universal consciousness draws knowledge of the contingent from dirds, or trees, or the yeasty earth, the vapour from which deprives self-consciousness of it’s self-possession.” (Phenomenology of Spirit, 1977, p. 431)
Outside of bio-social models of schizophrenia, radical groups of psychologists and ex-patients have been looking at successful therapies for voice hearers. Two of the most successful models are Voice Dialogue and the Finnish Open Dialogue. Both rather than treating the experience as pathological encourage the voice hearer to engage with their voices. These voices often have personalities of their own. This method became popular after a Dutch voice hearer read Julian Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind and used it to recover, Jaynes’ Bicameral Mind is a controversial book that argues that until the time of Homer, the ancient Greeks literally heard and saw their Gods. Now whether they did or not or whether it is true in this literal sense, if one studies social theory we come across both Adorno and Horkheimer’s discussion of the creation of the subject in Ulysses as a distinct break in the history of the individual, and recently Sloterdijk in Bubbles argues that ancient people had a more ‘telepathic’ existence, their socius was less discriminating and they could more or less hear each others’ intentions if not thoughts.
Returning to the success of voice dialogue that treats these voices in schizophrenia as sub-personalities that have something to say, in the literature that surrounds this they are often referred to as Daemons. If we look at Greek mythology the Daemons, or daimons were often emotions or ideals, for example Aporia or Apechania (helplessness), or Penthos (grief), Aletheia (truthfulness). When voice hearers are helped to come to terms with their voices, empathic communication is often used as a tool or skill to help them hear their voices without upset, that leads to a change in the nature of the voices where they change from vengeful Furies to guides (more the Furies with whom Oedipus found peace and sanctuary) and this is often done by helping connect feelings and needs, a link that can be broken by trauma or poor communication, as argued by Bateson. This has a biological basis in the evidence base that has looked at links between the formation of the ordo-frontal cortex and attachment theory.