Theories of Genius

Universal explanatory Matrix of theories about Genius

Genius (from Lat. genius – spirit) is a phenomenon of global scale and its mystery is commensurate with the disclosure of the most mysterious enigmas of Genesis, with the identification of the most universal laws of structure and development of the world. Genius is an awakening of a deep creative “Self”, the achievement of man’s true creative identity, in which the cosmic and the universal essence finds its unique and distinctive expression.

Genius re-comprehends and passes through himself the achievements of previous epochs and creates new original works and meanings.
The essence of genius is contained in his works, which are always richer than the Creator, that gain an independent life and development. These artefacts are endlessly reborn, being enriched with new senses as a result of spiritual resonance with descendants.
In this sense, we can say that a genius is a man whose life and work has influenced the course of history, who approved a new vision of the world and opened it new meanings, created new paradigms, concepts, trends in science and art.
The criterion of genius is the projection of the personal creation on the trajectory of cultural evolution in order to show how the contribution of the genius advanced and brought humanity, culture and the world itself to the perfect whole.
Genius is an ontological phenomenon,  it permeates all levels and forms of motion of matter. “It is rare only in large amounts, and in small ones, it is scattered everywhere” (M. Bloch). The genius personifies the universal patterns of creative natural and socio-cultural evolution, captures the essence of his or her era, and expresses the spirit of the age in his work. «Nature says its last word in the genius. Evolution of the nature begins with the chemical elements and ends in the geniuses soul” (P.K. Engelmeyer).

The problem of disclosure of the nature of genius consists of inexhaustibility, the potential richness of both individual and his or her lifeworld -Universe, as well as of its essential mode of existence and expression – creativity. The essence of genius reflects and is deducted from the most fundamental and universal principles and laws of the structure and evolution of the Universe.
At the same time, any approach to the disclosure of the essence of genius, which is the highest level of human development, allows finding answers to a number of key issues that appear in the theory of personality and creativity. Finding the true nature of genius allows us to overcome the theory of two non-intersecting worlds, where one is inhabited by genius, and the other – by ordinary people. The boundaries between these worlds are moving into the personality and consist of a person’s ability to make a creative effort and to see reality in a new way. In this sense, Genius appears as finding and fruitful realization of creative, universal and, at the same time, deep original Vision of the World.
The universality and inexhaustibility of the genius is the cause of the existence of numerous concepts that claim to the disclosure of its essence and are initially doomed to highlight only some of its certain sides and manifestations. At the same time, the modern integrated concept of such a universal phenomenon as a genius requires the implementation of an integrated and the most complete system of interrelated types of hypothetical and theoretical explanations.
Based on it, it is possible to construct the following complementary explanatory matrix, which is free to incorporate all the existing theories and that is open to actually emerging theories, as well as predicting the appearance of a new theory of genius.

Holistic system of theories about Genius

1. Attributive theories (from Lat. attributum – sign) identify the specific properties and distinctive features of genius and revealing of particularities of their relationships and manifestations.
2. Structural-functional theories (from Lat. structure, order; from lat. functio – performance) revealing specific features of various integrated intrapersonal components and subsystems of genius, their peculiar combination, as well as their role and contribution to the creative genius self-fulfillment.
3. Procedural – dynamic theories (from Lat. Processus – the passage, progress, and from Greek. Δύναμις – “dynamis” power, force ) reveal laws of sequential change of life forming stages of genius becoming, discover the conditions and factors of its origin, existence and development.
3.1. Genetics theories (from Lat. genesis – birth, origin) revealing the causes of genius, and defining the main determinants of its formation and development;
3. 2. Evolutionary theories (from Lat. Evolutio – unfolding, unroling) reveal laws and mechanisms of genius formation, as a result of the objective process of development of nature and culture.
3.3. Transnormality theories (from Lat. trans – re, for, norma- norm, rule) see the causes of genius in various aberration, anomalies in the mental and physical health, in the peculiarity of life circumstances and development, in the strangeness of lifestyle and behaviour.
4. Essential theories (from Lat. essentia – the essence) reveal the essence and basic dimensions of genius, as well as deep essential determinants of its manifestation.

The present universal explanatory matrix includes the following groups of theories:

I. Attributive theories

Attributive theories  (from Lat. attributum – sign) identify the specific properties and distinctive features of genius and reveal the particularities of their relationships and manifestations.

Supremastic (from lat. supremus – supreme) theory argues that genius is characterized by exceptional, ultimate high and extraordinary levels of abilities.

II. Structural and functional theories

Structural and functional theories (from Lat. structura-structure, procedure, from Lat. functio – design, performance)  reveal the specific features of various integrated intrapersonal components and subsystems of a genius, their unique combination, as well as their role and contribution to the creative self-realization of genius.

1. Perfectionist theory (from Lat. perfectio – completion, the highest perfection, an ideal) – says that the starting point of a genius is a longing for improvement of existence and striving for the highest standards.
2. Intellectual theory of a genius states that a genius is a person having extraordinary intellectual power, exceptional and extraordinary mental abilities.
3. Passionary theory (from Lat. Passio – passion) argues that the basis of genius is boundless love to the world, to people, to one’s own designation in life, and a passionate desire to know the truth.
4. Working-capacity theory (industriousness, performance, hard work)  says that every genius is a result of tremendous work, extraordinary persistence and patience, ability to hard work, immense, total dedication and phenomenal strength of will.

III. Procedural and dynamics theories

Procedural and dynamics theories (from Lat. Processus – the passage, progress, and from Greek Δύναμις, “dynamis” – force)  reveal patterns of sequential change of life forming stages of becoming a genius, expose the conditions and factors of its origin, existence and development.

1. Genetic Theories

Genetic Theories  (from Lat. Genesis – creation, origin) identify the main conditions, factors and causes of genius development and with the basic determinants of his formation and development.

Table 1. Genetic  theories of Genius

Symbolic World

Joan of Arc
  Social World

Objective World

Leo Tolstoy
  Inner World

Johann S. Bach




1. Hereditary theory is based  on the idea of the genetic cause of being a genius, its direct connection with the factors of heredity as well as with the assumption “that the ability to be a genius hereditarily passed to accumulate like some mysterious power from generation to generation.”
2. Sociogenic theory (from Lat. Socialitas – society and from Lat. Genero – produce, produce, create) states that genius is usually born by specific needs and values of the society, special family relations and the conditions of education, creative and professional atmosphere that is full of ideas and the ability to communicate with great talented people.
a). The influence of the family. A huge influence on the development of genius has any early influence, family and parents. At the same time from the earliest stages of development, it is very important to enrich, diversify and immense the stimulus environment that gives young genius the opportunity to absorb useful information, assimilate new meanings and experiences.
b). Theory of education. According to this theory, the process of genius development greatly depends upon the content and quality of education and training, the system of special pedagogical influences aimed at awakening and developing creative abilities.
c). The influence of teachers. The presence of a creative teacher as a role model, and his direct and indirect effects play a key role in the all-around development of a future genius.
d). The presence of the school and its leader. The history of culture contains strong evidence of the extremely favourable impact of scientific, artistic, sporting schools on the formation of genius
e). A special professional environment. The secret of the existence of an entire constellation of geniuses who were born and were concentrated in Athens, Baghdad, Rome, Paris, St. Petersburg, took place just due to a special, creatogenic and stimulating environment made by the close relations of geniuses, common interests, the possibility of free debate and talents exchange.
3. Theory of Self-education. According to this theory, a passion for self-education and self-improvement is the key to the ability to become a genius. The basic source on the formation of genius is independently acquired knowledge formed as well as spiritual and cultural values, creativity, creative attitude and method of interaction with the world.
4. Theory of Impressing explains the genius awakening as a result of experience in childhood or later in life, bright and deep impression, an unexpected meeting with a miracle.
5. Culturogenic theory (from Lat. cultus – culture, lifestyle, from Lat. genero – produce, produce, create) says that genius birth is given by a spirit of place (germ. Ortgeist) and Zeitgeist (germ Zeitgeist), the peculiarity of the urgent needs and demands of the certain historical stage of cultural development, specific cultural and creative atmosphere. In this cross-cultural strategies are based on the concept of Ortgeist and emphasize cultural factors that are correlated with creativity and geniality.

2. Evolutionary theories

Evolutionary theories  (from Lat. evoulutio – deployment, unfolding)  reveal the patterns and mechanisms of the formation of genius as a result of the objective process happening in nature and culture. The evolutionary theories of creativity and genius are based on the belief that the human role in creating the new does not differ from the role of nature. And the problem of creativity is a specific case of the problem of appearing something new in the process of evolution.
1. Darwinian approach to the origin of Genius (D. Simonton). The theory is based on the classical model of D. Campbell which is founded on the classical concept of Charles Darwin. In this case, the creative process and fulfilment of genius are considered as a unity of three stages: variation, selection and preservation of the most successful combinations.
2. Cultural – ecological theory of creativity and genius states that creativity bloomed and geniuses were born in the places where information was concentrated that is in Athens, Florence, Paris and various cultures crossed (M. Csikszentmihalyi).
3. Theory of coincidence and chance. According to this theory, the world culture has been made not by the great people but those whose characters and abilities coincided with the real demands of the epoch. Geniuses are mainly created when their works coincided with the current stage of the cultural environment. Namely, the spiritual resonance and compliance of personal creative activity with challenges and needs of the times create the Genius.

3. Transnormality theories

Transnormality theories  (from Lat. trans – across, over;  norma – norm, rule)  see the causes of genius in a wide variety of deviations from the actual mental, personal and social norms, in anomaly from physical, mental and spiritual health, in extraordinary circumstances of life, in the strangeness of lifestyle and behaviour and unusual way of interaction with the World.

Table 2. Transnormality theories of Genius

Symbolic World
Theory of Sublimation

Immanuil Kant
  Social World

George  Byron
Mystic Theory

 Emanuel Swedenborg
Objective World
Overcompensation Theory

  Inner World

Vincent van Gogh


1. Pathological theory 
of genius states that at the basis of geniality are all sorts of abnormalities, a variety of physical and mental health problems that are manifested in eccentric behaviour, nervousness and even mental illness and insanity.
2. Theory of sublimation (from lat. sublimo – exalt, elevate, lift up) says that the cause of geniality is the transformation of super-strong desires for fame, power and wealth into the form of imagination as well as transforming of sexual energy into the sphere of science and art, converting it into a cultural -significant and social approved
and productive activities.
3. Overcompensation theory of genius states that the cause of geniality is in a variety of deviations from the norm, in real or imaginary defects of personality and the overcoming of which is a powerful source of productivity and personal growth.
4. Conflictogenic theory of genius argues that diverse external and intrapersonal conflicts happening under certain conditions stimulate creativity and lead to the formation and development of a creative personality.
5. Mystic theory (from Greek misticos-hidden, secret) says that the appearance of a genius is a result of the activity of higher and unknown forces and it is generated by contact with inexhaustible depths of cosmos, by experiencing ecstatic and hypnotic states, mystical visions and fantastic hallucinations. At the same time, geniuses were considered as happy favourites of Gods, as the owners of a magical gift, as prophets and mediums translating the messages of the Heavenly Powers.
6. Infantistic theory (from Lat. infantia-childhood, innocence)  states that a genius is a child having such features and advantages of childhood as the fresh, pure, innocent perception of the world, the ability to see things in their primordial and innocent purity and treat them as they really are, as a tremendous interest to the world and the ability to be surprised and delighted with common things, as an unbridled imagination and passion for the game.

IV. Essential theories

Essential theories  (from Lat. Essentia – the essence of) reveal the essence and core universal dimensions of genius as well as essential and deep principles of its manifestation.

1. Worldgenetic theories

World-centered approach reveals the essential criteria of genius coming from qualitatively specific laws and features of its manifestation in relatively independent phenomenological worlds in unique, autonomous spheres of reality. 

Table 3. Worldgenic theories of Genius

Symbolic World
Transformative     theory     
Social  World

Martin Luther King

 Cultural-creative theory


Objective World

Thomas Edison
Inner World
Personological theory
Alexander the Great. Biography, achievements, personal life
Alexander the Great


1. Personological theory
(from Lat. Persona – personality, person) of genius defines a genius as the top of evolution and the crown of creation, as an original, unique identity, as self-sufficient personality having an extraordinary development, and specific combination of integrated components as intelligence, traits, motivation and productivity.
2. Charismatic theory (from the Greek charisma – charity, gift, and grace) states that the essential feature of a genius is his magical gift of influence, spiritual charm, hypnotic power of domination, the ability to inspire, to fascinate and to lead people.
3. Shape-forming and transformative theory says that the essence of genius lies informative power and in a form-creative power of a genius, in his ability to pacify chaos, to create new symbolic systems, artificial languages, art tools and techniques, and also to operate symbols, to shape raw material and transform the available content in a more perfect one.
Game theory of genius claims that a creative process of a genius is free from any everyday life bonds, a spontaneous and enjoyable game with shapes, symbols and meanings. It is based on a symbolic representation of reality, which opens up the possibility of special, creative interaction with the world.
4. Activity theory considers the essence of genius from the point of view of a creative product is produced by a genius. It focuses on the importance of this product, its amount, and influence on its contemporaries and successors and on its contribution to the socio-cultural evolution of mankind. According to R. Albert, the author of the behavioural theory a genius is a man who for a long period of time is doing a huge amount of work having a significant impact on other people for many years.
5. Cultural – creative theory directly links genius and creativity, which is a deep true nature of a genius, the substantial way of his existence and implementation. In its turn, creativity is the very essence of a genius, in which it reaches its highest and perfect level of manifestation.

The theory of a universal creative method asserts that the essence effective kernel of genius is a holistic, dynamic system of techniques, based on realizing universal pairs of opposite, but mutually complementary mechanisms of creativity, which, in their turn, reflect the deepest structures, laws and trends of existence and development of the world.

A creative method is implemented by means of variable and simultaneous activation and maintenance of a balance between the poles of multilevel dialectical bunches “problematization – idealization”“decentration – simplization”, “identification – meditation,” “self – actualization- personification”  Generality of these processes of creativity is manifested in the fact that each of them represents a self-defined explanatory trend, expresses the essential features of a genius and can generate an independent specific theory of a genius.

Table 4. The Double Helix of Creative Genius

is manifested in particularly acute suffering of a genius when he realizes imperfections of life, the tragedy of epoch, the drama of social processes and sufferings of every common man.
is understood as a genius craving for perfection and for everything that is perfect and great, for the beauty and the truth, to spiritual development and execution of a higher purpose.
Decentration is understood as the ability to overcome the inertia of thoughts, the aptitude to the destruction of outdated notions, stereotypes and patterns in all the spheres of reality. Simplization manifests itself as the ability of a genius to clarify complexity, facility to the ultimate simplification of diversity, as the desire and ability to organize and tame the chaos.
Identification is manifested as the genius ability to absolute absorption in the outer world and deep involvement in one’s own work, as identification with others and active love
to people.
Meditation is characterized by the ability of a genius to be eliminated and removed from ordinary life, to have an extraordinarily developed sense of inner freedom, independence and sovereignty of spirit.
Self-actualization is manifested as a desire of a genius to the most complete embodiment of his daring plans, as an aspiring of self-sacrifice and approval of internal creative force. Personification is understood as a genius ability to be extremely open to the world, and to awake, activate animate and inanimate objects, to give them autonomy and subjectivity.


2. Universe Theories

The universe approach to genius assumes that it is based on universal generating and sense formatting primal essences which are metatheoretical and super cultural explications of the Absolute.

Table 5.  Universe Theories of Genius


Theory of Universality
Metapotention theory

Universe -personalistic theory

Congregative  theory

       Heroic theory
Authors of the paintings:  Rafal Olbinski, Evelyn Taylor, Jim Warren


1. Heroic theory
of genius considers that a genius is a hero possessing spiritual greatness, a magic talent, boundless courage, fearlessness of mind, demonic power and absolute and unlimited free will.
Demonic theory (from Greek diamond – demon, demigod) of genius considers genius to be a rebel and destroyer who overturn concepts, values and bases. Absolutization of ideas of total freedom, self-induced activity, struggle and force transform a genius-hero into a genius-rebel and great destroyer.
2. Metapotention theory (from Greek meta – through, from Lat. potentia – force, posibility) sees the essence of genius in his aspiration, talent and ability to expand the horizons and to gain new substantial spaces, to construct new worlds and integrities, to create new concepts, paradigms and directions in art, to open new semantic dimensions and widen the borders of possibilities.
3. Theory of Universality (from Lat. universalis – universal, global, referring to the universe) states that a genius has a unique blend of creative talents, a special psychic organization that reflects the invariant structure of the universe. At this, the essential feature of a genius is his universality which includes broad-mindedness, the versatility of talent, diversity of interests, extraordinary erudition and ability to achieve outstanding results in various branches of human activity.
4. Congregative  theory (from Lat. congregatio – integration) of genius suggests that the essence of the nature of a genius is manifested in his willingness and ability to unite various layers and spheres of reality, in binding, converging and collecting the worlds, in a productive combination of different directions, forms and genres of art.

5. Universe-personalistic theory (from Lat. universum – a single  Universe, Latin unio – unity, versum – towards … or verso-twist, rotate, and from lat. persona – person, separate entity)  of genius maintains that a genius has a universal gift to capture, experience, transmit and embody in his work the spirit of the Universe and Eternity, to fill his works with the highest human values and ultimate meaning as well as the ability to reach the state of creative consciousness,  to acquire a vision of reality from the standpoint of the Absolute, to translate this vision into reality and transmit it to other people.
The theory of embodiment and personification of the Absolute and the co-creation with Universe evolution considers that a genius is the incarnation of the Absolute, personal manifestation of super-consciousness and Higher Mind which obeying the categorical imperative of creativity and generating new meanings.
5.1 Imperative-Substantial theory (from Lat. imperatum – order, command , prescription; from Lat. substantialis-essential, which has an independent existence, ) of genius says that a genius is determined by universe-and-personality determinants which represent a stable resonant interaction of awakening creative structures with isomorphic creative plans of the Universe, fusion and solidification of the energy of a creative instinct and internalized socio-cultural creative imperative. In this case, deploying internal and universal creative structures which is a realization of a creative impulse, brings deep inner satisfaction and genuine supreme joy.
5.2. Transpersonal theory (from Lat. trans – through, over and persona – person) states that the condition of genius is the experience of identity with the “Cosmic Mind” and “World Soul”, the ability to achieve and maintain the state of superpersonal, transpersonal consciousness, creative illumination and ecstasy, Samadhi, Satori or their psychological correlate – the highest creative inspiration.
Genius is considered as the ability to enter into a new supreme and creative state of consciousness, to obtain hypersensitivity to the effects of information and semantic fields, to awake in himself dormant creative abilities and to use internal and external opportunities in a highly efficient way.
 5.3. Visionary theory (from Lat. visio –vision, seeing, idea) claims that the basis of genius is the aptitude for universe, holistic, planetary and creative vision of the world, ability to perceive reality in all its newness, freshness, topicality and inexhaustibility, and also the ability to mental manipulation with its forms, entities and time, and art to generate from within, by means of the gift of inner vision and foresight, a self-sufficient, self-sustaining, unconditional novelty, independent of the old.

5.3.1. Universe Vision theory asserts that genius is understood as the realization of universe spectral, multi-layered, integrated,  all-inclusive vision based on a combination of different types of visions, generated by universal primal essences.
It is a holistic spectrum of qualitatively distinctive unmixed visions, a strong laminar flow including absolute, spiritual and transformative, eidetic, liberating, potential, integral and immediate, as well as own, original, individual, unique in the history of the universe, the vision of the reality.
At that, the multi-dimensional, total, all-including vision of the world is understood as simultaneous activation of all types of vision, as well as flexible changing between them, the implementation of each level, in turn, creation of patterns of perception lights, depending on the intent, purpose or characteristics of the situation.

Table 6.  The different kinds of Creative Universe Vision 

WholeHolistic vision
Potentialistic vision

Immediative vision


Absolute Vision
Spiritual Vision

Niantistic vision


Connectionist vision
Elefteristic vision
Authors of the paintings: Nicholas Roerich, Van Gough, Maurits C. Escher, Тomek  Setowski, Ivan Kliun, Isaak Levitan


1. Immediative vision (from Lat. Immediatus – direct, immediate, spontaneous) is the perception of the world as it really is, its clear understanding, pure and transparent vision and awareness of reality.
2. Connectionist vision (from. Lat. connexus – connection) is a perception of the new deep connections between objects, finding a simple, basic relations and visualization of the invisible lines of force running through the fields and space, analogization and revealing similar and common features among the phenomena.
3. Holistic vision (from the Greek. Holos – whole) is an integral, global, planetary, cosmic, universal and many-sided, holographic vision.
4. Niantistic vision (from Fr. Neant – nothing) manifests itself in focusing on internal and external voids, on the fields, places, receptacles, apertures between objects, gaps, “white spots”, “gaps and chasms in being”, in concentration on the background, on open fields and free spaces, as well as focusing attention on the discontinuities in the duration and transition point.
5. Potentialistic vision is a perception and understanding of the world as an endless potential and limitless resource as a source of new, high quality and attractive possibilities.
6. Elefteristic vision (from the Greek. Eleftheria – freedom) is aimed at finding and perception of new, unusual, weak, and random connections and determinations, at purifying internal and external objects from all superficial and unnecessary features, at escaping from the false, imposed patterns and values.
7. Absolute Vision is a spiritual, transcendental, metaphysical, mystical and eidetic vision, which is understood as the capture of ultimate meaning and universal relations of being, as the vision of unseen entities, grasping of the generative structures, sources of creative power and deep creative flows.

5.3.2. Creative Vision theory claims that that the fundamental basis of genius, and its source and body is a Creative Vision, which can be easily and naturally acquired by everyone through taking a Creative position, correlated with the Absolute, over Achieving a creative mental state and implementation of a universal Creative method.
Thus a genius is considered as a person with a universal creative vision which manifests itself not only as an impartial witness and hovering over the world and not even as eidetic, heartfelt, spiritual contemplation, but also as a spontaneous, powerful and shattering into many different levels thin and flexible efforts of mental activities, as directed manipulation and free play with the images and models of reality.
A creative vision of a genius is a creative synthesis of a higher mental state and a creative method that is complete, isomorphic to universe generative matrix, the system of creative techniques.

As the ruling genius is determined not by one but by several factors, and rather the whole system of factors with everpresent action of central integrating, worldview, historical – cultural and spiritual-meaningful determinant – the active creative “Self”,  the centre of awareness, experience and will,  the subject of independent decision and choice-making at all stages of existence and development.
Sergey L. Markov

Markov, S.L.(2011) Genetuchnyi pidhid do pryrody genialnosti [A genetic approach to the nature of genius]. In 2th International scientific conference: Genesis of the personality’s existence. Kyiv, 19-20 December 2011. Kyiv: Information and Analytical Agency,  Vol.1, pp.255-260.