In ancient Greece the first centers of psychoanalysis were used by the priests of the semi God Asclepius and were called Asclepieions. There were 300 Asclepieion Temples around ancient Greece and the areas that they were built on were carefully chosen on different criteria such as climate and easy access.
Asclepieions were the first healing centers for the mentally or psychologically sick. The healers or priests were called Hierophants and would suggest different therapies according to the interpretation of the patient’s dream.
These healing centers were not easily accessible for all and that is because the patient would have to follow a strict procedure in order to enter the dormitory area where he would have the experience of this foretelling dream. As the patient entered the temple he would first have to purify himself in order to continue to the next stage. Purification was not only a physical procedure but also a psychological one.
Going through the steps of purification the patient’s desire for healing would grow to the extent of inviting the revelation of the particular healing process that was suitable for them through this anticipating dream. Patients would firstly wash themselves. This act had also a symbolic meaning in the ancient times. It was interpreted as the cleansing of the soul. They would abstain on meat, poultry and fish but also sexual intercourse. They would also have to make a sacrifice of an animal to the God Asclepius using specific ritual that the Hierophants would indicate to them. On the last two days before entering the dormitory they would only drink water and sleep on the skin of the animal they have sacrificed. When ready, the patients would enter the dormitory and usually on the first night they would have the dream that would reveal the way for their healing. If the dream didn’t come on the first night they would sleep in the dormitory for several nights until it would happen.
The Hierophants would be there to translate the dreams into the appropriate therapies. In some of the dreams the God Asclepius himself would appear sometimes showing a specific body part that needs healing, on other cases he would take the shape of a snake, a dog or other creatures and according to the symbol the priest would suggest a suitable way of healing. It was said that food or water was also a symbol of great significance within the dream.
For all the ancient civilizations a dream could have two meanings. It would either reveal imaginary visions, forms or symbols or it could have a foretelling character presenting true elements that if they were explained by the wiser men could even be considered as advice. This is not a theory far away from how we can understand dreams in the modern times.
These healing centers embraced the idea of dreams revealing psychosomatic disorders and the power that our psychic can hold. They were the first places that psychoanalysis was put into practice in its simplest form and in its most basic rules. They were the beginning for great thinkers and scientists to base their ideas and analysis on dreams.
The actions followed towards healing in these temples can be easily acquainted with practices that people follow today only in a more disperse manner. This ancient formula seems very well organized and put together carefully in order to have a specific outcome. Today we take part in various health seminars, receive psychoanalytic treatment or alternative remedies even follow specific diets in order to become healthier and live longer. We are lost in a perplex world of uncontrolled information that takes us away from the original goal. What we can learn from history is the importance of simplicity that takes us away from all the unnecessary material and brings us to the present.