Genius! thou gift of Heaven, thou light divine!
Amid what dangers art thou doom'd to shine.
Oft will the body's weakness check thy force,
Oft damp thy vigour, and impede thy course;
And trembling nerves compel thee to restrain
Thy nobler efforts to contend with pain
Or want, sad guest! . . .
Among many problems hitherto unsolved in the
Mystery of Mind, stands prominent the question of Genius.
Whence, and what is genius, its raison d'être, the causes of its excessive rarity? Is it indeed "a gift
of Heaven"? And if so, why such gifts to one,
and dullness of intellect, or even idiocy, the doom
of another? To regard the appearance of men and women of genius
as a mere accident, a prize of blind chance, or,
as dependent on physical causes alone, is only thinkable
to a materialist. As an author truly says, there
remains then, only this alternative: to agree with
the believer in a personal god "to refer the appearance
of every single individual to a special act of divine will
and creative energy," or "to recognize,
in the whole succession of such individuals, one great
act of some will, expressed in an eternal inviolable law."
Genius, as Coleridge defined it, is certainly to
every outward appearance, at least "the faculty of
growth"; yet to the inward intuition of man,
it is a question whether it is genius an abnormal aptitude of
mind that develops and grows, or the physical brain, its vehicle, which becomes through some mysterious
process fitter to receive and manifest from within outwardly the innate and divine nature of man's over-soul. Perchance,
in their unsophisticated wisdom, the philosophers of old
were nearer truth than are our modern wiseacres, when they
endowed man with a tutelar deity, a Spirit whom they called genius. The substance of this entity, to
say nothing of its essence observe the distinction,
reader, and the presence of both, manifests itself
according to the organism of the person it informs. As
Shakespeare says of the genius of great men what we perceive
of his substance "is not here"
For what you see is but the smallest part. . . .
But were the whole frame here,
It is of such a spacious, lofty pitch,
Your roof were not sufficient to contain it. . . .
This is precisely what the Esoteric philosophy teaches.
The flame of genius is lit by no anthropomorphic hand,
save that of one's own Spirit. It is the very nature of
the Spiritual Entity itself, of our Ego, which
keeps on weaving new life-woofs into the web of reincarnation
on the loom of time, from the beginnings to the ends of
the great Life-Cycle.1 This it is that asserts
itself stronger than in the average man, through its personality;
so that what we call "the manifestations of genius"
in a person, are only the more or less successful efforts
of that EGO to assert itself on the outward
plane of its objective form the man of clay in the matter-of-fact,
daily life of the latter. The EGOS of a Newton, an Æschylus, or a Shakespeare,
are of the same essence and substance as the Egos of a yokel,
an ignoramus, a fool, or even an idiot; and
the self-assertion of their informing genii depends on
the physiological and material construction of the physical man.
No Ego differs from another Ego, in its primordial or original
essence and nature. That which makes one mortal a great
man and of another a vulgar, silly person is, as
said, the quality and make-up of the physical shell or
casing, and the adequacy or inadequacy of brain and body
to transmit and give expression to the light of the real, Inner man; and this aptness or in aptness is,
in its turn, the result of Karma. Or, to
use another simile, physical man is the musical instrument,
and the Ego, the performing artist. The potentiality
of perfect melody of sound, is in the former the instrument and
no skill of the latter can awaken a faultless harmony out of a
broken or badly made instrument. This harmony depends on
the fidelity of transmission, by word or act, to
the objective plane, of the unspoken divine thought in
the very depths of man's subjective or inner nature. Physical
man may to follow our simile be a priceless Stradivarius or
a cheap and cracked fiddle, or again a mediocrity between
the two, in the hands of the Paganini who ensouls him.
All ancient nations knew this. But though all had their
Mysteries and their Hierophants, not all could be equally
taught the great metaphysical doctrine; and while a few
elect received such truths at their initiation, the masses
were allowed to approach them with the greatest caution and only
within the farthest limits of fact. "From the DIVINE
ALL proceeded Amun, the Divine Wisdom . .
. give it not to the unworthy," says a Book
of Hermes. Paul, the "wise Master-Builder,"2 (I Cor. III, 10) but
echoes Thoth-Hermes when telling the Corinthians "We speak
Wisdom among them that are perfect (the initiated) . .
. divine Wisdom in a MYSTERY,
even the hidden Wisdom." (Ibid. II,
Yet, to this day the Ancients are accused of blasphemy
and fetishism for their "hero worship." But have
the modern historians ever fathomed the cause of such "worship"!
We believe not. Otherwise they would be the first to become
aware that that which was "worshipped," or rather
that to which honours were rendered was neither the man of clay,
nor the personality the Hero or Saint So-and-So,
which still prevails on the Roman Church, a church which
beatifies the body rather than the soul but the divine imprisoned
Spirit, the exiled "god" within that
personality. Who, in the profane world, is
aware that even the majority of the magistrates (the Archons of Athens, mistranslated in the Bible as "Princes") whose
official duty it was to prepare the city for such processions,
were ignorant of the true significance of the alleged "worship"?
Verily was Paul right in declaring that "we speak wisdom
. . . not the wisdom of this world .
. . which none of the Archons of this (profane)
world knew," but the hidden wisdom of the MYSTERIES.
For, as again the Epistle of the apostle implies,
the language of the Initiates and their secrets no profane, not even an "Archon" or ruler outside the fane of the sacred Mysteries, knoweth; none "save
the Spirit of man (the Ego) which is in him."
(Ib. v, II.)
Were Chapters II and III of I Corinthians ever translated in the Spirit in which they were
written even their dead letter is now disfigured the world might
receive strange revelations. Among other things it would
have a key to many hitherto unexplained rites of ancient Paganism,
one of which is the mystery of this same Hero-worship.
And it would learn that if the streets of the city that honoured
one such man were strewn with roses for the passage of the Hero
of the day, if every citizen was called to bow in reverence
to him who was so feasted, and if both priest and poet
vied in their zeal to immortalize the hero's name after his death occult
philosophy tells us the reason why this was done.
"Behold," it saith, "in every manifestation
of genius when combined with virtue in the warrior or
the Bard, the great painter, artist, statesman
or man of Science, who soars high above the heads of the
vulgar herd, the undeniable presence of the celestial exile,
the divine Ego whose jailor thou art, Oh man of
matter!" Thus, that which we call deification applied
to the immortal God within, not to the dead walls of the
human tabernacle that contained him. And this was done
in tacit and silent recognition of the efforts made by the divine
captive who, under the most adverse circumstances of incarnation,
still succeeded in manifesting himself.
Occultism, therefore, teaches nothing new in asserting
the above philosophical axiom. Enlarging upon the broad
metaphysical truism, it only gives it a finishing touch
by explaining certain details. It teaches, for instance,
that the presence in man of various creative powers called genius
in their collection is due to no blind chance, to no innate
qualities through hereditary tendencies though that which is
known as atavism may often intensify these faculties but to
an accumulation of individual antecedent experiences of the Ego in its preceding life, and lives. For,
though omniscient in its essence and nature, it still requires
experience through its personalities of the things of earth,
earthy on the objective plane, in order to apply the fruition
of that abstract omniscience to them. And, adds
our philosophy the cultivation of certain aptitudes throughout
a long series of past incarnations must finally culminate in some
one life, in a blooming forth as genius, in
one or another direction.
Great Genius, therefore, if true and innate,
and not merely an abnormal expansion of our human intellect can
never copy or condescend to imitate, but will ever be original, suigeneris in its creative impulses and realizations.
Like those gigantic Indian lilies that shoot out from the clefts
and fissures of the cloud-nursing, and bare rocks on the
highest plateaux of the Nilgiri Hills, true Genius needs
but an opportunity to spring forth into existence and blossom
in the sight of all in the most arid soil, for its stamp
is always unmistakable. To use a popular saying,
innate genius, like murder, will out sooner or later,
and the more it will have been suppressed and hidden, the
greater will be the flood of light thrown by the sudden eruption.
On the other hand artificial genius, so often confused
with the former, and which, in truth, is
but the outcome of long studies and training, will never
be more than, so to say, the flame of a lamp burning
outside the portal of the pane; it may throw a long trail
of light across road, but it leaves the inside of the building
in darkness. And, as every faculty and property
in Nature is dual i.e., each may be made
to serve two ends, evil as well as good so will artificial
genius betray itself. Born out of the chaos of terrestrial
sensations, of perceptive and retentive faculties,
yet of finite memory, it will ever remain the slave of
its body; and that body, owing to its unreliability
and the natural tendency of matter to confusion, will not
fail to lead even the greatest genius, so called,
back into its own primordial element, which is chaos again,
or evil, or earth.
Thus between the true and the artificial genius, one born
from the light of the immortal Ego, the other from the
evanescent will-o'-the-wisp of the terrestrial or purely human
intellect and the animal soul, there is a chasm,
to be spanned only by him who aspires ever onward; who
never loses sight, even when in the depths of matter,
of that guiding star the Divine Soul and mind, or what
we call Buddhi-Manas. The latter does not require,
as does the former, cultivation. The words of the
poet who asserts that the lamp of genius
If not protected, pruned, and fed with care,
Soon dies, or runs to waste with fitful glare
can apply only to artificial genius, the outcome of cultural
and of purely intellectual acuteness. It is not the direct
light of the Manasa putra, the "Sons of Wisdom,"
for true genius lit at the flame of our higher nature,
or the EGO, cannot die. This
is why it is so very rare. Lavater calculated that "the
proportion of genius (in general) to the vulgar, is like
one to a million; but genius without tyranny, without
pretension, that judges the weak with equity, the
superior with humanity, and equals with justice,
is like one in ten millions." This is indeed interesting,
though not too complimentary to human nature, if,
by "genius," Lavater had in mind only the higher
sort of human intellect, unfolded by cultivation,
"protected, pruned, and fed," and
not the genius we speak of. Moreover such genius is always
apt to lead to the extremes of weal or woe him through whom this
artificial light of the terrestrial mind manifests. Like
the good and bad genii of old with whom human genius is made so
appropriately to share the name, it takes its helpless
possessor by the hand and leads him, one day to the pinnacles
of fame, fortune, and glory, but to plunge
him on the following day into an abyss of shame, despair,
often of crime.
But as, according to the great Physiognomist, there
is more of the former than of the latter kind of genius in this
our world, because, as Occultism teaches us,
it is easier for the personality with its acute physical senses
and tatwas to gravitate toward the lower quaternary than
to soar to its triad modern philosophy, though quite proficient
in treating this lower place of genius, knows nothing of
its higher spiritual form the "one in ten millions."
Thus it is only natural that confusing one with the other,
the best modern writers should have failed to define true genius.
As a consequence, we continually hear and read a good deal
of that which to the Occultist seems quite paradoxical.
"Genius requires cultivation," says one;
"Genius is vain and self-sufficient" declares another;
while a third will go on defining the divine light but
to dwarf it on the Procrustean bed of his own intellectual narrow-mindedness.
He wil1 talk of the great eccentricity of genius, and allying
it as a general rule with an "inflammable constitution,"
will even show it "a prey to every passion but seldom delicacy
of taste!" (Lord Kaimes.) It is useless to argue with
such, or tel1 them that, original, and great
genius puts out the most dazzling rays of human intellectuality,
as the sun quenches the flame-light of a fire in an open field;
that it is never eccentric, though always suigeneris; and that no man endowed with true genius can ever give way
to his physical animal passions. In the view of an humble
Occultist, only such a grand altruistic character as that
of Buddha or Jesus, and of their few close imitators,
can be regarded, in our historical cycle, as fully
Hence, true genius has small chance indeed of receiving
its due in our age of conventionalities, hypocrisy and
time-serving. As the world grows in civilization,
it expands in fierce selfishness, and stones its true prophets
and geniuses for the benefit of its aping shadows. Alone
the surging masses of the ignorant millions, the great
people's heart, arc capable of sensing intuitionally a
true "great soul" full of divine love for mankind,
of god-like compassion for suffering man. Hence the populace
alone is still capable of recognizing a genius, as without
such qualities no man has a right to the name. No genius
can be now found in Church or State, and this is proven
on their own admission. It seems a long time since in the
XIII century the "Angelic Doctor" snubbed Pope Innocent
IV who, boasting of the millions got by him from the sale
of absolutions and indulgences, remarked to Aquinas that
"the age of the Church is past in which she said 'Silver
and gold have I none'!" "True," was the
ready reply; "but the age is also past when she could
say to a paralytic, 'Rise up and walk'." And
yet from that time, and far, far earlier,
to our own day the hourly crucifixion of their ideal Master both
by Church and State has never ceased. While every Christian
State breaks with its laws and customs, with every commandment
given in the Sermon on the Mount, the Christian Church
justifies and approves of this through her own Bishops who despairingly
proclaim "A Christian State impossible on Christian
Principles." Hence no Christ-like (or "Buddha-like")
way of life is possible in civilized States.
The occultist then, to whom "true genius is a synonym
of self-existent and infinite mind," mirrored more
or less faithfully by man, fails to find in the modern
definitions of the term anything approaching correctness.
In its turn the esoteric interpretation of Theosophy is sure to
be received with derision. The very idea that every man
with a "soul" in him is the vehicle of (a) genius will
appear supremely absurd, even to believers, while
the materialist will fall foul of it as a "crass superstition."
As to the popular feeling the only approximately correct one
because purely intuitional, it will not be even taken into
account. The same elastic and convenient epithet "superstition"
will, once more, be made to explain why there never
was yet a universally recognised genius whether of one or the
other kind without a certain amount of weird, fantastic
and often uncanny, tales and legends attaching themselves
to so unique a character, dogging and even surviving him.
Yet it is the unsophisticated alone, and therefore only
the so-called uneducated masses, just because of
that lack of sophistically reasoning in them, who feel,
whenever coming in contact with an abnormal, out-of-the-way
character, that there is in him something more than the
mercy mortal man of flesh and intellectual attributes.
And feeling themselves in the presence of that which in the enormous
majority is ever hidden, of something incomprehensible
to their matter-or-fact minds, they experience the same
awe that popular masses felt in days of old when their fancy,
often more unerring than cultured reason, created of their
heroes gods, teaching:
. . . . The weak to bent, the proud to pray
To powers unseen and mightier than they . . .
This is now called SUPERSTITION . . .
But what is Superstition? True, we dread that which we
cannot clearly explain to ourselves. Like children in the
dark we are all of us apt, the educated equally with the
ignorant. to people that darkness with phantoms of our
own creation; but these "phantoms" prove in no
wise that that "darkness" which is only another term
for the invisible and the unseen is really empty
of any Presence save our own. So that if in its
exaggerated form, "superstition" is a weird incubus,
as a belief in things above and beyond our physical
senses, yet it is also a modest acknowledgement that there
are things in the universe, and around us, of which
we know nothing. In this sense "superstition"
becomes not an unreasonable feeling of half wonder and half dread,
mixed with admiration and reverence, or with fear,
according to the dictates of our intuition. And this is
far more reasonable than to repeat with the too-learned wiseacres
that there is nothing "nothing whatever, in that darkness";
nor can there be anything since they, the wiseacres,
have failed to discern it.
E pur se muove! Where there is smoke there must be fire;
where there is a steamy vapour there must be water. Our
claim rests but upon one eternal axiomatic truth: nihil
sine causa. Genius and undeserved suffering,
prove an immortal Ego and Reincarnation in our world. As
for the rest, i.e., the obloquy and
derision with which such theosophical doctrines are met,
Fielding a sort of Genius in his way, too has covered
our answer over a century ago. Never did he utter a greater
truth than on the day he wrote that "If superstition makes
a man a fool,SKEPTICISM
MAKES HIM MAD."
Lucifer, November, 1889
H. P. Blavatsky
l The period of one full Manvantara composed of Seven
Rounds. back to text
2 A term absolutely theurgic, masonic and occult.
Paul, by using it, declares himself an Initiate
having the right to initiate others. back to text