Garner's Greek Mythology

EP 42: The Divine Voice

May 12, 2022 Patrick Garner Season 3 Episode 42
Garner's Greek Mythology
EP 42: The Divine Voice
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 42: The Divine Voice

Welcome to Episode 42 where we hear a divine voice — or rather, we hear about how Socrates was guided throughout his life by a spiritual voice called a daimon. This daimon accompanied him from his cradle to his death.

Socrates was hardly alone in hearing a divine voice. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus makes reference to his own daimon. And centuries later, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius writes extensively about being guided throughout his life by a personal daimon …

Narrated by mythologist and best-selling author, Patrick Garner, Garner's Greek Mythology is unlike any other Greek history series.  Here these divine beings are viewed as if they were anything but mythical...

If you love this podcast, you'll also enjoy Garner's audible novel about the gods, Homo Divinitas, now available on Amazon.com and Audible.com.

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EPISODE 42: THE DIVINE VOICE

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THE DIVINE VOICE. WE’VE HEARD IT THUNDER FROM ZEUS & SEEN IT PLAY OUT IN THE MACHINATIONS OF THE OLYMPIC GODS.

IT ALSO APPEARED WHEN THE GODS SEEMED TO BE LOSING THEIR GRIP ON THE POPULATION.

SOCRATES LIVED IN A TIME WHEN ATHENA AND OTHERS GUIDED EVENTS. HE JOINED IN THEIR WORSHIP, BUT HE ALSO HAD GUIDANCE FROM A PERSONAL DIVINE VOICE CALLED A DAIMON,

THIS SUPERNATURAL SPIRIT STEERED HIM BETWEEN RIGHT & WRONG. THE WORD SOUNDS A LOT LIKE “DEMON."

SOME OF YOU MAY REMEMBER THE PHRASE, “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT.” SOCRATES’ DAIMON WAS JUST THE OPPOSITE. IT SUGGESTED THE RIGHT COURSE OF ACTION.

IN THIS EPISODE WE TALK ABOUT HOW THE OLYMPIC GODS SOMETIMES MORPHED INTO A PERSONAL GOD.

PUT ANOTHER WAY, THE GOD’S VOICE AT TIMES WAS HEARD IN SOMEONE’S MIND.

SOCRATES WAS WAS A RECIPIENT & WAS ALWAYS UP FRONT ABOUT HIS DAIMON.

LATER LATIN WRITERS CALLED THIS SPIRIT HIS GENIUS LOCI, WHICH MEANT IT WAS SOCRATES' PRESIDING GOD.

HAVING DIVINE CONTACT WITH THE GOD WAS ESPECIALLY IRONIC FOR SOCRATES BECAUSE HE WAS SENTENCED TO DEATH FOR BEING “IMPIOUS”

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THIS IS EPISODE 42 OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. WE HAVE LISTENERS FROM 161 COUNTRIES ... SO WELCOME TO EVERYONE, WHEREVER YOU ARE.

I'M YOUR HOST, MYTHOLOGIST PATRICK GARNER.

SOME OF THESE STORIES ABOUT THE GODS HAVE BEEN TOLD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. BUT NOW THERE ARE NEW STORIES THAT ARE AS COMPELLING.

CHECK OUT MY BOOKS ON AMAZON ABOUT THE GODS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD. YOU CAN ALSO READ ABOUT THEM & THIS PODCAST AT PATRICKGARNERBOOKS.COM.

AND AS ALWAYS, THIS PODCAST FOCUSES ON ONE THING ... GREEK GODS, OF COURSE. THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE HERE, NOW ..

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SOCRATES IS COMMONLY CALLED THE FATHER OF PHILOSOPHY & AS SUCH, THE BASIS FOR  MODERN WESTERN THOUGHT.

HE CLEARLY INSPIRED NUMEROUS FREE THINKERS IN HIS LIFETIME & BEYOND.

BEFORE WE DISCUSS SOCRATES' DAIMON, LET'S SET THE STAGE. HE WAS BORN IN ATHENS AROUND 469 B.C., WHERE HE LIVED, TAUGHT & WAS EXECUTED AT AGE 70.

OTHER THAN TO OCCASIONALLY FIGHT AS A SOLDIER, HE RARELY LEFT THE CITY. HE CALLED HIMSELF A GADFLY, SOMEONE WHO CONSTANTLY IRRITATED OTHERS WITH HIS QUESTIONS.

ALL OF THAT SAID, MOST OF WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT HIM COMES FROM TWO SOURCES, & BOTH WERE HIS FORMER STUDENTS.

ONE WAS XENOPHON WHO WENT ON TO BECOME A MILITARY MAN. AS A SOURCE, XENOPHON IS NOT HELD IN HIGH REGARD, ALTHOUGH HE MADE A STATEMENT ABOUT TRUTH THAT RESONATES STILL, & THAT IS,

“NO HUMAN BEING WILL EVER KNOW THE TRUTH, FOR EVEN IF THEY HAPPENED TO SAY IT BY CHANCE, THEY WOULD NOT KNOW THEY HAD DONE SO.”

THE SECOND SOURCE WAS PLATO. HE BECAME AS FAMOUS AS SOCRATES. PLATO ATTENDED SOCRATES’ TRIAL IN 399 B.C., & WENT ON TO WRITE A NUMBER OF BOOKS ABOUT HIS TEACHER.

MANY MODERN SCHOLARS CONSIDER PLATO’S WORKS TO BE LARGELY FICTIONAL, DEPICTING AN IDEALIZED SOCRATES.

FORTUNATELY, WE HAVE A THIRD SOURCE — A GREEK NAMED PLUTARCH — WHO ALSO WROTE EXTENSIVELY ABOUT SOCRATES.

BUT PLUTARCH LIVED MORE THAN 500 YEARS LATER, SO HE HAD NO FIRSTHAND KNOWLEDGE.

TO FURTHER COMPLICATE THINGS, SOCRATES HIMSELF NEVER WROTE A WORD. CONSEQUENTLY, MANY OF THE THOUGHTS OF ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT THINKERS OF ANCIENT GREECE MAY BE A CREATION OF OTHERS.

BUT ALL WHO WROTE ABOUT HIM AGREED ABOUT ONE THING: HE WAS INSPIRED & GUIDED BY HIS DAIMON.

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OF PLATO’S MANY WORKS ABOUT SOCRATES, THE APOLOGY IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE MOST LIKELY TO REFLECT SOCRATES’ OWN WORDS. IT COVERS SOCRATES' TRIAL.

SOCRATES WAS ACCUSED OF IMPIETY & OF CORRUPTING THE YOUTH OF ATHENS. EITHER CHARGE COULD LEAD TO A DEATH SENTENCE.

OF THE IMPIETY CHARGE, HE WAS ACCUSED OF FAILING TO ACKNOWLEDGE "THE GODS THAT THE CITY ACKNOWLEDGES" & OF "INTRODUCING NEW DEITIES."

HE DENIED BOTH ACCUSATIONS, & CHOSE TO DEFEND HIMSELF, SPEAKING TO A JURY OF OVER 500 OF HIS FELLOW CITIZENS.

DURING THE TRIAL, WHEN HE WAS ACCUSED OF MOCKING THE GODS, HE ARGUED THAT SUCH A CHARGE WAS BASELESS. HE SAID,

“YOU HAVE OFTEN HEARD ME SPEAK OF AN ORACLE OR SIGN WHICH COMES TO ME … THIS SIGN IS ONE I HAVE HAD SINCE I WAS A CHILD.

"THE SIGN IS A VOICE WHICH COMES TO ME & ALWAYS FORBIDS ME TO DO SOMETHING WHICH I MAY BE ABOUT TO DO,

“BUT IT NEVER COMMANDS ME TO DO ANYTHING — ”

IF WE ARE TO BELIEVE PLATO'S RECOLLECTION OF SOCRATES' DEFENSE, THE GREAT PHILOSOPHER OPENLY ADMITS TO BEING GUIDED BY A DIVINE VOICE.

IN PLATO’S BOOK THE REPUBLIC, SOCRATES SAYS, “IN MY OWN CASE, THE DIVINE SIGN IS HARDLY WORTH MENTIONING — FOR I SUPPOSE IT HAS HAPPENED TO FEW OR NONE BEFORE ME."

MANY OF TODAY’S ACADEMICS SUGGEST THIS "DIVINE SIGN" IS NOTHING MORE THAN A METAPHOR FOR HIS CONSCIENCE, BUT IT'S FAR MORE LIKELY THAT SOCRATES WAS BEING LITERAL.

THE 20TH CENTURY SCHOLAR JULIAN JAYNES DISCUSSED HOW ANCIENT PEOPLES MAY HAVE HAD A DIRECT CONNECTION IN THEIR BRAIN WITH A GOD. THEREFORE, SOCRATES COULD HAVE EXPERIENCED AN ACTUAL VOICE OF A GODLIKE SPIRIT ...

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SOCRATES ALSO USED THE TERM “ORACLE” TO EXPLAIN SOME OF THE GUIDANCE HE RECEIVED. THE ANCIENT GREEKS REGARDED AN ORACLE AS A PERSON OR THING THAT WAS AN INFALLIBLE AUTHORITY.

ALTHOUGH SOCRATES HAD A PERSONAL DAIMON THAT GUIDED HIM, IT WAS ANOTHER ORACLE ENTIRELY THAT BROUGHT HIM TO INITIAL FAME.

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED: ONE OF SOCRATES’ FRIENDS APPROACHED THE ORACLE OF DELPHI, ASKING FOR THE NAME OF THE WISEST PERSON IN THE WORLD.

THE DELPHIC ORACLE SAID SIMPLY, “SOCRATES.” WHEN SOCRATES HIMSELF FOUND OUT THAT HIS NAME HAD BEEN UTTERED BY THE ORACLE, HE TRIED TO PROVE THE PRONOUNCEMENT WRONG AS HE CONSIDERED HIMSELF TO KNOW NOTHING.

THE ORACLE'S STATEMENT STARTED HIM ON A LIFE-LONG QUEST TO FIND WISER PERSONS THAN HIMSELF.

HE SPENT DECADES SEARCHING OUT WISDOM IN OTHERS BY ASKING THEM QUESTIONS.

THE METHOD HE USED WAS ALREADY KNOWN IN GREECE. IT WAS CALLED MAIEUTICS, OR, MID-WIFING, WHICH WAS AN ATTEMPT TO ‘GIVE BIRTH’ TO THE LATENT TRUTH INSIDE A PERSON .

THIS LED TO WHAT IS CALLED THE SOCRATIC PARADOX. THE PARADOX IS THAT THE WISEST MAN ALIVE SAID, “I KNOW ONE THING ONLY, & THAT IS THAT I KNOW NOTHING.”

TO PUT THIS INTO PERSPECTIVE, ASTONISHMENT AT HIS STATEMENT LED TO THE FOUNDING OF PHILOSOPHICAL SCHOOLS SUCH AS SKEPTICISM, STOICISM & CYNICISM ...

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LET'S RETURN TO THE TRIAL OF SOCRATES. PLATO NOTES THAT HE OPENLY DISCUSSED HIS DAIMON.

UNFORTUNATELY, IT MAY HAVE BEEN MISINTERPRETED BY THE COMMON ATHENIAN AS A DANGEROUS SPIRITUAL BEING.

ONLY SOCRATES COULD HEAR THE VOICE, & HE RARELY SPOKE OF WHAT HE HEARD. IN REALITY MANY ATHENIANS FELT THREATENED BY SOCRATES.

LIKE TWO SIDES OF A COIN, WHILE THEY WERE ALARMED AT THIS MYSTERIOUS VOICE, HIS STUDENTS LOOKED UPON THE GIFT WITH ADMIRATION.

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I SHOULD NOTE THAT THE INFLUENCE OF A DAIMON ACTUALLY BEGAN EARLIER THAN SOCRATES.

WHILE SOCRATES IS OFTEN DEEMED THE FATHER OF PHILOSOPHY, HE IS USED AS THE STARTING POINT. THINKERS BEFORE HIM BECAME KNOWN AS THE “PRE-SOCRATICS."

THE PRE-SOCRATIC WRITER HERACLITUS IS UNDERSTOOD TO REFER TO A DAIMON WHEN HE SAID, “ETHOS ANTHROPOS DAIMON."

THAT’S USUALLY TRANSLATED AS “CHARACTER IS FATE”, BUT COULD JUST AS WELL BE, “CHARACTER IS TO A MAN, HIS DAIMON.”

SO WE SEE THAT THE MYSTERIOUS DAIMON WAS ANCIENT, AND OFFERED WISE ADVICE ...

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THE DAIMON PUBLICLY REAPPEARED IN ROME TO GUIDE ONE OF THE FIRST EMPERORS. IN THE MEDITATIONS OF MARCUS AURELIUS THE DAIMON MAKES A DRAMATIC APPEARANCE.

MARCUS AURELIUS WAS A ROMAN EMPEROR BETWEEN THE YEARS 161 & 180 A.D. HIS WRITINGS ARE WIDELY ADMIRED TODAY.

THE MEDITATIONS WAS ACTUALLY HIS PERSONAL JOURNAL, & WAS REALLY NO MORE THAN A COLLECTION OF PERSONAL REMINDERS.

THEY WERE MEANT TO AID HIM IN KEEPING TO THE STOIC VIRTUES OF WISDOM, PRUDENCE, COURAGE & JUSTICE.

SUCH JOURNALS WERE COMMON IN THAT PERIOD ... OF PARTICULAR INTEREST IS THAT HE REFERS IN HIS JOURNAL TO A ‘DAIMON’ BEING INSIDE OF HIMSELF, & SAYS THAT SUCH DAIMONS WERE INSIDE OF EVERY HUMAN.

MARCUS AURELIUS, IN LINE WITH STOIC THOUGHT, BELIEVED ALL OF HUMANITY TO BE ESSENTIALLY RATIONAL — WHILE BEING SIMULTANEOUSLY IGNORANT.

HE ATTRIBUTED IGNORANCE TO EVIL ACTIONS & BEHAVIORS. WHILE THE WISE FACULTY INTRINSIC TO ALL HUMANS IS THE DAIMON.

HE WRITES, “I LIVE WITH THE GODS, FOR HE WHO DOES SO CONSTANTLY SHOWS TO THEM THAT HIS OWN SOUL IS SATISFIED WITH THAT WHICH IS ASSIGNED TO HIM ...

"& THAT MAN SHOULD DO ALL THAT THE DAIMON WISHES, WHICH ZEUS HAS GIVEN TO EVERY MAN FOR HIS GUARDIAN & GUIDE …

"& WHICH IS THEREFORE A PORTION OF HIMSELF. CONSEQUENTLY, THIS DAIMON IS EVERY MAN’S UNDERSTANDING & REASON.“

ELSEWHERE IN THE MEDITATIONS HE WRITES, "NO MISFORTUNE CAN HARM ME WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE DAIMON WITHIN ME."

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AS WE SEE, MARCUS AURELIUS FELT THE CONSTANT PRESENCE OF THIS DAIMON, HIS PERSONAL GUIDE.

THIS BELIEF — COMMON TO BOTH SOCRATES & MARCUS AURELIUS — IS A CONSTANT THREAD BETWEEN THE GREEK & ROMAN TRADITIONS ...

ACCORDING TO STOICISM, THE WHOLE UNIVERSE WAS ZEUS, & WAS DESTINED FOR A NEVER ENDING CYCLE OF DESTRUCTION & REBIRTH.

STOICS THOUGHT THAT THE PORTION OF OURSELVES CAPABLE OF RATIONALITY WAS A PORTION OF ZEUS, OR OF DIVINITY.

THIS UNIVERSAL DIVINITY WAS WHAT THEY CONSIDERED THE ‘HIGHEST OF THE GODS” OF THEIR TIME.

THIS DIVINITY WAS ALSO CALLED THE LOGOS, WHICH REFERRED TO AN ALL PERVASIVE ACTIVE INTELLIGENCE THAT ANIMATED THE WORLD.

THE DAIMON, IN THIS SYSTEM OF THOUGHT, WAS INTRINSIC TO HUMANITY & WAS WHAT GAVE HUMANS THE ABILITY TO REASON.

FOR SOCRATES THE DIVINE VOICE WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR KEEPING HIM PASSIONATE ABOUT A WISDOM-SEEKING LIFE.

AND FOR MARCUS AURELIUS, THE DAIMON GUIDED HIS ACTIONS & CONDUCT. THE EMPEROR'S EVERY DECISION WAS INFLUENCED BY THIS LIVING SPIRIT.

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SO FAR WE'VE DISCUSSED THE WRITINGS OF PLATO, XENOPHON & MARCUS AURELIUS …

AS A FURTHER RESOURCE WE HAVE PLUTARCH’S WORK. HE WAS HEAVILY INFLUENCED BY PLATO. MUCH OF PLUTARCH’S WORK WAS AN ATTEMPT TO REFRESH & REINTERPRET PLATO.

LIKE PLATO & SOCRATES, PLUTARCH WAS AN ATHENIAN CITIZEN & SPENT MUCH OF HIS LIFE BETWEEN ATHENS & DELPHI. BUT WHY DELPHI?

PLUTARCH SERVED THERE AS A PRIEST FOR THE ORACLE. AS SUCH HE HAD FIRST HAND INSIGHTS INTO HOW THE GODS WORKED THROUGH DIVINE INTERMEDIARIES.

APOLLO'S PRIESTS AT DELPHI FIT THAT ROLE, AS THEY CHANNELED APOLLO'S DECLARATIONS & PROPHESIES.

CRUCIALLY, PLUTARCH RECOGNIZED THAT A DAIMON SERVED A SAME PURPOSE. IN PLUTARCH'S VIEW, SOCRATES' DAIMON SIMPLY HAPPENED TO BE A PRESIDING GOD THAT GUIDED THE GREAT PHILOSOPHER IN HIS DAILY LIFE.

PLUTARCH WRITES, "WHAT SHALL WE THINK OF HIS DAIMON? … IT WAS JOINED TO SOCRATES EVEN FROM HIS CRADLE, GUIDING HIM IN ALL THE ACTIONS OF HIS LIFE …

"THE DAIMON OFTEN DISCOURSED WITH HIM, PRESIDING OVER & BY DIVINE INSTINCT DIRECTING HIS INTENTIONS …"

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PLUTARCH CONTINUES, "WHAT WAS THE SUBSTANCE OR POWER THAT THE FAMED DAIMON HELD OVER SOCRATES?"

IN RESPONSE, HE HAS A STUDENT OF SOCRATES REPLY, "I ONCE ASKED SOCRATES ABOUT IT & RECEIVED NO ANSWER, SO I NEVER ASKED AGAIN …"

THEN THE STUDENT WENT ON, "BUT I OFTEN HEARD HIM DECLARE MEN TO BE VAIN

PRETENDERS WHO SAID THEY HAD SEEN ANY DIVINE APPARITION … "WHILE TO THOSE WHO AFFIRMED THAT THEY HAD HEARD A VOICE, HE WOULD GLADLY LISTEN, & WOULD EAGERLY ENQUIRE INTO THE PARTICULARS.

"AND THIS UPON CONSIDERATION GAVE PROBABLE REASON TO CONJECTURE THAT THIS DAIMON OF SOCRATES WAS NOT AN APPARITION, BUT RATHER A VOICE …"

PLUTARCH GOES ON, WRITING, "WE THINK OF THE DAIMONS AS CARRYING A LIGHT WITH THEM, SHINING IT ON THOSE WHO ARE ABLE TO PERCEIVE IT …

"THEREFORE, THERE IS NO NEED OF WORDS SUCH AS MEN USE WITH ONE ANOTHER … YOU SEE, INSTEAD THEY ENJOY A PECULIAR A DIVINE LIGHT.

"THIS MAY BE ILLUSTRATED FROM THE NATURE & EFFECT OF VOICE … FOR INSTANCE, WHEN STRIKING A BRONZE SHIELD, THE NOISE IS HEARD ONLY BY THOSE WHO ARE NEARBY, & IS NOT PERCEIVED BY OTHERS WHO ARE FARTHER AWAY …

"SO IT IS THAT THE SPEECHES OF THE DAIMON SOUND ONLY TO THOSE … WE CALL HOLY & DIVINE MEN."

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TODAY WE MIGHT THINK OF THE DAIMON AS BEING OUR CONSCIENCE, OR OUR SENSE OF RIGHT & WRONG.

BUT TO SOCRATES & MARCUS AURELIUS, THE DAIMON WAS FAR MORE THAN A MORAL SENSE.

IT WAS A REAL VOICE THAT SPOKE TO THEM NO DIFFERENTLY THAN THE VOICE OF A FRIEND OR A WISE COUNSELOR ...

HERE'S SOMETHING I'VE LEFT OUT: THERE ARE STORIES ABOUT SOCRATES STOPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF DISCUSSIONS TO LISTEN TO THIS VOICE.

PLATO & XENOPHON BOTH WRITE THAT HE WAS OFTEN OBSERVED STANDING AT TIMES FOR HOURS IN COMPLETE SILENCE.

WHILE SO ENGAGED, SOCRATES WAS OBLIVIOUS TO EVERYTHING & EVERYONE AROUND HIM. TIME WOULD PASS.

PEOPLE WOULD GATHER IN AMUSEMENT TO WATCH & SUDDENLY, WITHOUT ANY WARNING, SOCRATES WOULD LOOK AROUND, THEN LEAVE WITHOUT A WORD, HIS CONVERSATION WITH HIS DAIMON APPARENTLY OVER.

WHATEVER EXPLANATION IS GIVEN TO THE DIVINE VOICE, WE DO KNOW THAT IT WAS, IN PART, RESPONSIBLE FOR HISTORY'S MOST FAMOUS PHILOSOPHER ...

& THAT IT GUIDED A ROMAN EMPEROR IN HIS DECISION-MAKING & IN THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF WESTERN THOUGHT.

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JOIN ME ... FOR THE NEXT EPISODE OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY.

AND VISIT Patrick-Garner-Books-dot-com. IT'S ALL ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE GREEK GODS ... THIS PODCAST ... & ABOUT MY THREE NOVELS.

THE NOVELS ARE AVAILABLE ON AMAZON. THEIR UNDERLYING THEME IS THAT THE GREEK GODS NEVER LEFT. AS I SAY IN EVERY EPISODE, THEY'RE HERE, NOW.

IF YOU WOULD PREFER TO LISTEN — AFTER ALL, YOU ARE LISTENING TO A PODCAST— ONE OF THE THREE, HOMO DIVINITAS, IS AVAILABLE AS AN AUDIBLE BOOK.

THANKS FOR LISTENING ... THIS IS YOUR HOST, PATRICK GARNER.