In another variant, each temple has priestesses whose duty is to perform a like service to male worshippers. This is the temple prostitution which has so often scandalized Christian observers. But the term prostitution, with its connotations of sordid commercialism and hole-and-corner lust, wholly misrepresents the sacred and uplifting character of the experience, as it was experienced by those who took part. It was nothing less than an act of communion with God ant was as remote from sensuality as the Christian act of communion is remote from gluttony.
The Greeks, meanwhile, were developing a more subtle and sophisticated idea of deity, and their treatment of such ideas betrays a correspondingly complex form. In the earliest phases of religious development, religious feeling seems to be confined to a sense of awareness of a “mysterium tremendum“. Later, man comes to personalize this mystery, and to attribute to it will and feeling, and at this point he gives it a name. He imagines these deities behaving much as he would behave — for he knows no other way — and projects on them different aspects of his own behaviour: one embodies his belligerence, another his thirst for wisdom, and so on. The Greeks, as Dodds has observed, projected outside themselves their own unconscious motives, and also explained the otherwise-inexplicable by attributing it to the actions of gods.
Hence, whenever a man was seized by some force compelling him to act otherwise than he normally would or could, where we should often explain it in terms of unconscious motives, the Greeks explained it as possession by god. (88) Epilepsy was due to possession by god, running berserk was due to possession by god. But equally, falling in love was due to possession by god, and so was insanity. Such states were called mania, but it is misleading to say (as some writers do) that the Greek called being in love a form of insanity. Mania was a great and terrible experience. As Plato says:
“… in reality the greatest blessings come to us through madness, when it is sent as a gift of the gods…. And it is worth while also to adduce the fact that those men of old who invented names thought that madness was neither shameful nor disgraceful; otherwise they would not have connected the very word mania with the noblest of the arts, that which foretells the future, by calling it the manic art.”