In this second article on the topic of genius, I found myself drifting towards our ability to recognize beauty and truth. I thought it was an interesting topic, because it relates to how we process information and perception as individuals, and part of what is so beautiful about genius is that it breaks apart our clotted mentalities.
The reorientation of perception that comes with encountering genius can be startling, but also I’ve found it can be delightful, because with the recognition of what is true, there is joy. There is release from what binds us. Over the years I’ve come to trust in this experience, and to recognize that we possess an innate faculty that recognizes truth and responds to it with feeling. This is not a logical computation, but a sensation. Feelings of joy, or peace, or even a regenerative sadness emerge, and as we follow these feelings, we are able to sift insight from the dross ground of experience, and this too, is genius. Eventually we recognize the universality of what we are discovering: it is not for us alone.
But is the truth “true” for all of us? Or are we each merely mining a tableau of personal fancy? Is there, in other words, an ability within us to recognize genuine insight—to discover, while bypassing the convolutions of logic, a deep and genuine understanding of the nature of reality? My answer to this question is yes…
But some would argue no. Just look around, they might say. If we all possessed this faculty we obviously wouldn’t disagree so vehemently about so much. It’s a powerful argument, but I don’t agree with its premise, or its conclusion, and here I turn to some of the genius writers and thinkers I’ve enjoyed exploring over the years for an alternate explanation: although we all possess such a faculty, we do not all access it equally.
A hallmark of genius, I’ve found, is the ability to not only see the big picture, but to think in terms of wholeness. To see the invisible relationships upon which the visible “facts” depend. I mentioned at the start of this series that I had recently read my first Wilhelm Reich book, Ether, God and Devil. One of the points Reich made in that book that I resonated with was the notion, from his research, that we are each “armored” to varying degrees, and that this armoring directly affects our sensations, perceptions, and feelings. He even goes on to say, “the organism can perceive only what it itself expresses.” We are thus all in the business of defining the parameters of our experience.
Without going into extreme detail, it is sufficient here to note that the armoring Reich describes is a protective mechanism that conditions our experience of ourselves and the world, and is marked by a constriction of normal, life-enhancing functions. It is an imposition of constraints on what we might otherwise think and feel—a rigidity of thought and feeling akin to an authoritarian type of control on the flow of life within and through us. We do this instinctively to protect ourselves, just as a tree becomes hardened in the area of a wound.
I believe in Reich’s mind this was a rather ancient development in humankind. In the book Cosmic Superimposition, which was printed together with Ether, God and Devil, Reich tries to imagine how this armoring could have come about, and says of humankind’s dawning ability to reason and examine it’s own self, “There is much good reason to assume that in such experiences of the self man somehow became frightened and for the first time in the history of his species began to armor against inner fright and amazement.” He goes on to say that, “it is quite possible that the turning of reasoning toward itself induced the first emotional blocking in man.” And later he concludes, “in attempting to understand himself and the streaming of his own energy, man interfered with it, and in doing so, began to armor, and thus to deviate from nature. The first split into a mystical alienation from himself, his core, and a mechanical order of existence instead of the organic, involuntary, bio-energetic self-regulation, followed with compulsive force.” (Cosmic Superimposition, pg 293-294)
What resonated with me strongly here was the notion that both mechanistic/materialist viewpoints and fundamentalist/religious viewpoints are in point of fact mirror images of the identical inner dysfunction. This is the ability of genius to see wholeness in what we take at face value to be completely different, and seemingly antagonistic, responses.
The answer to this problem, in language other than Reich used, is the integration of the heart and mind into a functional whole. In the perceptual modalities most important to me, the heart is not marginalized, but integrated with the logic of the mind. It is the heart, I believe, that is the compass I mentioned at the outset of this article—the heart that recognizes truth and chimes in with visceral acclamation. And what is missing for me in both a mechanistic and a fundamentalist religious view of the world is the awareness and wisdom of this most important faculty. Both perspectives are rooted in a certain rigidity of thought that seeks to impose a particular set of limits on the world’s magnitude, and make it more readily apprehended, judged, and subdued.
I first encountered this idea reading another genius—(to me)—Jose Arguelles. I read his book The Transformative Vision while in college, and I recall it being a beautiful exploration of the idea that the “true human being” was a seamless merging of what we call science, and what we call art. I recall Arguelles suggesting that it is only in the joining of these two fundamental aspects of our being that our authenticity and power as beings emerges. This is a theme I find echoed in Reich’s exposition of armoring, in Viktor Schauberger’s lamentation of our “techno-academic” systems, which he found as life-negating, exclusively male-oriented, and damaging to the planetary ecology, and in what A Course of Love refers to as the joining of heart and mind into wholeheartedness. (These are but a few of the places in which I’ve found such a view expressed.)
I think the reason a given individual’s recognition of truth is so often perceived as a matter of individual fancy is that we are coming at this problem primarily as “split” individuals. As split individuals we function with limited access to one or the other faculty, and are thus inaccurate perceivers. Our ability to access the inheritance of genuine knowing within us is stunted. It is a well-known fact that just about any argument can be justified with reasoning, for instance. Recognizing innately this profound difficulty, science relies upon externalized experimentation, and religion upon sacred books. But neither provides an accurate accounting of what we call life.
In my opinion when we are in our hearts, which I do not personally take to mean a marginalization of the mind, it is possible to reach the type of alignment that simply doesn’t exist when we are arguing in favor of our individual perceptions. And when we are in our hearts, I find we agree–not on facts, but on the truth expressed between us, and as us. All too often I have fallen victim to reacting to a particular idea that rankles me, but the truth is that there are no winners in the debate of ideas. The path forward is not in being right, but in being true—and ultimately this means being true to ourselves, and the entire spectrum of who we are. Geniuses throughout time have seen this, and understood that what hinders us is the profound difficulty we each have in transcending our fractured pscyhes.