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GENIUS -- Its nature and source

Nov 04, 2005 02:09 AM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck

November 3, 2005



Re: GENIUS -- Its nature and source





In connection with recent discussion about the inner consciousness of Man
and it several phases, it seemed to me that this article by HPB on GENIUS
might be instructive and appropriate.





by H. P. Blavatsky



Genius! thou gift of Heaven, thou light
Amid what dangers art thou doom'd to shine. 
Oft will the body's weakness check thy
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'Ítre, 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"ó


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 ∆schylus, 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


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, 7.) 

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, sui generis in its creative impulses and

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

--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

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 will 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 tell 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 sui generis; 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 developed GENIUS. 

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

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 


l The period of one full Manvantara composed of Seven Rounds. 

2 A term absolutely theurgic, masonic and occult. Paul, by using it,
declares himself an Initiate having the right to initiate others. 



Best wishes,




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