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This article traces ideas on the link between mood-swing and brilliance, from Greek/Roman to present times. From Plato, Aristotle, Seneca and the physician Aretaeus the story moves to the monasteries: Anthony, Cassian, Benedict, and Augustine ending with Luther who suffered recurrent depression. With his opponent Erasmus we enter the Renaissance. The physician Ficino picks up the Aristotelean concept of melancholy and outstanding achievement. Burton illustrates the two poles of melancholy in a poem.
19th century physicians in France, Pinel and Gachet develop this concept. The German physicians Kraepelin and Leonhard take us into the 20th century, and we end in the US, with DSM-5 in 2013. The terminology develops from melancholy, via acedia, cirkuläres Irresein, manic-depressive to bipolar disorder. Through these terminological and cultural differences a consensus appears that extremes of destructive mania and deep, suicidal depression must be avoided. To achieve this medication is advised.
Creativity is located in the mood just under mania, light hypomania. The term ‘bipolar creativity’ is coined to shift attention from creative persons with a bipolar disorder to the process of creativity itself. It demands the enthusiasm, high self-esteem, and quick thinking, typical of hypomania. In this process light depression is also important. It’s critical stance can play a positive role in breaking the ground for new creations. It is not only the high mood but the alternation of opposite moods that gives scope to creativity. There is a fortunate ‘match’ between mild bipolar disorder and the bipolar creative process.
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12. Demon can be translated as mood, eudaimonia is good mood, happiness and kakodaimonia bad mood.
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John Cassian The Institutes, Coptic Orthodox St Shenouda Monastery 2020
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33. I use the word soul or psyche as gender neutral- ‘ it’
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38. Bible, KJV Ecclesiastes 3:4