Plato (427 – 347 B.C.), one of the earliest of the great philosophers claimed in his writing “The Ion” that artists, when creating, went temporarily out of their minds, that the artist was merely the medium used by the Gods to communicate with the audience. Plato used the term “inspire” or “breathed into” to describe the way the gods spoke through the artist and that the artists were merely divine mouthpieces. Plato was partially correct in saying artists were “out of their minds”, but the cause was not because of these people being inspired by a higher power, rather the majority of the great artists suffer from a mental illness that causes a hypomanic state that allows them to experience periods of inspiration when their thought processes quicken, moods lift, and new associations are generated.
Benjamin Rush, founder of American Psychiatry and a signer of the U.S. Constitution observed that a part of the brain, not diseased, the mind sometimes discovers not only acuteness and unusual strengths, but certain talents it had never exhibited before.
[...] The following are just a few accounts of certain artists' fights with mental illnesses. a suffering creature, I cannot do without something greater than I something that is my life the power to create.” Vincent Van Gogh - Painter Let's start with Vincent Van Gogh, famous painter who cut off his ear, not because of a love gesture to his girlfriend, but because he thought it would stop the voices in his head. Vincent Van Gogh had virtually every disease known to man including: epilepsy, schizophrenia, absinthe poisoning, porphyria and Meniere's disease. [...]
[...] I would like most to hang myself on the nearest branch of the cherry trees standing now in full bloom. This wonderful spring with its secret life and movement troubles me unspeakably. These eternal blue skies, lasting for weeks, this continuous sprouting and budding in nature, these coaxing breezes impregnated with spring sunlight and fragrance of flowers . make me frantic. Everywhere this bewildering urge for life, fruitfulness, creation–and only although like the humblest grass of the fields one of God's creatures, may not take part in this festival of resurrection, at any rate not except as a spectator with grief and envy. [...]
[...] that every act of life from the morning toothbrush to the friend at dinner had become an effort . hating the night when I couldn't sleep and hating the day because it went toward night. I slept on the heart side now because I knew that the sooner I could tire that out, even a little, the sooner would come that blessed hour of nightmare which, like a catharsis, would enable me to better meet the new day . All rather inhuman and undernourished, isn't it? [...]
[...] O the mind, mind has mountains; cliffs of fall Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap May who ne'er hung there. Nor does long our small Durance deal with that steep or deep. Here! creep, Wretch, under a comfort services in a whilwind: all Life death does end and each day dies with sleep. Lord Byron - Poet Yet must I think less wildly:– I have thought Too long and darkly, till my brain became, In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought, A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame: And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame, My springs of life were poisn'd. [...]
[...] This list also does not include other mental illnesses such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders or alcohol and/or drug abuse before the diagnosis of a mental illness or illnesses that were inherited that ran in the family. In conclusion, the evidence that mental illness is most commonly found and linked to the creative arts is extensive. I couldn't possibly list all the surveys conducted, studies done or even list the artists who had illnesses to begin with who were never diagnosed or sought treatment or even were able to cope with and live with their illnesses. [...]
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