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Abrams, S. (1981). Insight—The Teiresian Gift. Psychoanal. St. Child, 36:251-270.

(1981). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 36:251-270

Insight—The Teiresian Gift

Samuel Abrams, M.D.

WHEN HIS KINGDOM WAS BESET WITH "PLAGUE AND PYRE," OEDIPUS was advised that the curse would be lifted only if the unknown assassin of his predecessor, Laius, was revealed and punished. He summoned to his court the one man in Greece who might help him, Teiresias, "the lord clairvoyant to the lord Apollo."

After some hesitation based on consideration for the king's feelings—"Now it is my misery," he noted, "then it will be yours"—the seer told the truth. Oedipus received the revelation of his guilt with rage, counteraccusation, disavowal, confusion, cries of conspiracy, and exhortations of contempt for the prophet and his alleged wisdom. He further disputed the charge of villainy by reciting the record of his past achievements; it was he, after all, who had once heroically liberated Thebes by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. When reminded of this, Teiresias repeated his accusation; this time, however, he expressed himself in an inspired way. He proposed the truth in the form of a riddle. In the course of solving it, Oedipus found his doom and his salvation (Trilling, 1967pp. 11-15).

What was the source of Teiresias's gift?

Robert Graves (1955) offers a highly condensed version of the myths accounting for the wise man's talent.

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