The Origin Story of Your Genius
Not Einsteins or Hawkings, Leonard Cohens or Martha Grahams, geniuses were far less concrete in the days of Ancient Rome. What can the godly origins of the genius tell you about your own?
The Origin of Genius
In ancient Rome, it was said that genius was the divine spark which occurred in every individual person, place, or thing—the spark which glimmered with a unique sheen and brought the individual more deeply into their love of the world. It was also known that the geniuses—be them of volcanoes, vultures, or vixens—were all children of Juno and Jupiter, aka Hera and Zeus.
Despite its seemingly concrete nature, genius is actually more of a non-local experience than a physical thing. It’s an instance of holy knowing, an ever-present illuminated whole, into which a person can tap to commune with the infinite. To put it in slightly more modern, less lofty terms, communing with your genius is akin to being in what father of the positive psychology movement Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls flow state, or the state of mind characterized by full immersion in the moment, unerring focus, and an uncanny sense of being somehow out of time while totally present.
Communion with your genius could last only a moment or two, as when we make a well-timed joke at an otherwise dull meeting, or we could bask in it for hours, as when we’re engaged in a meandering conversation about all of our favorite subjects with one of our favorite people. The nature of genius, in part due to it’s sometimes wily, jealous parents, is that it’s fickle, however through attention and appreciation, the connection can readily be strengthened, for it is genius’s prerogative to become, again and again and again, in the world of form.
To understand the nature of genius a bit more, it feels important to examine its parentage.
The Mother of Genius
Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of Olympus, the home of the gods, is the divinely beautiful mother of genius. She was the goddess of love and marriage, home and hearth, and ruled over conception, childbirth, the beautification of the abode, and the holy art of matchmaking. Her name comes from the Greek word meaning season, and how rightly named she was. Hera knew the right timing of all things; she understood innately the natural order of all life—she was the embodiment of easeful flow. For her, ripeness ruled, and no seed was plucked before it’s time.
But Hera was also jealous and sometimes conniving, always furious about her husband’s infidelity. She would punish all women with whom he slept, and even in instances of rape (which were many—Zeus was a dog), her righteous fury would wreak havoc on gods and mortals alike. This dualistic nature—loving and wrathful—is in part why we suffer under the weight of our genius sometimes and why creativity can come across as punishment, even while beauty blooms all around us. We see this in moments when, instead of drifting languidly into sleep, we are plagued with an onslaught of ideas, or when, seemingly out of nowhere, a firehose of passion rips through us. The notion of “cooking up a storm,” “painting in a frenzy,” or “writing in a fury” come to mind.
Besides this penchant for furious activity, from its mother, genius inherits its embodied location—the heart—as the heart is the hearth of the human form. It also inherits a deep love of home, i.e. the container in which a body can be most deeply nurtured. Genius takes on its mother’s keen eye for a good match, which shows up in its love of bringing disparate things together, making connections, and the unifying force of bonding. Finally, genius has perfected its mothers understanding of right timing: it has an inherent awareness of the process of planting, germinating, sprouting, unfurling, blossoming, pollinating, and returning to seed.
The Father of Genius
As we’ve already addressed, Zeus is a complicated figure. He was the ruler of the gods, alongside Hera, and a bit of a meandering rascal. He was lusty, luminous, and full of tricks. He is most frequent depicted lobbing bolts of lightening, symbolic of his divine ability to flash insight into the minds of man. But insight, like lightening, is often cleaving, and indeed, Zeus is associated with having the power to sever: bonds, buildings, land masses, and egoic attachments.
Wielding lightning and thunder also alludes to his divine rulership over the law in that a storm only ever follows its own path; that is, it moves according to its own (indecipherable) law. Its presence, both destructive and rejuvenating, seems to abide by nothing beyond its own unknowable logic. Such is the nature of Zeus, a god who took what he wanted according to his own holy will, the embodiment of power and all of the complications which arise from it.
From Zeus, the holy spark called Genius attained the meta-power of thunderous insight, the bright knowing of flashing lightening which illuminates, transforms, and informs. It acquired an unruly will, as seen by its nagging, incessant nature, and all of the pains which come with that kind of volition. Its strength in this department is very often confounding for its mortal—better to approach befriending your genius with reverence for its power and deference for its sometimes nonsensical ways. Genius, like its father, follows its own law.
Genius can be strict, manipulative, and stubborn as easily as it can be sovereign, just, and wise. Genius also inherited its father’s roving lust: when a knock on the door from genius is not heeded, it happily scurries along to the next welcoming port. While your genius may be unique to you, the inspiration which vitalizes it with life comes straight from Zeus himself, and if he’s not warmly welcomed, as is his nature, he’ll tarry over to a hearth in which he is.
The Genius & The Devil
This fickle, willful nature of genius—like the two-faced nature inherited from Hera—must be understood with compassion. Your genius has been tasked with the impossible task of bridging these two most complicated essences, the totality of which could be encapsulated as the duality of bringing together and wrenching apart. Genius, then, is a seraphic bridge—or what Carl Jung referred to as the Transcendent Function—between eros (love) and logos (logic), between the love of wisdom and the wisdom of love. It is the holy matrimony between the flash of insight and the embers of endless passion.
Because of the spiritual DNA inherited by your genius, we know that its nature is to thrive, prosper, and propagate verdantly. The divine parentage of this spark yearns to become, again and again and again. It is almost as if Zeus and Hera were meeting in their passionate embrace, conceiving their geniuses again and again, in every place where love and revelation come together. Meeting your genius is understanding the place where your love meets your knowing. The meeting of your mind and heart is the moment where the divine spark of Zeus and Hera is allowed to enter.
This is a good time to state that by welcoming your Genius, befriending it and giving it a home in your heart, you are inherently inviting it to have a certain power over you, a dualism which points to yet another way in which Genius contains conflict. Inherent in its presence is all the warmth of the welcoming hearth of Hera with the occasional spiciness of enslavement. Genius, it could be said, contains the Luciferian virtue of light-bringing: it both illuminates and combusts—and its presence always comes at a cost. I refer back to Jung’s adage that “one must always pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire” and the potency of the word sacrifice, whose etymology means to make holy. Thus genius is the sacrifice, the making holy, of oneself in the name of creative fire, an act richly embodied by Lucifer, who maintained the light of the knowledge of good and evil, both, thus bridging the duality of form.
To get into the ring with one’s genius is no small feat. It is necessarily to welcome the forces of genius’s archetypal lineage, and do to agree to dance with all the duplicitousness those forces contain. And, as anyone who has ever been nagged by a vision of a truer, more beautiful world: to not get into the ring with one’s genius is a far, far graver dance.