By Laurence Newey
The nature of genius gives us much to ponder from the angle of discipleship training, its root meaning – “Deity of generation and birth” – is the key to transfiguring life in terms of accomplishment. It concerns the regeneration of the human being through the Christ principle, and when fully accomplished the disciple can say with the Christ, “Behold I make all things new”.
As a setting here is an image from the collection of Asian folk stories, One Thousand and One Nights. Within these fables from the Islamic Golden Age are to be found universal archetypes and symbols of love, wisdom, fraternity and justice which reveal the journey of the soul towards ascension; here we see Scheherazade telling these stories to the Sultan – perhaps as a symbol of his conscience – making of him a kinder and wiser man. Fables, myths and legend contain much spiritual teaching and their dissemination through story telling evokes the genius of language. It is mastery of language via the artful sculpting of sound that leads, step by step, to the transfiguration of the entire human being into the WORD incarnate.
The reason for beginning this reflection on ‘genius’ in the context of the Arabian Nights (as the stories are commonly known), is the story of Aladdin’s lamp and the etymological relationship between the words
‘genius’ and ‘genie’. Genie first appeared in the French translation of Arabian Nights and is derived from the original Latin meaning of genius which is an attendant or ‘tutelary spirit’ – a guardian deity which watches over each person from birth to death. The fertile symbolism of the genie of the lamp reminds us of its higher corollary – the overshadowing Solar Angel – though admittedly it takes rather more effort to evoke this genie than simply rubbing a magic lamp. Nevertheless, through purification and cleansing of the human lamp, the fire and light of the Solar Angel is, in time, evoked, expressing a marvellous generative power – the granter of true spiritual wishes.
When evoked by the personality, the Solar Angel, by its nature creates mental images which have much in common with the cloud of fiery-plasma out of which the genie of the lamp takes shape for the realm in which the Solar Angel resides is comprised of mental substance and is the higher analogue of a gas. This fiery-plasma is volatile and easily dispersed; it is the essence from which thoughts are formed and is a light-bearer. Specifically, it responds…sequentially in time and space—to the light of the Logos. It is for this reason that the mind is regarded both as illumined when higher contacts are present and as an illuminator where the lower planes are concerned. It is profoundly susceptible to the energy of Love, and its fusion with the love aspect is ‘Wisdom’. It also easily concretises into forms thus providing vehicles for the expression of love-wisdom. And finally, it transforms divine ideas into human ideals, relating the knowledge and sciences of humanity to these ideals, thus making them workable factors in human evolution, its cultures and civilisations.
Technically speaking, we have described here the relationship between the fifth and second ray energies – the fifth ray of concrete science acting as moulder of mental substance under the inspirational guiding power of the second ray of love-wisdom. A stroke of genius is a sudden alignment with the soul and an inflow of its life-force into the substance of the mental body as an idea incarnate.
‘Genius’ then, is the unimpeded flow of light and love from the Solar Angel – the guardian deity that watches over each person from birth till death. Regrettably though, the modern understanding of genius is a shrunken remnant of its former glory and is now identified more with the brain and the intellect – particularly since the industrial revolution when the human being came to be regarded by science more and more as a machine. Now, in the computer age, Richard Dawkins describes the human being as a “lumbering robot”, genetically programmed and whose consciousness is a result of the chance organisation of matter rather than the real driving force behind it. When you really think about it, the genie of the lamp is not as far-fetched an analogy of the true reality as it may first appear – not in comparison with the alternative proposal – that the beauty and the passion – the joy and the tragedy – the mystery lying behind all that it is to be human, can be described in terms of biological sparks, nuts and bolts.
Contrary to this prevailing notion, genius in its true nature is the intuition and it is this definition we must follow; for intuition bridges the gap between the spiritual realms where truth, beauty and goodness reside, and the material world where these qualities are seeking expression. The romantic poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell put it this way, "talent is that which is in a man's power: genius is that in whose power a man is", and the philosopher Gotthold Lessing made the subtle distinction that "genius demonstrates its autonomy not by ignoring all rules, but by deriving the rules from itself."
These perspectives reveal genius as a prevailing power that brings new order and principles to the field of relationships in the lower world. This is the essence of the genius within – it is literally “the spirit of relationship”. Genius is mastery over ever widening interactions and inter-relations, first and foremost with ourselves, by integrating all the different sides of our personality into a whole and submitting it to the control of the highest within us. Genius is also the developing and widening the sense of kinship with all that is outside of ourselves, for there is nothing new in the universe except relationships – new connections and combined forces between things all stemming from the one basic relationship between spirit and matter which is constantly evolving and renewing itself.
This relationship between spirit and matter is the source of all the kaleidoscopic forms that we see around us, and these forms, be they physical, emotional or mental, are constantly adapting and mutating – appearing, disappearing and reappearing – as the relationship between spirit and matter constantly renews itself and evolves. The higher the mind reaches up to where truth resides, and it is the sense of this overarching relationship and the unity of all things that is realised. And this is something to which the great mystics have all borne witness down the ages. So all the diversity of manifestation has a common source, and genius is the
realisation of this inner connectedness and the ability to express things in new ways that bring a greater understanding of this to others. It follows on from this that education in its broadest sense is a means of developing an ever wider and more inclusive understanding of relationships.
Each one of us has a part to play in an interconnected world. If formal education incorporated this understanding and an elementary science of relationships, then the originality of each child would be nurtured and using the heart approach would encourage the desire to serve areas of need according to latent abilities. This flourishing desire to serve is a safe and sure way of unfolding the genius within because desire, high or low focuses the mind on a goal, and evokes the will to achieve that goal. The transmutation of selfish desire and ambition into the flame of spiritual aspiration develops one-pointed concentration to its maximum potential. It becomes a powerful tool of invocation and, with persistence, one that will evoke the intuition.
Intuition is the hallmark of genius; it is energetic and non-imitative; and its handmaiden, the imagination, finds its natural expression in the child. Children live with their whole being – not only through the intellect. When recalled this childlike state brings a certain magical quality to everything with the imagination alive in a pure and flexible astral body but related to the outside world allowing energetic images to spring from some hidden source within – the fusion of the two constituting our reality.
From infancy, the child demonstrates what it is to be a genius of life. Naturally and effortlessly it evokes love and compassion in us. Before it can speak it communicates through impromptu gestures and movements which are slowly transferred to the larynx and, at a certain point, emerge in speech. And here – at the beginning of the use of sound – lies the critical juncture in keeping genius alive and unfolding. At this stage in infancy, the internalising of language for the processes of thinking takes place and a fusion between thought and its expression through sound occurs. At this point onwards, the richness and carrying force of its language depends upon the encouragement and strengthening of the spiritual imagination in the child.
Where this becomes the trend of a whole civilisation, language can evolve without the need for stereotyped phrases and can begin to be more truly expressive of original thinking and subjective experiences. The carrying force of words gains power to inspire and enlighten. As students of the power of sound, we strive for this free expression of the potencies and qualities of our subjective experiences – and this is one of the services we give to language.
In the words of Rudolf Steiner:
To one who understands the sense of speech
The world unveils its image form.
To one who listens to the soul of speech
The world unfolds its true being.
To one who lives in the spirit depths of speech
The world gives freely Wisdom’s strength.
To one who lovingly can dwell on speech
Speech will accord its inner might.
So I will turn my heart and mind toward the soul and spirit of words.
In love for them I will then feel myself complete and whole.
Translated by Hans and Ruth Pusch
The rejuvenation of language is much needed to bring back diversity in art and culture which has become somewhat homogenised by modern culture. Prior to the late 18th century, the concept of genius was associated with the genius loci, or "spirit of the place." Each location had its own essence – its own unique and immutable nature that infused or inspired all its inhabitants. Each nation’s essence was contributed to by its climate, air, and fauna that made its poetry, manners, and art singular. It created national character. Of course, we know this to be true as great ray lives condition the soul and personality of the nations, and great deva lives also guard and nurture all places of importance. This is looked at in detail in Geoffrey Hodson’s Kingdom of the Gods – the image here is of a great mountain deva.
It is through the activities of guardian devas that the genius essence of any locality is nurtured and maintained. But through the increasing superficiality of western life we have lost touch with the soul of outer forms and this is reflected in modern arts and culture. What is required most urgently is the flow of genius that relates spirit and matter together as one. Genius is the ability to relate the soul’s power to the feminine aspect of nature and create forms of beauty in the outer world. The Mother of the World is a symbol of that virgin substance that enable Deity to manifest...the generative, creative life which gives birth to forms and is therefore an essential part of genius as ‘deity of generation and birth’. This beautiful picture expresses what is needed in the creative inner life of humanity at this time and to inform its relationship with the outer world which it is meant to sculpt as a living reflection of inner truth.
So this is our task in evoking the genius within. The type of genius we are concerned with is that which reveals higher truths and principles bringing enlightenment. As “attendant spirit” it is the soul demonstrating its powers through the personality – the spirit within ‘attending’ its lower expression in human form and transmitting energy through it. Each of us has this genius latent within, for it is our true self – all we have to do is learn to be ourselves more potently, to externalise our real selves.
So we need not be disheartened if our meditations don’t yield mind-blowing solutions to world problems: all we have to come out with is a greater sense of our true self and time and perseverance will do the rest. Real genius demonstrates in the well-rounded out, balanced person and, as we improve in our meditations, we are steadily engendering a magnetic aura on which the higher impressions can play. We are setting up a resonance between the soul and personality that will eventually demonstrate in the most vivid and electric display of light imaginable.
This allowed the Christ to proclaim Himself as “The light of the world”, and explains the association of the words ‘illumination’ and ‘enlightenment’ with the Buddha. The title of genius in its deepest sense therefore would have to be reserved solely for the spiritual greats such as these two. They were true “deities of generation and birth”, and in their lifetimes they demonstrated a perfected understanding of the science of relationships between spirit and matter. The power of their genius radiated a light so vivid that it is still with us today, carried collectively by the millions of their followers the world over. This is the true type of genius that each of us is slowly unfolding, until in some distant future, if we follow the logic through, the whole of humanity will be enlightened. The implications of this are awe-inspiring. What would we do with all that light? What would be our responsibility in the scheme of things? One day we’ll find out, for as the Christ said, greater things than He did shall we do.
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