Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The nature of the 'genie' of creativity

Genius can be conceptualized as a 'genie' within us - the word genie being derived from the Roman concept of a guardian and tutelary spirit, akin to the Greek 'daemon' (like Socrates's daemon who advised him and give him insights) - the concept then gathering connotations of creativity, and then 'genie' being used for the Arabian Jinn, which are autonomous supernatural entities (some good, some evil).

I am coining a usage which somewhat playfully takes all these elements so as to indicate the way in which the creativity of a classic genius:

1. Guides the genius - not in all the minute and specific details of living, but in a long-term, strategic fashion

2. Has apparently 'supernatural' powers - since real creativity is ultimately mysterious, and

3. Acts somewhat like an independent and autonomous personage - with whom the conscious and rational mind must build a relationship (the conscious rational mind may influence but does not control the genie, and cannot force the genie to do his will).


My understanding is that - in the above sense - almost everybody will have a genie of creativity - but the genie will vary considerably in power and dominance - in most people the genie has modest power and is usually ignored or suppressed; in a great genius the genie will have great power and will tend to dominate life strategy in many ways.

(Other in-between and dissociated states are presumably possible.)


The genie of a normal (non-genius) person will only be apparent in short bursts and perhaps in a crisis. In a short term crisis a person may demonstrate remarkable and seemingly-inexplicable powers or abilities (which can look like sheer luck). This could be explained in terms of them drawing upon the mysterious insights, intuitions, and knowledge of their genie.

However, this state can seldom be maintained over the long term, because most people are set-up to be dominated not by the genie but instead by more 'normal' motivations - such as social esteem (e.g. the striving for status and admiration), familial and sexual motivations, comfort, convenience, excitement etc.


So, creative genius is quantitative - the genie varies in power and dominance - at at a certain degree of power and degree of dominance the genie will have 'taken-over' the life strategy of a person (not completely, but primarily) - and such as person is A Genius.


Why is this important?

Because we live in a society where, for whatever reason, genius tends to be unacknowledged, denied, ignored and even (but usually indirectly, for other and usually 'political' given-reasons) actively persecuted.

Also, because the world-historical geniuses, which for the past four hundred years used to be common in all major domains of life in The West - art, literature, science, medicine, law, politics, the military, and religion - has become extremely rare; indeed has almost disappeared.

Therefore - if modern society wishes to avail itself of the benefits that genius (and only genius) can bring (e.g. solving unyielding problems by intuitive insights, making breakthrough discoveries), then modernity needs to become more sensitive in its detection, acknowledgement and recognition of genius: this is so even from the perspective of pure self-interest.

Perhaps a starting point is to recognize our own individual creative genie - no matter how relatively feeble it may be, and how infrequently it becomes apparent - we may notice it when, in a crisis, we may, briefly, be able to do something rather extraordinary and inexplicable.


Monday, 26 January 2015

The way of the subcreator - the 'genie' of genius

In considering creativity from a scientific perspective, much can be said - but at the heart of the phenomenon there is a mystery.

I have said that the truly creative essence of creativity is a 'black box' - in the sense that there cannot be a scientific description of genuine originality; but creativity is less like a black box than a living thing - a 'genie' within.

But this is not a genie who can be commanded like the slave of the lamp; but a genie who must be respected, nurtured and coaxed in order that he yield-up his gifts.

Indeed, in the case of a genius, the genie is the one in control. The genie ensures that he gets what he needs from his genius host - that the genie may find and follow his destiny; that he is fed with the knowledge, pictures, experiences he requires; that he is allocated enough time, the right situation, energy, attention...

And when the genie makes a discovery and gets a result; he ensures that the genius is flooded with happiness as reward; and that the genius is motivated to realize, and to communicate the genie's results.

In his essay On Fairy Stories, JRR Tolkien talked of subcreation; and suggested that it was an instance of Man emulating the divine Creator. Exactly so - Man is divine, not just in potential but in actuality - albeit feebly and partially and corruptedly; and creativity is a property of Man's divinity, just as much as free will/ agency is a property.

And creativity is a divine attribute, and the genius who lives in accord with his creative genie is a type of God-attuned Man: genius is a spiritual path; a path with the potential pitfalls of all spiritual paths, especially spiritual pride - but in its essence Good.

It is therefore an error to see a true genius as selfish. Insofar as he is humbly and faithfully serving his genie of creativity - he is following a divinely appointed destiny - for the ultimate benefit of all.

Whether or not a genius succeeds in making a recognized discovery - 'the way of the subcreator' is an intrinsically valid form of human life.


Sunday, 25 January 2015

The 'inner' nature of trait Psychoticism - hard-wired to be inner-attentive, inner-aware, inner-engaged, inner-motivated - an alternative to the broad-association/ natural selection model of creativity


If the standard 'natural selection' model of creativity is regarded as deficient, as previously argued - I mean the 'Simonton' model in which creativity is explained as a product of the high-Psychoticism-trait (high-P) personality producing wide-ranging and abundant random variations on old ideas, and high intelligence sieving and sorting-through these abundant randomly-varied ideas on the basis of coherence and memorized knowledge - then what do I propose to put in its place?


The key relevant difference between my view and the natural selection view - and the difference which leads to the following alternative model for creativity - concerns the nature of the high-Psychoticism trait.

Eysenck sees Psychoticism in terms of a tendency towards loose or broad associations - in other words a partially-pathological state. Psychoticism is seen as a partial breakdown in the normally tightly controlled and narrow associations of ideas to a situation being more like we have all experienced in dreams, and some people have experienced in delirious states of illness or alcohol withdrawal, or psychotic illnesses such as mania or schizophrenia, or under the influence of psychosis-inducing drugs (such as mescaline or LSD).

By contrast, I regard high-Psychoticism-trait as being an innate, substantially heritable, hard-wired set-up of the nervous system in which some individuals experience a higher dominance by 'inner' states than do most normal people. High-P individuals are inner-attentive, inner-aware, inner-engaged and inner-motivated.


So how does high-P work in producing 'creative solutions'?

The short answer is that the creative insight is preceded by a period of focused 'quest' (which may last many years) during which the mind is filled with more-or-less relevant ingredients. The inner-directed processes then observe, work-on, try to understand these various facts and concepts - try to select among them, achieve a clear view of their proper or best organization or arrangement,

This means that such high P individuals are attentive to their inner states (i.e. their thoughts and emotions, their 'stream of consciousness'), they are more spontaneously aware of their thoughts and feelings, they find these inner experiences more engaging, spontaneously more interesting than external matters such as social and sexual interactions (which fascinate most people for most of the time) - and these inner states provide the dominating motivations for such people, such that they are therefore substantially autonomous - that is to say indifferent to, independent-from peer pressure and socialization.

The process by which the mind works on these ingredients to give a breakthrough is a 'black box' - so far as science is concerned. (Although it can be said that the inner, unconscious mind works by different rules than those of conscious logic.) But it is the high-P person who has the focused abstract interest to bring together the ingredients, to watch the processes of understanding and organization, and to get a clear view of the answer as it emerges; and then powerfully to feel the rightness of the right answer as energies and positive emotions are triggered and experienced.


Although this inner-dominance can be caused by diseases and toxicity or brain damage; which can cause any normal person to be overwhelmed by powerful and pathological inner stimuli, or cut-off-from outer perceptions - the idea of Psychoticism is that high-P is a relatively rare but hereditary personality trait - commoner in men than women, inborn, emerging in childhood and persisting through maturity and adulthood.

The reason that high-P is hereditary, is that it is an evolved adaptation with a useful functional role to play - i.e. creativity - and the reason it is rare is that not many (i.e. not a high proportion) of creative people are required by a society; and high-P tend to be associated with lower reproductive success overall (as would be expected when individual invest more time and other resources in the inner life, and therefore relatively less resource into social and sexual life).


So high-P creative people are sometimes very useful to a particular human society (assuming that society 'takes advantage' of their special abilities) but there cannot be too many and indeed not many are needed.

The reason that high-P people are needed, but not often, is that most socially relevant problems (of population survival and expansion) are dealt-with by habitual and traditional means - the individual is socialized into the usual way of dealing with problems through childhood, and these usually work.

But most human societies have recognized (whether explicitly, or more often implicitly, tacitly, that some problems do yield to tradition or habit, and other problem do not always yield to tradition or habit - and what then?

In a nutshell, then is the time to bring in the creative specialist - the Shaman, the mystic, the intuitive priest, the scientific or inventive genius, the Holy Fool: someone who has resisted socialization and instead thinks by different rules, because he is more engaged with the inner world


So the assumption is that high-P has evolved at a low frequency by some (unknown) group-selection mechanism that leads to a reliable but rare supply of high-P individuals to do this vital but infrequent job. And part of this group-selection must also be a recognition from the majority of low-P individuals that these high-P 'oddball' or 'eccentric' individuals must be tolerated, supported, and asked for advice and guidance in certain relatively unusual circumstances when their special abilities are the best (or only) hope for group survival.

Since the supposed mechanism is group selection, and different human group shave experienced widely different selection pressures; then it is likely that high-P is not found with identical frequency everywhere. This presumably explains why creative genius is very unevenly distributed by time and geographical space - and why its frequency varies over time within the same culture - not least because group selection is always open to being subverted by individual-level selection.

This group selected nature of high-P potentially explains why creative genius is all-but absent from many continents and nations, and also why it may appear in abundance (e.g. in ancient Greece) then disappear. However since genius also requires high general intelligence (high-g) then too low an average level of g, or a decline in g, may also be a cause of declining rates of genius.

But I think it fair to say that high-P is a more crucial aspect of genius than high-g, because any high-P individual who is sufficiently higher in intelligence than the majority of his group can perfom his creative social role; while a low-P person will not be creative, no matter how high his intelligence.

So I imagine that the 'shamans' of a recent hunter gatherer tribe will typically have had an intelligence level that is high for their tribal group, but of a lower than average level for a Western nation (as measured by IQ tests). However, such (by Western standards) 'low-IQ' individuals could nonetheless perform their highly valued and effective social function - so long as they had the high-P, creative personality trait.


What is the creative bit of creativity in high Psychoticism-trait individuals (such as creative geniuses)?

It is worth noting at the outset that here I am doing science, and science rules out using supernatural explanations - so if creativity really has something to do with divine or diabolical or any other kind of spiritual inspiration (as was generally considered to be the case from the ancient Greeks and Hebrews  onward) - then this is not going to be a part of a scientific explanation. So if inspiration is real, then a scientific explanation of creativity can only be partial.

It is also - and for similar reasons - worth noting that science has, and can have, no explanation for real novelty, qualitative novelty, something absolutely new - but can only explain the present in terms of what is known of the past - so novelty will always be explained in terms such as new patterns of old facts, now shapings and combinations of previous forms and so on.

But, taking into account these limitations - how can we describe that actual, cutting edge, 'moment' of creativity - in which the creativity in itself happens?


The thing that needs to be explained with human creativity is not just novelty - newness - but useful novelty. There are an 'infinite' number of ways of being new and worse - and not many ways of being new and better - the problem is how the mind gets from the vast 'search space' of new and false ideas or new and useless discoveries to home in on true useful breakthroughs.


The mainstream idea in creativity research is associated with Dean Keith Simonton and endorsed by Hans J Eysenck in his 1995 book Genius is a variant of the theory of Evolution by Natural Selection: that useful creativity works by randomly generating large numbers of variations on old ideas, and then using memory and intelligence to test and sort through these ideas to find those few that are plausible in the light of previous knowledge and current observation.

The genius is explained at being better at making useful newness by having a Personality type which is better at generating multiple random variants of previous ideas due to having looser, wider, more far-ranging associations of ideas (which Eysenck explained in terms of the personality trait Psychoticism) - and then having high intelligence which leads to a well-stocked memory and the ability rapidly and efficiently to sort between these multiple random variants to check them for internal consistency and against previous knowledge.

This theory of creativity is coherent, but I think it is not true. The two reasons against it which seem to me decisive are 1. the open ended 'infinite' number of wrong and false ways that any random generator can produce variants, as contrasted with the finite capacity of any selection system for dealing with this endless abundance; and 2. that this description does not fit the phenomenology (inner experience) of genius at its most genius-like.


The characteristic of genius is not that of mass producing a near infinite number of failures and falsehoods; but instead an amazing swiftness and sureness of touch at creating or discovering new things that are useful and true.

The Natural Selection view of genius is that it is mostly errors and failure; and that the mental process of a genius is essentially a struggle for existence on the part of true, useful, beautiful and virtuous things against being overwhelmed by false, harmful, ugly and wicked things

But this is simply not how the greatest geniuses operate, when they are at their most genius-like! It is, indeed, almost the opposite to the subjective experience (or objective observation) of creativity.

Of course genius is not effortless - because the genius requires finding his destiny, and then embarking on a discovery 'quest' during which he fills his mind with relevant 'data; but the actual cutting-edge of creativity is an act of insight - of In-Sight - that is to say the genius usually 'sees' the answer all at once and whole, and knows by intuition that he has the right answer.

That is to say, from the mass of inner knowledge accumulated, the genius looks-within and perceives the 'one and only' answer (it may be modified in detail later - but the shape is seen as one).


What is astonishing about a genius like Mozart is how the work came to him complete; it is the facility with which they work which amazes us about so much creativity. Even when we see an artist 'struggling' - such as Beethoven - this is usually mostly a matter of an already-genius struggling to continue his work, and to be ever-original, when the pure and fertile imagination of youth has departed.

The youngest geniuses are perhaps the lyric poets - who are almost-always young men in the late teens or twenties, who fluently pour forth their songs and verses without strain or effort. Or the young mathematicians who just 'see' and 'know' things - which they may not be able to explain or prove.


So, I suggest that the creative bit of creativity does not resemble a process of trial-and-error; but is a moment of (near) instant insight; and the place it comes from is within; and the method it comes by is intuition; and intuition is a multi-faceted process including illumination, validation, conviction and drive or motivation.

The genius looks within for his answers - and when he finds the answer it is seen or felt as an over-powering insight; which floods him with a conviction of its right-ness and a desire to accept it, make it, live by it.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Psychosis and creativity - Creativity is a coordinated, adaptive package - and *not* just a lucky combinations of deficits


In what follows I will argue that the Psychosis (or the psychotic phenomena) which characterise enhanced Creativity are distinct in form, from the Psychosis of most Psychotic illnesses. Also that severe psychosis of any kind is always un-creative in itself - a barrier or block to purposive creative activity.


By Psychosis I mean psychotic illnesses; that is, illnesses marked by psychotic phenomena.

Psychotic phenomena are primarily

1. Hallucinations - usually hearing voices (when nobody is there) and seeing things (which aren't there). The creative state of mind is akin to (or actually) day-dreaming or lucid dreaming.

2. Delusions - false belief - usually almost unshakeable, and which dominate behaviour. Most often these are 'paranoid' - which means delusions of self-reference: i.e. that 'everything' in the environment refers to the deluded person in some way. One common type of  paranoid delusion is delusions of persecution - that there is some kind of 'conspiracy' to 'get' the deluded person.

3. Thought disorder - this refers to an inferred abnormality in the form of thought, abnormality in the 'stream of consciousness' - this being inferred partly from the speech and behaviour of the subject as observed, and partly from self-reports of the subject either at the time of interview (describing their won thoughts) or else retrospective after some degree of recovery.

Thought disorder ranged from acceleration or slowing of though (in mania or depression respectively), and includes what feels like the interruption or stopping or loss of thought, or that thoughts are being read or experienced by others, or being put into the mind from externally. These are taken to be attempted descriptions of strange and puzzling experiences.

4. Catatonia - which refers to a very wide range of purposeless, un-understandable movement disorders associated with psychotic illnesses - including freezing, posturing, strange mannerisms, and undirected excitement.


These Psychotic phenomena can occur in the 'functional' psychoses of schizophrenia, mania, psychotic melancholia/ depression, and brief undifferentiated psychoses; brain diseases and disorders such as delirium/ acute organic states and dementia (especially the Lewy body dementia of Parkinsonism), and are caused by drugs and drug withdrawal (these are actually types of delirium), and sometimes in epilepsy or following brain injury.


There is a fairly clear distinction between the Psychotic phenomena which constitute creative states and those which occur in most Psychotic illnesses. This can conveniently be summarized by thinking of the typical shaman experience as listed in anthropological studies.


The key to potentially-creative Psychotic phenomena is that purposive thought is retained, the links between topic are retained, and memory is retained.

1. Visions and visual hallucinations: these may be symbolic pictures of the working-out of problems, or coded answers to long-pondered problems. Creative hallucinations seem usually to be visions; although sometimes they are voices that advise, instruct, warn (e.g. Socrates's 'daemon' that apparently spoke to him).

2. 'Delusions' or strong and dominating beliefs that would be regarded as dubious or false by most people; which take the form of strong convictions coming-upon the subject asif from outside (or arising from within him) in non-logical ways.

3. The subject would have a strong awareness of his inner monologue, the 'stream of consciousness', perhaps hearing his thoughts spoken aloud; perhaps combined with an expanded associations of ideas, linking subjects in surprising ways (so that one idea reminds the subject of many others, beyond what is usual); perhaps combined with a more rapid, accelerated 'flight of ideas' - when the stream of thought seems sped-up to a rapidity beyond normal - and which when spoken aloud other people may find it difficult to follow. In sum, the speech may be rapid, bounce between subjects on the basis of wide-ranging hard-to-follow (but real) associations.



The nature of Psychotic phenomena can be such as to impair or utterly prevent creativity. The uncreative state of mind is like most people's experience and memories of most dreams during sleep - i.e. an uncontrolled, passive experience; lacking purpose and direction; often interrupted, jumping 'randomly' between subjects, evoking an emotion of perplexity/ puzzlement, without any direction or apparent meaning, and very swiftly forgotten on waking.

1. There may be poor concentration, poor memory. excessive distraction, and being overwhelmed by strong emotions (whether misery, euphoria, perplexity or fear) so the person simply exists in the present moment.

2. Thought disorder may be so severe as to disconnect one idea from another and prevent purposive and directed thought. Subjective thoughts may be slowed to a near standstill (in Psychotic depression), or so fast as to be a blur (in mania); thoughts may be frequently interrupted, or stopped, or lost (in schizophrenia) - so the subject changes abruptly without any known link, or suddenly all thoughts leave the head with no memory for what went before. Delerium and Dementia are both associated with extremely poor ability to sustain a strain of thought.

3. Hallucinations are most typically auditory - hearing voices. These voices may be so intrusive (loud, multiple voices, aggressive or insulting voices) as to compel almost all the subject's attention, and prevent directed thinking and problem solving.

4. Catatonia is a physical manifestation of Psychotic disease - and (in its many forms) generally seems to interfere severely with, or utterly prevent, purposive thought or any form of creative action.


Note: Psychosis is an extreme of normal states, on a continuum

In practice, and despite some traditional formulations, Psychotic phenomena are not qualitatively distinct categories from normal, but rather on a continuum with normal.

So Hallucinations are defined as sensory perceptions with no object - but hallucinations merge into misinterpretations of real perceptual stimuli and illusional misinterpretations of real perceptions (e.g. a coat hung on a chair is seen as a looming and hostile person, the sound of a murmur of indistinct conversation is experiences as clear persecutory voices).

 Auditory hallucination may sometimes be induced by exposure to unstructured sound or nonsense words; or 'drowned out' with loud music or speech from a high volume TV or iPod, or alleviated by cognitive therapy methods - demonstrating that hallucinations are NOT autonomous of the environment.

And out-and-out delusions merge into overvalued or eccentric ideas and obsessive concerns.

And 'flight of ideas' can range in severity from rapid, allusive, witty and 'brilliant' conversation; to incomprehensible nonsense, random 'word salad' and pretentious, imprecise, inconclusive ramblings on 'philosophical' themes.


The missing link may be strong emotional states amplifying a tendency to misinterpret evidence; so that a jealous man with low self-esteem who mistrusts his wife may develop delusional jealousy by a biased interpretation of ambiguous evidence; or a very frightened schizophrenic may interpret ambiguous environmental perceptions as conclusive evidence of a hostile conspiracy.


NOTE: As a general point, it is important to regard high Psychoticism Creativity as being an adaptive phenomenon - 'designed' (by natural selection) for the purpose of being creative (innovating in ways beneficial to the group, solving difficult problems afflicting the group etc.).

Therefore, the creative way of thinking, i.e. the 'flight of ideas', wide associations, awareness of the stream of consciousness, tendency to have visions and to get non-logically-derived ideas are NOT examples of mild pathology - but ARE hard-wired systems for creativity.

This is emphasized by the way in which the creative way of thinking is linked to the creative persons ability, interests and motivations.

Thus creativity is a coordinated package: an adaptive package.


(And creativity is NOT - except perhaps very unusually - a rare and accidental combination of pathologies which just happen to yield beneficial results.)


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Psychoticism versus Psychosis: the personality trait of Psychoticism versus the illness state of being Psychotic

HJ Eysenck deserves primary credit for discovering and formulating the personality trait of Psychoticism (P) - but I believe the concept as he left it (an his death in 1997) requires further clarification and development.

One necessary clarification is to distinguish between Psychoticism and Psychopathy - that is, between Psychoticism-proper versus Psychopathy - I attempted that yesterday:


Another necessary clarification is to distinguish between the personality trait of Psychoticism, and the state of illness in which a person can be described as Psychotic.

I believe that Eysenck was wrong to suggest that high-Psychoticism-trait and Psychotic-illness should be seen as points of severity on a single dimension - with the personality trait as a moderately high Psychoticism, and the highest levels of the same trait being characterized by a Psychotic illness.

What follows is my attempt to distinguish clearly between Psychoticism and Psychosis; between Psychoticism-personality and Psychotic-illness (i.e. between the trait and the state) - but also to explain where there is a statistical association between the two (ie. why people high in Psychoticism-trait are more prone to Psychotic-illness).


1. Personality/ character - permanent trait, persists through life
2. Inherited (substantially), genetic
3. Hard-wired
4. Adaptive (on average increases reproductive success of the group)
5. Creative - Uses inner cognitions and perceptions to address external problems

1. Illness - usually temporary state, seldom persists through life
2. Usually caused by environment - e.g. toxicity, trauma, infection
3. Reversible impairment in brain functioning
4. Maladaptive (while operative reduces individual reproductive success)
5. Non-creative - Absorbed-by (turned-in-on) inner cognitions and perceptions


Anyone can have a Psychotic-illness if the environmental cause is sufficiently strong - for example, delirium due to hallucinogenic drugs, or withdrawal of alcohol, will produce Psychosis in everyone; so will some types of dementia.

But those who are born hard-wired for high Psychoticism trait are more prone to 'flip into' the temporary state of a Psychotic-illness - it takes less than average of an environmental 'insult' or brain impairment to make a high Psychoticism person have a Psychotic episode.

This accounts for the often noticed and multiply confirmed observation of a higher frequency of Psychotic illnesses/ episodes among highly creative people (i.e. those people with high Psychoticism-trait).

Therefore, Psychosis (psychotic states) in a person with high Psychoticism (psychoticism trait) may not indicate severe brain malfunction - because a relatively mild degree of brain dysfunction may be sufficient to trigger psychotic symptoms in a person with high trait Psychoticism.


Indeed, for a person with high trait Psychoticism, temporary episodes of Psychotic states may be of some positive, functional value in terms of creativity.

This is most obvious in tribal shamans who deliberately induce Psychotic episodes in order to access non-normal sources of knowledge (conceptualized as coming from the spiritual realm). Shamans usually use sleep deprivation, fatigue, prolonged and rhythmic dancing, music, singing to trigger these Psychotic episodes - and also hallucinogenic or other consciousness-altering agents where these are available (eg. among Amerindians).

Also modern creative thinkers, artists etc. have often been known successfully (albeit hazardously) to use consciousness-altering drugs such as alcohol and opium to stimulate creative insights and states in the context of a strategic Creative Quest.

( )


In sum, high Psychoticism people are hard-wired in such a way as to be more-then-usually prone to brief Psychotic episodes, and may also deliberately trigger such temporary states in pursuit of creativity.

In biological terms, the major difference between high Psychoticism-trait and Psychotic-illness is that high levels of Psychoticism-trait are strategically functional, group-adaptive, evolved; in a nutshell high-P individuals exist for-a-reason; and that reason is essentially to enable creativity.

By contrast, the occurrence of Psychosis caused by the variabilities of existence and strength among the specific circumstantial causes of Psychosis.

And while Psychosis is commoner and more-easily-triggered in people with high Psychoticism trait - Psychoticism and Psychosis are causally distinct; and the relationship between Psychoticism and Psychosis is indirect, multistep, accidental and contingent on circumstances.


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Psychoticism versus Psychopathy


Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism is - overall - probably the best description of the typical personality of a creative intellectual genius

However, Psychoticism - in its usual self-rating questionnaire form - contains a lot of traits which could better be described as Psychopathic - and these are not necessary to genius, indeed they tend, overall, significantly to impair the functional role of a genius - which is to promote the reproductive success of the group.

In a nutshell - and as a generalization, to the extent that a genius has a Psychopathic personality, to approximately that extent he will have a legacy of harm rather than benefit.

Here I try clearly to distinguish Psychoticism from Psychopathy - I aim to show that while they may share superficial behaviours in common, they represent fundamentally different modes of thinking- different personality types.

In particular, high Psychoticism trait (properly understood) is necessary for the real creative genius type, but Psychopathy is not, and indeed overall detracts from Genius.

And in terms of natural selection; high Psychoticism trait as it occurs in a creative genius on average benefits the group; while high Psychopathy trait harms the group: the pure Genius is thus altruistic, while Psychopathy is parasitic.

Some Geniuses have also been Psychopaths, but the Psychopathy was not intrinsic to their Genius, and indeed these were the 'evil Geniuses' who (usually) overall harmed their group, and left a bad legacy.



Psychopaths are a fairly well-defined type of 'personality disorder'; which means that the word Psychopath names a characteristic personality type, substantially inherited, present from childhood, and tending to endure through life.

Because it is an innate personality type, this means that Psychopathy is not really an illness, cannot really be 'cured', and neither treatment nor punishment seem to have much effect; so that when they are criminals, for instance thieves or violent, Psychopaths tend to continue behaving that way despite repeated punishment, imprisonment, or whatever.

A personality disorder is therefore primarily a problem for 'other people' rather than for the person with that disorder - and this is certainly obvious for the Psychopath.


The Psychopath is usually and characteristically (but not always) a man; and one core feature is an indifference to the feelings of others which is probably a product of an innate inability to empathise, or sympathize - so that observing suffering and misery in others does not evoke suffering and misery in the psychopath.

Thus the Psychopath is 'cold-hearted', and other people are regarded in an instrumental fashion - as means to the end of self-gratification.

Therefore the Psychopath is untruthful when this is expedient,since he feels no obligation to be truthful except when he benefits.


So far, the Psychopath seems defective; but this is not quite accurate nor is it the whole story - the Psychopath is motivated by a sort of cruel, dominant pride; his main satisfaction is to assert himself, and his whole 'moral' perspective assumes that he himself is always in the right: the Psychopath is never wrong by his own lights, and whatever he does is justified and correct: he has no guilt, no remorse, and any problems are always due to 'other people' and not himself.

(The Psychopath-type has been called a Right Man,because he always believes himself to be right about everything; and bad happening are the fault of others. The worst he will admit of himself is that he was driven to do something wrong by another person's fault.)

Successful Psychopaths - that is to say 'successful' in terms of gratifying themselves and evading imprisonment, exile or execution; are often intelligent, quick-witted,  'charming', glib, socially-dominant, good at presenting an appropriate false front; quick to infer what other people want to hear, and tell it to them.

(Yes, this is very much the normal type of successful modern politicians, mass media people, advertisers and public relations consultants, lawyers, professors and those in 'management' and positions of 'leadership'.)

Since successful Psychopaths come-across as dominant, due to total lack of self--doubt/ indifference to others; their personality may be sexually attractive. Therefore psychopaths are often strategically sexually promiscuous, sexually-exploitative, -manipulative and -dishonest; and sexually violent when it suits their preferences and purposes.

They tend to be thieves, fraudsters, con-men, claiming responsibility for good outcomes and deflecting it for bad outcomes. 

Psychopaths may also be violently jealous - because sexual infidelity threatens their aim of total domination and control - they want others to submit, and signs of resistance may provoke coldly cruel torment or a murderous frenzy.

Psychopaths respond to love, kindness and generosity by regarding it as despicable weakness; they congratulate themselves on always taking much more than they ever give - and regard this as evidence of their natural superiority.



Hans J Eysenck made an important theoretical breakthrough in devising the personality trait of Psychoticism - in particular, in clarifying that this trait is usually high and causal in creative geniuses.

But one serious problem with the trait as it is generally conceptualized is that the usual self-rating questionnaire is focused on de facto Psychopathy.

This despite that Psychoticism is intended to be related to the mode of thinking characteristic of those having psychotic experiences such as hallucinations (e.g.hearing voices) or delusions(having false beliefs), or exhibiting dream-like highly-associative, highly-inclusive 'stream of consciousness' styles of thinking.

True Psychoticism is (I have argued) related to a constitutional inner-ness; inner attentiveness, inner-directedness, and domination by inner-generated cognitions (which are the creative mode of thought).

And it is this true Psychoticism, nut not Psychopathy, which is causally-associated with creative genius.

That is to say, creative geniuses are necessarily high in traits of psychosis-like Psychoticism, but not necessarily (and only rarely) high in Psychopathic traits.

Furthermore, those higher-than-average-in-psychosis-type of people with Psychoticism; are usually creative, in the sense of high in spontaneous, driven, 'raw creativity' (although they may also have low intelligence and lack concentration, focus, and sustained motivation which thwarts their creative achievement).


In contrast, most Psychopaths are utterly uncreative, except insofar as perceived (but maybe stolen or faked) creativity is expedient for the domination, exploitation or subordination of other people.

Even when a Psychopath is also creative, his achievement is undermined by his dishonesty, and the fact that it is usually easier for him to lie, cheat and manipulate his way to high status than actually to put in the long, hard, focused work necessary for even a Genius to make substantive achievements. 

The Psychopath will seldom resist an easy, but false, short-cut.


In sum, Psychoticism may be, as it were, co-morbid with Psychopathy - but Psychopathy is not necessary nor intrinsic to Psychoticism.

Yet, if you look at the questions in a common form of the Eysenck Psychoticism rating scale you will see what I mean by its mistaken focus on Psychopathy.

The Wikipedia article summarizes Psychoticism as follows: " toughmindedness, non-conformity, inconsideration, recklessness, hostility, anger and impulsiveness. "  - which sounds almost exactly like Psychopathy; and says nothing about creativity, and not much about inner directedness.

And when we look at Eysenck's Psychoticism scalein detail, there are many specific 'diagnostic' questions which address typical Psychopathic behaviour:

For instance a high Psychoticism score is given for answering YES to the following: Would you take drugs which may have strange or dangerous effects? Do you enjoy hurting people you love? Do you enjoy practical jokes that can sometimes really hurt people? Are you more easy-going about right and wrong than most people? Would you like other people to be afraid of you?


These are questions about Psychopathy, and not about Psychoticism-proper. Indeed, there is almost nothing about the 'psychotic' aspects of Psychoticism in the standard scale.


My feeling is that Eysenck was misled by the imperative to provide a reliable self-rating scale - and true Psychoticism is very rare (in particular, seldom seen at a high level in college students- who constitute most of Psychology samples) - the distribution of Psychoticism is NOT a normal distribution, but positively skewed (most people in a normal population scoring at a low level, and only a few at higher levels).

Population samples drawn from psychiatric patients will tend to show a high frequency of 'co-morbidity' for high Psychoticism  and high Psychopathy - and intelligent, successful Psychopaths can and will fake their self-rated answers if they regard it as expedient to do so. (Eysenck's effort to detect this with a 'lie scale' was laughable.)

Real 'creative' Psychoticism is also very difficult to self-rate. There is often a lack of insight - with high P people not realizing how atypical they are. Also psychotics tend to take for granted and to believe-in the reality of their experiences.

Indeed, the experience of psychiatry is that it usually takes prolonged and careful, one-to-one, 'phenomenological' interviewing - which invites reflection and educates in introspection - to elicit inner experiences.

Self rating questionnaires are simply not up to the job. 


The Psychopath is therefore in a sense the opposite of the Genius.

The Psychopath is fundamentally parasitic (and harms the group, lives-off the group), while the genius is fundamentally altruistic (and benefits, the group; gives more to the group than he receives).

Psychotics and Psychopaths may superficially share several similar behaviours - especially an indifference to the opinions of other people, an autonomy from mainstream social values - but for completely different reasons!

Therefore is it wrong to conflate Psychotic and Psychopathic mechanisms in the same scale, and wrong to regard them as two sides of the same coin.

In other words, contrasting Psychoticism and Psychopathy, we can see that the same (or very similar) behaviour is typically a consequence of completely different thought processes. 


For instance, a man high in trait Psychoticism is indifferent to the opinions of other people because he is focused on inner experiences and driven by inner motivations - thus he may be very solitary.

By contrast, the Psychopath is also indifferent to the opinions of other people, but because he is unable to empathize with them, has no sympathy for them, wants only to dominate and manipulate them for his pleasure (which is often a sadistic pleasure).

Similar behaviour, very different underlying psychology. 


So, here is a pen-picture of the typical (high-Psychoticism but non-Psychopathic) Genius-type; compared with the typical Psychopath - to emphasize the stark differences in the way of thinking, the way of relating to the world: the basic motivation with respect to life.

The Typical Genius - Abstracted, eccentric, warm-heartedly emotional, vulnerable and sensitive in the way of being easily-hurt, loving towards family or close friends but uninterested by most other people, abstractly altruistic, tends to be asexual or monogamous, altruistic and well-meaning, innocently self-confident, open and undefended, concerned that his work will benefit others, inner-motivated, introverted, introspective, sweet-natured but not charming, non-violent unless thwarted and driven to desperation - when he may be wildly and desperately violent whatever the odds and without regard for safety or chance of success, loves life is seldom bored and has a lot he wants to do, modest about himself but inflexible and brave over matters of moral principle. A public benefactor.

The Psychopath - Charming but cold-hearted, subject to strong and contradictory moods, manipulative, possessive rather than loving, preys-upon the vulnerable, sensitive but in the way of prickly and likely to take offense, indifferent to all people (including family and 'friends'), easily bored and motivated by need for external stimulus (extraverted), needs to dominate and control and humiliate, sexually promiscuous, strategically violent when expedient (but backs down and becomes submissive, even docile, in face of superior force or will), over-confident because wildly overestimating his own abilities, impulsive and risk-taking because he does not intuitively perceive or understand hazards, prone to aggressive suicide attempts or suicide motivated by wanting to hurt and harm others, self-righteously asserting moral principles for others but in a wholly self-serving and morally-inconsistent way (e.g angrily accusing others of selfishness or cowardice at one moment, while at another moment boasting of 'looking after number one' and ridiculing the idea of his own self-sacrifice). A parasite on society.


Acknowledgement: My thanks are due to Michael A Woodley for conversations which stimulated the above reflections. 


Saturday, 10 January 2015

CG Jung - the dishonest genius

CG Jung is unusual among geniuses, in that he was dishonest about his own work and its implications.

That he was a genius I think is correct; he made numerous discoveries and conceptual breakthroughs  - and he is an unseen but pervasive influence behind vast areas of modern culture including psychology, psychiatry, therapy and (especially) that vast and vague phenomenon called the New Age movement (almost everything about the New Age has a Jungian lineage - even when this is not generally known or acknowledged).

But that Jung was a thoroughly-dishonest and deceptive man is something equally undeniable. Jung was never plain and honest when that was inexpedient - Jung was not driven by a pure pursuit of truth; because truth was readily and repeatedly sacrificed when the consequences were unwanted by Jung. He craved respectability as a Professor, psychiatrist, scholar, scientist - and would trim his published views to ensure this. He wanted wealth, status, admiration - and patients were charmed, strung-along and generally exploited to ensure this.

Jung wanted to be regarded as an unworldly sage - but worked to create an organization dedicated to his own self-promotion. He was a wholesale sexual seducer of his patients and trainees right into old age; and had a long-term live-in mistress who functioned as a second wife (while being unmentioned in his autobiography - he also used his personal magnetism to maintain a household of handmaidens to dote upon and serve him.


The point is that Jung's many compromises, deceptions, evasions, and lies are so consistently dedicated to his own comfort, convenience and gratification that the picture is one of a highly charming and dominant; but heartless, manipulative and selfish psychopath.


So far, Jung is the precursor of the modern intellectual - the 'tenured radical', the charismatic bureaucrat, the bourgeois bohemian, the alpha-male academic, the medical research project manager, the therapist-entrepreneur, the charity CEO, the self-help/ help-yourself guru, the sexual healer...

But this could be put aside as mere hypocrisy - and that is something of which we are all guilty (it would be hypocritical to pretend otherwise). But Jung's dishonesty went even deeper than that, to invade his primary achievement.

Because Jung's work is incoherent at the very deepest level - and this incoherence has afflicted his legacy. And this incoherence was not the result of confusion, but the result of dishonesty.


An example is the idea of synchronicity; which has become an extremely influential cultural idea - but which is deployed in a way that makes no sense. And this incoherence is not due to misunderstanding Jung, but comes directly from Jung's written contradictory accounts and evasions of the implications of his own insight.

Colin Wilson exposed this in his marvelously insightful short study: Lord of the Underworld: Jung and the twentieth century (1984); especially the chapter the Sage of Kusnacht, where Wilson goes through the writings on synchronicity with a fine toothed comb, and tries to pin down what Jung really believed, or meant - and comes up against a mass of obfuscation and self-refutation: of giving with one hand and taking back with the other.

Jung's last recorded words from his death bed seem appropriate: "Let's have a really good red wine tonight." The final statement of a man whose personal gifts were astonishingly great - but who consistently and successfully deployed them for his own comfort, convenience and glory.


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Why should modern society - why should *any* society - be bothered about geniuses?

The reason is not that geniuses deserve more concern than other kinds of people - the bottom-line reason is societal self-interest.

Geniuses are 'for' the good of the human group; they are people with a special gift for solving specially-difficult problems; and all human societies are confronted - sooner or later and usually sooner - by the kinds of problems that can only be solved by geniuses; lacking-which, the problems are simply not solved.

Thus geniuses are people who combine an especially high intellectual ability with a spontaneous tendency to focus on some abstract (by 'abstract' I mean not-social) problem, and the inner motivation to maintain this focus, to quest for an answer, for relatively long periods of time.


Most non-genius people, no matter what their abilities, are so focused-upon and bound-up-with social affairs (especially sexual matters) that they lack interest in or do not notice non-obvious underlying problems, and they lack the motivation to work seriously on them in a strategic fashion.

The genius is, by nature, always an Outsider to a significant extent. And it is this, together with his high abilities, which makes him so (potentially) useful.

Geniuses are rare, and it is even rarer to have the right kind of genius for the particular problem which is most urgent for a particular society; nonetheless, most traditional societies tend to recognize the value of the genius type - since anthropology regards the 'shaman'/ medicine man/ magician/ charismatic priest type of figure as pretty much a universal of human tribes.


How come such simple and unselfconscious societies spontaneously recognize something much like genius? The reason is just that most human societies just are serious; they recognize that life is a serious business, that there is a reason for it all. For them, the human condition is (one way or another) significant.

But modern society has lost this sense of the seriousness of life; for modern man lives inside a vast system of stimulating and distracting and manipulative lies, propaganda and attention-seeking destructiveness - I mean the (almost) all-pervasive complex of communications from the interconnected mass media and the bureaucracies of state and business.


So modern society is in practice indifferent to genius and the products of genius; since we are trivial, evasive and dishonest. For us, problems are merely part of the world of sensation and entertainment - continually defined then re-defined; and genius is just one of many millions of things to be taken-up, contemplated briefly, then impatiently set aside in the unending quest for novel stimulation.

Modern society is indifferent/ hostile to genius for the simple reason that as a human group we lack basic self-interest. Not because we are altruistic, but because self-interest has been replaced (inside the media bubble) with self-hating suicidality.

Insofar as modern society is aware of geniuses having provided solutions to real and vital societal problems, these answers are vehemently rejected. We don't acknowledge problems, we don't want answers - we just want to be pleasantly distracted unto extinction; and if pleasant distractions are not on offer, then almost any kind of distraction will suffice.


Friday, 2 January 2015

Three lessons from the Genius Triad (Questing Creative Intelligence - QCI)

The Genius Triad is intelligence, creativity and long-term self-motivation - all focused on the same domain.

Psychologically the triad could be termed Questing Creative Intelligence; and QCI will be found with lower strength among non-geniuses (or small-scale geniuses) who nonetheless will tend to make original breakthroughs (whether these breakthroughs are noticed and exploited; or ignored and vilified)


1. Creative people always have difficult personalities; and conversely nice people with conscientious, obedient reliable personalities are not creative.

This means that employers and patrons must tolerate genius-type people, if they want those things that only geniuses can do.


2. The highest intelligence is not the same as attendance at the most elite institutions, the best reports and grades at school or top performance in exams - because modern institutions are not evaluating and selecting primarily on the basis of intelligence.

(Indeed modern institutions are not even trying to do select primarily by intelligence - the reality of which they often deny; but instead are implicitly - by the nature of their evaluations - and also by explicitly-stated policies - selecting on other grounds).

The most intelligent people are nowadays dispersed among variously ranked institutions (and no-instituions-at-all); and typically have sub-optimal - sometimes frankly bad - academic and employment records.


3. The most creatively intelligent people are not to be found in the most prestigious, best-funded, or fashionable subjects (unless they were the original founders of the field) - since a genius is stubbornly self-motivated, and will work only where his destiny leads him (and he may refuse or neglect work that interferes with his destiny).

The fields in which genius is questing are as various as the people with genius; and will often strike other people as futile or absurd; nonetheless, 'eccentricity' is intrinsic to the necessary autonomy of genius.


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

How is genius useful? Mainly by promoting group cohesion

I believe that (in some way) genius is group-selected, which means it is for the reproductive benefit of the group, i.e. to expand the size of the group - and not for the reproductive benefit of the genius himself.

Some geniuses have been reproductively successful, such as JS Bach with his nineteen children; but it is not necessary - and almost geniuses on average have relatively lower reproductive success for the simple reason that (unlike normal people) they put most of their life-effort into their 'work'.

So, what are the benefits of genius to the group?

When it is a matter of the genius inventing a better weapon or a more productive tool, the  benefits are obvious; but I think the usual benefit of a genius comes in the form of group cohesion.

This could be the explanation for artistic genius, or the genius of a storyteller - and the neglected topic of religious genius.

This group benefit of a religious innovation can be seen in the growth of the group of religious adherents, perhaps in the growth of new forms of social organization, and the results increase in (for example) economic activity or military prowess.

I got this idea from considering the difference between the Kalahari Bushmen, and Australian Aborigines. The main social difference is in group size - the Aborigines have significantly larger groups, which means that they cohere better and could assemble larger fighting forces.

And the Aborigine groups are based upon their Totemic religion, which is more fixed and more complex than the Animism of the Kalahari Bushmen (which seems to be a version of the spontaneous religion of natural men).

The Aborigine religion both requires and benefits from a more elaborate social structure of authority and learning of the legends - which must be transmitted through the generations by songs and chants.

Presumably (of course there is no direct evidence) some (or more than one) Aborigine religious genius created this Totemic social structure - and the group who adopted it was rewarded by improved cohesion, which enabled them to displace rival groups. 

This is conjectural, albeit plausible - my point is that some body at some time made these religious innovations and enabled more powerful social cohesion - and could be termed a genius (on that smaller scale); and that perhaps most example of genius could be regarded a creative breakthroughs of a cohesion-generating type.


(Of course, the works of some/most modern geniuses are cohesion-destroying; and (when adopted) such breakthroughs would tend to lead to the group becoming extinct, rather than expanding - for example fertility reducing technologies, or secular ideologies. indeed, this applies to modernity itself. But until the past 100-150 years, societies containing many geniuses seem to have expanded, and gained reproductive benefit from the presence of geniuses.)

Monday, 29 December 2014

Genius is a DWEM kind of thing, hence its current unpopularity

Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray (2003) makes clear that world-historical, genius level accomplishment is - or rather, was - numerically and proportionately a Dead White-European Male (DWEM) thing.

This probably goes a long way towards explaining the current hostility to the concept of genius, and the non-evidential assertions people make about genius.


Dead - because there were more, and a much higher proportion of, geniuses in the past than at present; indeed, in modern times world-historical geniuses are all but extinct (and and other potential WHGs unknown or unacknowledged)

White European - because that is what nearly all world historical geniuses were. The reason for the pre-eminence of WEs is presumably some kind of combination of personal qualities (high average intelligence and the best type of personality for creativity) and the qualities of the societies which themselves were created by the work of earlier geniuses (which noticed and valued the works of geniuses) - but this is poorly understood. 

Male - because that is what nearly all world historical geniuses were; and the reasons are pretty-well understood. There are several-fold more men than women of the very highest intelligence; and the male personality is better-suited to high accomplishment (being, on average and at extreme, more motivated towards functional achievement, more creative, less empathic, less conscientious, more autonomous &c.).


But the fact that genius is a DWEM kind of thing naturally makes it almost-impossible for modern, New Left, Progressive, politically correct people to acknowledge the reality and importance of genius. 

The a priori assumption of modern leftism is that ability - including genius - is (indeed must be) absolutely equally distributed over time, between places, races, sexes, classes and subjects.

However, this belief is refuted by all evidence and knowledge; so there is necessarily a pretence that genius is not real, not significant; or nowadays so common that the reason genius has apparently disappeared is actually because now we are all geniuses - so that nobody in particular stands-out!


So not only has genius almost disappeared, but so has acknowledgement of its reality, its presence, its importance; the pretence is that genius is obsolete; modernity has superseded genius - and committees of the industrious, compliant and mediocre, with members appointed according to quota, can now accomplish more than was done by the geniuses of the past.

Which is presumably why modern multi-culti, PC-approved, state-subsidized, prize-given, non-'ist' egalitarian work has by so far surpassed Shakespeare and Dante, Beethoven and Mozart, Newton and Einstein, Aristotle and Plato - and all the rest of those nasty DWEM geniuses.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tolkien was more creative; Lewis was more intelligent: Creative Triad aspects of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis


It is the rare combination of spontaneous creativity with high intelligence and a strong motivation which typically fuels high levels of achievement; the triad is mutually-reinforcing with motivation driving the ability, and creativity providing the intuitive insights which characterize genius.

This is relatively uncontroversial; but what is less appreciated is that creativity is part of a personality type (HJ Eysenck termed it Psychoticism) which exhibits traits regarded as socially undesirable - such as low conscientiousness, impulsivity, independence, wilful stubbornness and eccentricities of various types.


This can be seen in the life of JRR Tolkien, and to a lesser extent in CS Lewis. Although overall Tolkien and Lewis are quite similar types; Tolkien is a classic creative Genius with a high IQ and moderately high Psychoticism/ i.e. optimal for spontaneous creativity; Lewis was - if anything- even higher in IQ than Tolkien, but lower in Psychoticism/ creativity.

That Tolkien had a very high IQ would not be disputed by those who know of his biography and very rapid ascent to academic eminence; and the reports of those who knew him. High general intelligence is associated with the ability to understand and learn very rapidly, to solve novel problems, and to reason abstractly. Tolkien was always perceived, and from a young age, as extremely quick-witted.

However, I would argue that Tolkien also showed signs of moderately high Psychoticism such as a tendency towards experiencing altered states of consciousness - such as dreams which provided creative ideas or solved problems, mythic dreams of apparent depth and import - sometimes recurrent, and lucid dreaming (i.e. partial awareness of dreaming and control of dreams).

He also demonstrated moderately-low levels of self-discipline and conscientiousness as evidenced by his truly amazing lack of ability to finish projects in which he was not very interested - such as the Clarendon textbook about Chaucer, over which he spent several decades before abandoning unfinished, or the preface to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (which could have been finished in a few days but was delayed for about a decade until Tolkien died before publishing it). The new Chronology of Tolkien's life (in the recent JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide) is replete with similar examples.

This trait of moderately low conscientiousness goes back to Tolkien's school days and his early university career where, despite his high intelligence and ability, he took two attempts to achieve a financial award to attend Oxford, and even then failed to get a scholarship but instead attained a lower level of funding called an exhibition.

And his first university course was 'classics' - the conventional highest status Oxford degree, but which did not much interest Tolkien. After failing to be self-disciplined about work and scraping a low second class mark in his first set of classics examinations (and only getting that high a mark due to the philological part of the course - otherwise he would have received a disgraceful 'third'), Tolkien switched to an English degree mostly consisting of his beloved philological studies - and excelled from that point onwards (first class degree), receiving a full Oxford Professorship (the pinnacle of his profession in the UK) at the remarkably early age of 32 (and despite his years of service in the 1914-18 war).


In other words there is a consistent pattern throughout Tolkien's life of very high achievement when doing things that he loved, combined with a near-inability to do things which he did not love.

This is a classic pattern of moderately-high Psychoticism seen in many (but not all) creative Geniuses - they do _not_ excel at things that do _not_ engage their deepest interest. Another example was Einstein, whose early scholarly career was somewhat mediocre until the point when he could work on exactly that subject which most engaged him. Einstein was of course - par excellence - the epitome of an imaginative, visualizing, intuitive creative genius.

Therefore Tolkien, like many creative geniuses, could work incredibly hard and fast on topics which deeply interested him; but was almost unable to get himself to work on topics which - although he felt a duty to do them - did not interest him deeply.


To see the difference between a highly intelligent person like Tolkien with moderately high Psychoticism/ high creativity and lowish Conscientiousness; and a person of similar intelligence but with low Psychoticism and high Conscientiousness - one need look no further than his friend CS Lewis.

Lewis was highly conscientious: he could make himself work hard and regular hours even on matters which bored him but which he felt he ought to do - for example correspondence - at which he laboured for about 2 hours per day in later life. Meanwhile Lewis was publishing around a book a year plus scholarly articles and journalism: a vast volume of finished work.

But conscientiousness is inversely correlated with Psychoticism/ creativity. And indeed Lewis was not so creative as Tolkien. He is of course much more creative than most people; but in comparison with Tolkien his fecundity was more a matter of selecting, combining and extrapolating from his vast fund of knowledge.

Because he was so conscientious, Lewis was able to 'make himself' do what was wished of him by other people, what he 'ought' to do. He fitted his creative work into and around these duties. By contrast, Tolkien neglected his duties to a significant extent, due to business and pressure - but nonetheless continued to work on his private writing projects (and even his painting and drawing).

Lewis had a tendency to lapse into pastiche, of pseudo-creativity, manufactured from existing materials; which is evidence of his lower mode of creation (Tolkien by contrast would lapse into bathos - which is more the mark of a first rank creative genius when having an off-day - think of some of Wordsworth's lamest poems, or Longfellow...).

Lewis was highly creative compared with the average; for instance he did have 'visions', or images - from which his fictions often arose (eg the vision of a faun with a parcel which was elaborated into the Narnia books); he suffered badly from nightmares and had insights in dreams  - but Lewis was not in the same league as Tolkien in terms of creative imagination, and the ability deeply to imagine a believable world (believable to the reader and inhabitable by the reader because it was believed and inhabited by the author).


One can also see this in their poetry - Lewis was a skilled versifier, able to parody and pastiche; but Tolkien was a lyric poet who at times (albeit rarely, like all but the greatest lyric poets) achieved greatness (e.g. Three rings for the elven kings...', or 'Where now the horse and the rider?").

Like other true lyric poets, Tolkien in his own poetic loves focuses on very specific phrases which have a mystical depth and resonance for him, such as "éala éarendel engla beorhtast / ofer middangeard monnum sended" or "Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre, mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað" . This, I take it, is evidence of the highly creative mind, that finds wider associations than usual mortals can discover.

By contrast, Lewis - who was a greater scholar and more productive critic of English Literature than Tolkien - seems to me both to interpret as well as write poetry much more narrowly and literally - more as if it were a technical form of prose (which of course is true of almost all so-called-poetry, almost all of the time - i.e. most soi disant lyric poetry is a kind of manufactured fake, displaying borrowed plumes).


Tolkien has often been described as if he were a rather dull character who never did much - that is probably most people's take home image from Humphrey Carpenter's biography. A rather typically stuffy and inhibited English Professor of his stuffy and inhibited era. But the truth is far in the opposite direction: JRR Tolkien was an extraordinary man, with an extraordinary mind, and living at an extraordinarily vivid and creative time - he was not just intellectually brilliant but wildly creative.


What of the relative intelligence of Tolkien and Lewis?

In terms of approximations, general intelligence can roughly be measured in terms of speed of learning and capacity for abstract reasoning.

And in traditional educational systems, where ability is measured in supervised and time limited exams that require on the spot thinking as well as memory, there is a high correlation between exam results and intelligence.


So, we can compare Tolkien and Lewis head-to-head on examinations.

1. Oxford scholarship examinations. Lewis got a Scholarship (the largest financial award) at the first attempt; but Tolkien only got an Exhibition (a lower level of award) at the second attempt.

2. Both Tolkien and Lewis began by studying the same course (Classics, or Literae Humaniores) at much the same time (Tolkien 'went up' to Oxford in 1911, Lewis in 1917) - in the first set of exams in that course Tolkien (only just) got a second class while Lewis got a First.

3. Tolkien switched his degree to English in which he got a First class degree; Lewis stayed in Classics where he also got a First. But Lewis's L.H. degree was Oxford's oldest and highest-status degree (a four year course) while English was a lower ranked 'upstart' (and a three year course).

And just one year after completing his classics degree, Lewis did the English degree - a three year degree completed in one year - and got yet another First... A Triple First!

So, in youth and early adulthood; all the evidence suggests that Lewis was more intelligent than Tolkien. 


After this point there is a wide divergence, because Tolkien had a precocious academic career in which - with the assistance of good fortune - a few items of high quality early scholarship led to a very early Oxford Professorship - after which his published productivity declined substantially and was - over all his career - frankly inadequate. From middle age, Tolkien's motivation was increasingly channelled into his personal creative writing - little of which was actually published.

Lewis, on the other hand, published almost nothing except poetry until his mid-thirties and it was not until his late thirties when The Allegory of Love made his academic reputation, after which was unleashed a veritable tidal wave of published scholarship - plus of course the other work in fiction and apologetics for which he became famous among the general public -  and it was not until Lewis's fifties that he became a Professor (in Cambridge).

But Lewis continued to write and to publish prolifically in academic work almost into his sixties and until his death - there was no slackening-off, indeed perhaps an acceleration.

(In contrast to Tolkien Lewis published, or at least made public (in letters and lectures) pretty much everything he wrote.) 

However, these difference are not easily interpretable in terms of intelligence - being more related to conscientiousness (the inverse of Psychoticism).


The idea that Lewis has higher IQ than Tolkien fits with Lewis being famous for his memory, ability to quote, and swiftness of assertion and response in conceptual argument. Lewis was also more widely read - described as perhaps the best read man in Oxford

Having said that, Lewis did recognize other people as superior in intelligence to himself - for example he certainly regarded the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe as more intelligent than himself.


So, Tolkien and Lewis were both exceptionally intelligent and both very creative: but Tolkien was more creative and Lewis was more intelligent.


Monday, 22 December 2014

Isaac Newton as an archetypal Creative Triad Genius

I realized recently that I lacked specific knowledge of the psychology of perhaps the greatest ever scientific genius: Isaac Newton; so I have been reading Richard S Westfall's biography Never at rest.

Having developed the Creative Triad as a simple framework for explaining genius -

- I was curious to see how Newton's mind and life fitted with this model. The answer is: extremely closely.


The Creative Triad is:

1. Innate ability

2. Inner-motivation

3. Intuitive thinking

Genius is made possible when all these flow together - a person is internally-motivated to pursue that for which he has a natural ability; and does so in an 'intuitive' way that mobilizes his deepest self, all his mental powers.

Newton's intellectual ability, his intelligence, was very obviously stratospheric; so what I was most interested by was to discover his personality. HJ Eysenck established that the high level creative personality type was approximated by the trait of High Psychoticism, which I have attempted to elucidate in recent years


Newton's biography reveals that he was an extreme example of the Psychoticism trait. Psychoticism is important to genius because it describes someone who is uninterested and uninfluenced by the normal human concerns - which are essentially 'other people' Most humans are social animals, who see life through social spectacles, and who are motivated by the desire for friends, sex, status and so on. But not Newton. He simply wanted to be allowed to get on with his work.

As a child and young man of science he would spend nearly all of his time alone, when in company he would be silent, he had essentially no friends, formed no relationships with women, and made very little effort to fit-in - indeed as a boy his relationships with other boys tended to be antagonistic and at times rather sadistic (Newton was not likeable).

Newton was taught Latin at school; and nothing else. In terms of mathematics and science he was an autodidact. Whatever he did, he did because he wanted to do it; and he did it at close to 100 percent effort. Thus in a year or less he went from knowing no mathematics to mastering the subject and being among the best in the world; and then immediately went to to make some of the greatest ever mathematical discoveries.

(Newton's own explanation of his achievement emphasized the distinctive creative personality - he was asked how he made his discoveries and gave such answers as "By thinking on it continually" and "I keep the subject constantly before me".)


Then he all-but dropped mathematics, and moved on to one area of physics after another - making major discoveries, and moving-on. This reminds me of the 'schoolboy crazes' or obsessions, typical of some highly intelligent young men.

Stories of Newton's consuming focus abound - he would think solidly for hour upon hour - sometimes standing lost in abstraction half way down the stairs; forget to eat, forget to sleep; forget that he had visitors. For years he seldom left his college, almost never left Cambridge.

In all of human history there can have been very few (and perhaps nobody of Newtons astonishing intelligence) who gave such intense and sustained concentration to whatever problem they were working on.

And while Newton's academic performance was good, it was not amazing, and was somewhat erratic. It seems he performed badly in his BA examination - which was a disputation, needing to go on to a second round of questions (rather than passing straight away), which was regarded as somewhat disgraceful.


His methods were highly intuitive, reasoning from a relatively small base of axioms and principles, building out from them, making predictions and testing his ideas against general observations. This can be contrasted with the method typical of highly intelligent and conscientious uncreative people - who read widely, learn many facts, and apply other-people's solutions to problems. 

But Newton, the autodidact, worked things through for himself; thought things through using only those facts and principles he trusted. From this; creativity follows quite naturally and without being deliberately sought.

It is clear that Newton's solitary, wilful and autonomous personality; his un-empathic, un-conscientious, anti-social and eccentric ways - in sum his high Psychoticism traits - were as necessary a part of his supreme genius as was ultra-high intelligence.


What is intuition? The mode of thought characteristic of the soul

I think something can be said about intuition - mostly indirect and negative-definition; but it is useful to know some-things about intuition, given that it seems to be a mode of though characteristic of creative geniuses (when they are being creative geniuses).


We could approach intuition by stating that intuition is the mode of thought of the private soul/ the real self/ inner consciousness - that is to say the most profound, the most secret, fundamental mode of thought.

Intuition can be contrasting with two (lower, subordinated) modes of thinking passions versus reason; the body v the brain; gut-feelings v head-knowledge; instinct v logic.

These two modes are not absolutely distinct, but I think can usefully be distinguished.


The soul is usually (as it were) hidden beneath the busy activities of the mind and body, bombarded by perceptual data, sensory inputs, and unaware of itself. The soul is 'fed' by the mind and body.

But when these inputs are stopped, then the soul can (as it were) distinguish itself - and these inputs are stopped in sleep, in trance states - when the inner activities are insulated and isolated.

So, what is the mode of intuition? It is not by instinct or by logic - but by something of both and more. Therefore, intuition is a mode of thinking which simultaneously uses emotion and logic but is a context of (for example) motivation, purpose, meaning, relationships etc.


The result of intuition is therefore an evaluation which is uniquely convincing because it is validated by the full range of positive responses.

By contrast, even we use only (for example) logic, or only emotions, to evaluate something; then the evaluation will be incomplete, and evaluation in one sub-mode may be contradicted by evaluation in another sub-mode - as when logic and emotions reach different conclusions, point in different directions.

Only the evaluations of intuition are fully satisfying, fully convincing, and harmonious. Only the evaluations of intuition mobilize the whole range of thought modes.

This intuition is the most powerful mode of thought, and the only mode of thought capable of mobilizing the fullest motivation. This is why intuition is necessary to the highest levels of creativity, to the greatest attainments of genius.


Friday, 19 December 2014

Red Queen natural selection (mutation selection balance) is universal, primary, normal and normative: My conceptual breakthrough of the the year

Natural selection is not primarily about the creation of new complex forms, but about the preservation of already-existing complex form.

This is primary and necessary because of the spontaneous tendency for the degradation of complexity by spontaneously occurring damage: de-differentiation is natural.

Indeed natural selection is very poor at explaining the arising of novel forms. Very poor at explaining genuinely new adaptive forms.


Natural selection is good at explaining modification of already existing forms - by re-shaping mechanisms such as partial amplification or suppression, combination - but not good at explaining truly novel forms.

I would go further: there is not, and never has been, any observation or experimental or empirical evidence that natural selection can create genuinely new complex form - not from Darwin until now has there been any such evidence.

That natural selection alone can do this, can create new forms, can by itself and without aid from other processes lead to the whole diversity of life... is an assertion purely based on theoretical arguments. And the theory that natural selection can actually, in real life, make new forms is not convincing, since it takes for granted the pre-existence, the reality and identifiably, of forms.


The Red Queen mechanism of natural selection was originally formulated and elaborated as a special case, a phenomenon sometimes found, but usually not found. It is the idea, from Leigh Van Valen and named from Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass of natural selection working to keep things the same, rather than to change them.  

Traditionally, Red Queen effects have been seen in phenomena such as 'evolutionary arms races', resistance to parasites and pathogens, and in the mutation selection balance (eliminating fitness-reducing mutations) regarded as a process which sometimes happens in particular cases... .

However, it turns-out that the Red Queen is universal, found everywhere; it is normal and usual; it is normative in the sense of being required - by maintaining already existing form, the Red Queen mechanism is what underpins and makes adaptation possible; what make novelty possible.

Because without the Red Queen mechanism to prevent the spontaneously-occurring loss of complex form, further adaptive complexity could not be sustained but would soon break-down.


So, this is what natural selection does - it does two main things: first it maintains (already existent) adaptive form; and secondly it adaptively modifies already-existing form. But it apparently does not create forms - rather natural selection works on already-existing forms


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Creativity is transcendentally the opposite of fashion

Creativity is nowadays frequently confused with - but must be distinguished from,  fashion - because the one is essentially good (although may be used for evil), while the other is essentially evil (although may well have good aspects).

So to regard the 'design' of modern products - such as Apple computers - as prime examples of creativity is strictly mistaken; such design has the imperative of novelty, which makes it primarily fashion - and creativity is an optional extra.

True creativity is about reality - and qualities such as functionality and excellence; but fashion is about the requirement for novelty and change.


I think it probable that high creativity is a group selected trait - which means that (on average) it benefits group reproductive success rather than the individual; many products of creativity have the effect of promoting group cohesion and cooperation.

Fashion, however, is a luxury good and parasitic on the group functionality - because its changes and reversals tend to promote inter--group conflict and damage group cohesion.


Real creativity springs from the individual's motivations, drives and internal reward system: creativity is natural and spontaneous for the truly creative person - although it can, of course, be suppressed - by contrast fashion, design, novelty.

So to control creativity the group would actively need to crush it; otherwise the creative person just will be creative.

Fashion, on the other hand, is done for the usual reasons of external reward: status, salary, sex and so on. Fashion needs to be incentivised; designers need to be paid; recurrent novelty is a consequence of reward; perpetual change is driven by paid managers (and managers do not manage unless they are 'paid' in some valued currency).  


Therefore, psychological tests of the kind that ask subjects to list as many uses as possible for a stick or a hook or a ball are not asking about real creativity, but about something more like fashion - because they are measuring novelty but not measuring functionality or usefulness.

And the Big Five psychological trait of  'Openness to experience' is essentially about novelty/ fashion, rather than excellence/ creativity.

But Eysenck's personality trait of Psychoticism (flawed as it is) is essentially trying to probe and quantify real creativity, not fashion.


Fashion, novelty, change... these are intrinsic to modernity and have become the primary attribute of secular Leftism: they are more dominant now than ever before.

But real creativity is in a bad way in the modern world. Major geniuses have all-but disappeared, and minor geniuses are ignored, their work (even when potentially useful to group 'fitness') is attacked, suppressed, made illegal; creative people are punished not rewarded.

So real creativity is one kind of thing - being scape-goated and declining fast; while the pseudo-creativity of fashion - which is celebrated and expanding - is a very different thing.


Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Creativity as the process and outcome of structuring (subjective) emotions to conform with the (objective) field of interest

This basic idea originated in my book Psychiatry and the Human Condition - see excerpt below - but I think I can now formulate it more clearly and precisely.

In a nutshell:

1. Creative thinking is made possible by structured emotions. But creativity applies to objective fields of interest (e.g. a branch of science, technology, music, literature)

2. Emotions become structured to an objective field of interest during the creative Quest stage. That is, emotions are brought-into-line with the structure of the subject matter.

3. Then, in the moment of Illumination, the 'creative 'breakthrough', the structure of the subject matter is brought into line with the structured emotions - to make a more positive and rewarding structure of emotions.

4. If the emotions have been properly structured to the field of interest during the Quest - then the subjective illumination will (plausibly) correspond to a breakthrough in understanding of objective reality.

(Of course, this illumination will need to be tested by further observations - and by consistency with other knowledge.)


Note - Successful creativity requires both a natural ability to structure emotions, and an ability (and motivation) to re-structure emotions, in line with the creative Quest. Either alone will not suffice. Structured emotions in unchangeable, autonomous detachment = a psychosis. But a person unable to structure emotions can be objective, but will not be able to be creative - since they cannot re-conceptualize the subject matter. Therefore the personality trait of Psychotic-ism is creative - since it describes the ability to structure emotions; but actual psychosis is not creative.


From Bruce Charlton, Psychiatry and the Human Condition, 2000.

Consciousness as a storyteller
Human consciousness operates as a storytelling device. The somatic marker mechanism associates perceptions with emotions in working memory, so that thought is accompanied by a flow of emotions. These emotions in turn generate a flow of expectations or predictions, which the story may either confirm, or else contradict in interesting ways that - after they have happened - can retrospectively be seen to flow from what went before by less obvious paths hence are not contradictory after all. What makes a story is essentially this flow of linked emotions, a bodily enactment of physical states that have been associated with those propositions that we use in internal modelling.
Consciousness seems always to ascribe causality - it is not content with recording detached representations, but works by synthesizing events into a linked linear stream which is then projected into the future as a predictive model to guide behaviour. As bodily emotions fluctuate, feedback to the brain will monitor and interpret this flux in terms of the meaning of perceptions - the emotions interpret the perceptions. Since the somatic marker mechanism is a device for using emotions to infer intentions and other states of mind, then sequences of emotions will automatically create inferred narratives of quasi-social relationships - in other words stories.
Consciousness is so compulsive a storyteller as to be a master confabulator - consciousness will always invent a story in terms of cause and effect relations, even when it has no idea what is going on, and available data are inadequate or contradictory. Young children will interpret abstract computer images that ‘pursue’ and ‘flee’ and ‘hit’ one another in terms of exactly these social behaviours - they will give the abstract shapes personalities and intentions even though they are merely shapes moving on a screen. Seeing faces in the fire, or animals in the clouds, is another instance of the same kind of nearly automatic meaning-generation.
Theoretical science works largely by analogy, by modelling. Perhaps nobody can reason in utter abstraction. Scientists build simplified working models of reality, and map these models onto reality to make predictions - seeking a one to one correspondence between the model and the world. Some scientific models are mathematical - where real world entities are mapped onto mathematical symbols and real world causes are summarized in mathematical operations - such as Einstein’s theory of special relativity: e = mc2 where e stands for energy, m stands for mass and c is a very large number. Mathematics predictions can then be tested against observation to see whether the model corresponds to reality.
Other models are much simpler - the ‘ball-and-spring’ models to show atoms and chemical bonds and valencies, and a host of idiosyncratic mental models which are used to make breakthroughs and then discarded, often unacknowledged. The molecular shapes used by Crick and Watson to construct their model of the double helix of DNA are a well known example, the models represented the shape of molecules and some of their ways of bonding to each other - and physically manipulating the shapes was a vital element in solving the structure of DNA. Indeed the ‘eureka moment’ was probably when Watson put together cardboard shapes of the bases and saw that they formed specific complementary pairings. The great physicist Clark Maxwell’s notebook musings about how electro-magnetism works strike modern observers as extraordinarily ‘childish’ - with their peculiar shapes and swirls of how magnetism and electricity might operate - yet they nonetheless led this first-rate genius to the insights that enabled several major breakthroughs in theoretical physics.   
The social nature of scientific models
Stories are perhaps the commonest mode of analogical thought. The link between story-telling and scientific theorizing is instructive. A scientific hypothesis is like a story in the sense that entities and causal processes are analogous to characters and their motivations. I would guess that - at a deep level - the science and the storytelling processes of the conscious mind are identical; what differs are the ingredients. It has even been suggested that theoretical physicists and chemists endow their musings with human like qualities, just as chess masters constantly deploy ‘battle’ metaphors to describe their strategies in what would otherwise appear to be the most objective and mathematical of games.
Certainly, I find that I develop emotions about all aspects of science. For example I must admit to an idiotic preference for adrenergic over cholinergic neurotransmitters, since the adrenergic system was associated with physical action (eg. the ‘adrenalin rush’, while cholinergic activity had connotations of lying around feeling bloated after a meal (acetylcholinergic fibres innervate the gut). Silly, of course, but I couldn’t help anthropomorphizing about entities which were important to me.
I would go so far as to suggest that creative science is constrained anthropomorphism. Learning to do a science involves learning how to tell a particular kind of story: who are the important characters and what are their typical causal motivations - that is the anthropomorphism. Each scientific discipline has a distinctive set of personalities and behaviours - in physics there might be fundamental particles acted on by gravitational, electromagnetic and nuclear forces; in biology there might be cells and organisms acted on by macromolecules such as DNA and proteins under the influence of natural selection.
The constraint comes in because the range of possible stories one is permitted to tell about particular entities is strictly limited by previous relevant science. So that whether the entities in the story are attracted or repelled, counterbalanced or exaggerated, add or multiply their effects… these aspects are controlled strictly by scientific criteria.
But having established a proper set of ‘dispositions, motivations and intentions’ for the entities, we predict what they will do by exactly the kind of ‘story generating’ social intelligence that we have been exploring in the earlier parts of this book. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that most people can only be creative in this quasi-narrative fashion, and scientific creativity involves storytelling of a highly specialized kind - the exception is mathematics, where the outcome of interacting entities is determined not by quasi-social factors but by mathematical functions.
The role of narrative is both to generate theories and to make them useable - because science is a human product it needs to be shaped to the human mind. If a scientific theory cannot be put into a quasi-social shape, then we find it very difficult to think about. Our mind, after all, is bubbling with social meaning even when the world is chaotic: we see pictures random dots, monsters in the shadows. We confabulate causal pathways to explain our emotions and behaviours. Inanimate objects - such as stones, rivers and trees - are imbued with personality and powers of malevolence or benignity. For humans, the world is full of relevance and purpose. Reality comes to us already imprinted with labels of preference. Theories that cannot be subsumed to this world do not have much chance of being remembered or used, they will be forced aside by more ‘interesting’ ideas.
So it is a fusion of constrained reality, trained aesthetic appreciation and emotional preference that makes possible the scientific peak experience. The peak experience is that moment when analogy strikes us - we see underlying unity, similarity in difference, meaning emerging from chaos - a bunch of disconnected facts coalescing into a story.