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.

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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.