Genetics theories of Genius

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Genetics theories

3.1.  Genetic (from Lat. Genesis – creation, origin) theories are aimed at studying the origin of genius, the disclosure of the conditions and causes of its occurrence, as well as at identification of the main determinants, laws of its origin, formation and development.
At the same time the main attention of researchers focused on identifying of a single cause underlying the genius, on revealing of the original matrix, qualitative peculiar core that remains identical at the different stages of development.

In doing so, we can talk about some unified genetic concept of genius, which is an integral system of independent explanatory principles and individual theories. In this sense, the genetic approach to the study of genius acquires a special heuristic force, which reveals the underlying laws of genius’s development as a living, self-moving whole.

Thus, the implementation of particular variants and modifications of the genetic approach leads to the creation of separate theories of genius, based on corresponding explanatory principles.

Awaking and becoming a genius is implemented and deployed in the space of mutual-embedded, but autonomous and maintaining its qualitative features,  worlds:  object, symbolic, social, inner and integrating them cultural world. In this regard, the genetic theories of genius can be grouped and fit in the specified  Pentabazis of phenomenological worlds.

Table 4. Genetics theories of Genius

Symbolic World
Theory of Impressing
  Social World
Object World
Inner World

3.1.1. Hereditary theory
is based on genetic conditionality and innateness of
genius, on its direct connection with the factors of heredity, as well as on the assumption “that the genius is transmitted by inheritance, being accumulated like some mysterious power, from generation to generation” (V. Pekelis).
These ideas were put forward by such great representatives of humanity as Plato and Goethe, but firstly they were conceptualized by F. Galton in his famous book “Hereditary Genius” (1869) and supported by L. Termen and G. Hollingworth. Modern followers of this theory argue that there is no single gene of genius, but a combination of a number of genes and genetic programs.
Supporters of the hereditary theory in order to prove its irrefutability provide the facts of appearance of an entire galaxy of geniuses of the same family in different generations. Thus, the inheritance of diverse talents in a straight line was observed in the families of such musicians as Bach, Strauss, Mozart, Scarlatti, Bellini, Dussek, Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer;
artists as Titian, Van Dyck, Correggio, Veronese, Tintoretto, Raphael;
writers and poets as Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Corneille, Racine, Swift, Coleridge, Tasso;
scholars: Aristotle, Bacon, Bernoulli, Galileo, Herschel, Darwin, Leibniz, Euler, Hook, Curie.
At the same time Schiller, Hölderlin, Schelling, Hegel, Planck had consanguinity and one ancestry – Johann Guy. Besides F. Galton and Charles Darwin, H. Heine, and K. Marks were relatives, as well as A. Pushkin, L. Tolstoy, F. Tyutchev , P. Chaadayev, Bestuzhev family, K. Leontyev, A. Tolstoy.

In addition, the relatively early development of abilities and creative achievements of high results in childhood confirm the theory of innate genius Among the outstanding child prodigy  were such musicians as Mozart, Haydn, Liszt, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Handel, Schubert, artists: Raphael, Giotto, Van Dyck, Michelangelo, Dürer, poets: Lope de Vega, Tasso, Griboyedov, Pushkin, Lermontov, Brodsky, such mathematics as Gauss, Leibniz, Vinogradov, Bogolyubov, and such scientists as Pascal, Ampere, D. Miles, K. Witte, Wiener. Alexander Pushkin finished Ruslan and Lyudmila, when still only twenty years old. Pascal at age 10 has  developed the theory of acoustics, and at the age of 15 he wrote a treatise on conic sections. D. Rossini created the opera “The Barber of Seville” at the age of 24, S. Rachmaninov has been graduated from the conservatory at the age of 18, and at 19 he wrote the opera “Aleko.” S. Freud and  D. Mendeleyev published their first article at the age of 21, and Charles Darwin, B. Pascal, A. Einstein at the age of 22.  Jean Piaget published a several scientific papers before graduation, and in 20 he has become a recognized Malacologist (an expert on molluscs). Successively, Alexander Pushkin finished Ruslan and Lyudmila, when still only twenty years old,  N. Gogol wrote “Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka” at 22 years old and Sholokhov has finished the first book of the novel “And Quiet Flows the Don” at the age of 23 .
At the same time with the occult point of view the presence of various creative forces in person, that in total should be  called a genius, is not caused by blind chance and is not the internal inherited features, but due to the accumulation of individual experience in person’s previous life or lives (Helena Blavatsky).

3.1.2. Sociogenic theory claims that genius personality is generated by specific needs and values of society, by peculiar family relations and the conditions of education, and creative, surfeited with ideas professional atmosphere, and the opportunity to communicate with the great talented people. At the same time, geniuses appear in specific fields only if society feels an urgent need in them. W. Lange-Eichbaum talked about the “chord of genius” when there is a set of specific psychological and social factors, and in each separate group of geniuses (scientists, generals, artists, etc.)  the certain “sounds a chord” dominates.
A genius always finds himself in the epicenter of the events and his heart beats in unison with his time and country. He absorbs the spirit and knowledge, and his identity is the identity of his people  and time (R. Emerson).  A man is the closer to being a genius the more men he has in his personality, and the more really and strongly he has these others within him (O. Weininger). Genius can always better express the spirit of the people than the masses (N .Berdyaev).

a). The influence of the family. A major influence on the development of genius has the family and parents. At the same time the diversity and richness of the stimulus environment, which  allow to absorb the useful information, assimilate a new senses and experience a bright vivid impression, have a great importance in the early stages of capability development.
Various researchers have proposed a variety of characteristics of family relationships that contribute to the development of a genius. Among them are:
Maternal care.  The most beneficial influence on the formation of a genius have the developmental impact of mother,  who creates  a World of development that is rich in warmth and trust.
Maternal love surrounded the childhood of Goethe, Schiller, Haydn, Liszt, and Heine, who, with extraordinary warmth and gratitude talked about their mothers throughout their lives. Kant said:
“I shall never forget my mother, for it was she who planted and nurtured the first seeds of good within me. She opened my heart to the lasting impressions of nature; she awakened my understanding and extended my horizon and her percepts exerted an everlasting influence upon the course of my life.”
George Washington’s mother surrounded him with loving care and gave him an excellent education. “My mother, – he wrote later, – was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
Mother of Thomas Edison educated him at home in a warm family atmosphere. Later, he emphasized that the education he received at home was a great springboard for his future success.
Picasso’s mother repeatedly said her son: «If you become a soldier you’ll be a general; if you become a monk you’ll end up as the Pope».
When parents of both brilliant athletes L. Armstrong and A. Rodriguez divorced their mothers devoted themselves to their children and worked hard to make the ends meet. Determination, dedication and commitment of mothers had a tremendous long-term impact on the future of these great athletes.
Family conditions. Some authors have argued that future geniuses were basically first-borns,  in  most cases – the older children in  the family, and often  – the only sons, for example: John Stuart Mill, Karl Gauss, Norbert Wiener.
Most of the presidents of the United States and more than half of the “great innovators, creators, leaders and other figures of the twentieth century” were firstborns (D. Simonton). In addition, M. Goertzel,  T. Goertzel and V. Goertzel, on the basis of their study, claimed that 30% of geniuses were first-borns, and 16% – the only child in the family.
In contrary the other researches claimed that the geniuses were the late children, for example:  Mozart, P. Tchaikovsky or the youngest children in the family – Copernicus, I. Newton, Ch. Darwin, D. Mendeleev, S. Freud. So Dmitri Mendeleev was the fourteenth child in the family, Ludwig van Beethoven – the seventh. M. de Cervantes – the fourth and Anton Chekhov – the third.
At the same time F. Sulloway combined these theories, arguing that first-born children tend to become geniuses with conservative views, as Louis Agassiz and John Herschel, and late children were prone to radical and unorthodox views as Immanuel  Kant, Charles Darwin, Ernst Haeckel.
Among the family conditions for the formation of genius stand out: the presence of old fathers and very young mothers, so that the fathers of Michelangelo, Peter I, Catherine II, Goethe, Paganini were 25 years older than their mother’s; well-being of the parents (D. Simonton, W. Goerttsel, M. Goerttsel) , non-harmonic relationship between parents and their misunderstanding (Albert R. D. Manfield, M. Runco), divorce and early loss of one of the parent (G. Eisenstadt).

b). Theory of education. According to this theory, the ability to become a genius greatly depends upon the way of child education and upbringing, upon the implementation of the special pedagogical methods aimed at initiation and development of a child’s innate creative ability. In the XVIII century, Helvetius said that a talent and its highest form – a genius, is not only dependent on heredity, but is the result of education and training.
Appropriate conditions and the implementation of special educational methods from the very early periods of child’s life can contribute to the development of unique creative abilities and to the achievement of success in future creative activities.
Among these favorable creatogenic conditions can be identified: the formation of positive values, building self-esteem, self-confidence and positive individualism and , the ability to overcome difficulties,  promoting  love of freedom, self-sufficiency, independence of thought and action, openness to experience and flexibility,
increasing attention to the abilities and stimulation the child’s interests, understanding a talent as  a supreme value and organizing principle of family, high expectations of  the children,  the presence of an ideal role models, creative attitude and high level of parents’ education,  creating a rich stimulus and minimally restricted  environment, social reinforcement, and frequency child experience initial success  (D. Simonton, M. Csikszentmihalyi, J. Renzulli).
V.P. Efroimson stated that for becoming a genius, optimal conditions for the development of individual talents and favorable social conditions for self-realization should be facilitated. These conditions includes: social needs and social demand for excellence and outstanding achievements, becoming a solid set of values during child-adolescent period  (impressing), early recognition, encouragement and permission of freedom for creative expression.

c). Teacher’s effects. Teacher as a creative personality who serves as a role model for children is very important for their development. Teacher’s direct and indirect influences play a crucial role in the formation of a future genius.  A productive creative dialogue with a real or distant-in-centuries teacher often contributed to the initiation and the developing talents in many outstanding people. The teacher plays a great role not only in the development of children’s outstanding skills, but in awakening of their creative “Self” and in choosing appropriate life goals. Almost every genius had his own Teacher – a person who powerfully contributed to genius’s personal and creative growth, a person whose life was an example to be followed for reaching his great goal. Many outstanding people had their own great teachers – mentors, whose main function was paternal caring, necessary criticism, empathy, tutoring, and development of talent and transferring of their creative skills. According to K.A. Ericsson, mentor’s personality plays a critical role in the development of genius’s skills because a lot of tutor’s skills are implicit, that means that it is difficult for them to explain how they do and what they do. Thus, Alexander the Great had Aristotle as a teacher, Leonardo had Andrea Verrocchio, Bach had Dietrich Buxtehude, Beethoven had Haydn, Gauguin and Cezanne had Camilo Pizarro as their tutor.

g). The presence of the school and its leader. The history of culture contains strong evidence of extremely favourable impact of scientific, artistic, sporting schools on the formation of genius. Thus, Ernest Rutherford was a teacher of such great scientists and Nobel Prize winners as Henry Moseley, John Chadwick, John Cockcroft, Mark Oliphant, Walter Heitler, Otto Hahn, Pyotr Kapitsa, Yulii  Khariton, George Gamow. The first condition of receiving the Nobel Prize is having a good teacher – Paul Samuelson said. A creative leader plays a great role in arts – so, five actors and actresses have won six Academy Awards – Oscars for their starring in Woody Allen’s film.

e). The immediate professional environment. The secret of the existence of entire constellation of geniuses who were become 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. In this case the main factors forming the genius are the “concentration of talents and competition among them” (Albert Reibmayer), society’s existing cultural and creative values, social demand for creativity, and resonance  that receives the work of genius in the social environment.

3.1.3. The theory of self-education claims that the basis of genius is a passion for self-education, self-improvement and  self-perfection. The key to the formation of genius is independently obtained knowledge and formed creative abilities, single-handed achieved  a spiritual and cultural level and his own method of interaction with the world.  Thus S. Coleridge believed that genius is the «capacity for growth”.
The theory of self-education is based on the fact that many young geniuses had “the cult of self-development and spiritual self-improvement.” They spent huge amounts of time and energy on self-education, on a gradual and continuous growth of knowledge, on acquisition of the most outstanding cultural masterpieces.
Brilliant individuals worked hard to improve their skills, created their own methods of expression and approximation to the truth. A special place in self-education of a genius has his spiritual growth and self improvement.  Herewith, according to Helena Blavatsky, a genius, due to a mysterious process, is becoming better adapted to the perception and manifestation of the inner and divine nature of human superior soul. An extraordinary passion for self-education and gaining experience is present throughout life of geniuses. From this point of view the theory of self-education can be considered as part of a broader, Accumulative theory of Genius.

a). Accumulative theory of Genius states that the life activity of a genius is a way of “gathering” knowledge and experience of mankind, the accumulation and « synthesis of grains of ideal” (Vladimir Soloviev). At the same time the hallmark of genius is the organization and submission of the full richness of acquiring complex knowledge to his will and purpose.  Robert Merton described the particular, peculiar to science “Matthew Effect” (“For everyone who has will be given more and he will have abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 25:29) which consists of collecting, saving and improving the knowledge. The essence of accumulative theory was vividly expressed by Newton who said: «If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants».
Goethe  said “I by no means owe my works to my own wisdom alone, but to a thousand things and persons around me, who provided me with material.”  «Great men, – wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson, – are more distinguished by range and extent, than by originality… The greatest genius is the most indebted man». «Thus, all originality is relative. Every thinker is retrospective»
Before laying the foundation for Western philosophy, Thales and Pythagoras visited Africa and Asia, Egypt, Babylon and Memphis, studied and absorbed Eastern philosophy and culture. D. Simonton also stated that geniuses are not oriented to the future, but to the past. They simply summarize, synthesize, and reduce to a single system the works of their predecessors.
Accumulative and perfectionist aspirations are peculiar to genius not only in his youth, but during all his life. Before his death Goethe wrote, that he steel feels a pressing need of improving and concentrating everything that he knows.
Self-development and aspiration to increase competency is usually manifested in the creation of own creative method and in perfecting and honing their own skills. In XVII century Francis Bacon said that a correct method is the greatest transformative force that increases the ability and power of a human being over nature and that an effective method is the fastest way to get the truth and is the best guidance on the way to future discoveries and inventions.

3.1.4. Theory of impressing (from. impress – to surprise, to inspire,  imprint)  explains the awakening Genius in a person as a result of experience a  bright impression, deep emotions and  an unexpected meeting with a miracle in childhood or in later life. The term “impressing” was introduced by Vladimir Efroimson who understood it as a Youthful, life defining experiences, which occur in a particularly sensitive period and unconsciously influence on future individual’s life and creativity. At the same time  the results of the outside social impact greatly depends on the age and individual sensitivity of a person to that effects. From this point of view child-adolescent stage of personal development plays a crucial role in the process of becoming genius. Such during this stage personal development values criteria,  life goals, attitudes, aspirations and main motivations are formed.  The neuropsychological basis of this phenomenon is imprinting, which, in its highest manifestation means an instantaneous transformation of the person’s inner world, a total change in the personality structure of the individual, opening up a new complicated channels of world perception, birth dreams and ideals, spiritual awakening and Development of Personal Integrity. The state of impressing meaningfully correlates with existential phenomena of borderline situation and the “border-line states”. Borderline and ultimate situations occur during period of severe trials in his  life, in moments of profound shock and especially on the border between existence and nonexistence, in the face of death. Profound experience of borderline situation allows an individual to escape from routine and inauthentic existence, to realize, combine and fuse existence with transcendence. Productive and courageous overcoming of the borderline situation leads an individual to a total transformation of spiritual values, enlightenment , spiritual catharsis, finding the creative meaning of existence, disclosure of the true essences and creative freedom (Karl Jaspers). In a borderline state a person experiences “the courage of desperation”, performs act of  an essential and  ontological self-affirmation, discovering the True Self the true Self and awakening the idea of God (Paul Tillich).
The geniuses who have experienced the state impressing, usually with one and the same words described the state of illumination and salvation, when they experienced an ineffable, eternal happiness , inner transformation, spiritual awakening of personality, the acquisition of a new planetary and creative vision of the world.
Thus Mohammed,  Dante, Joan of Arc, Jean Paul, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Rene Descartes, Walt Whitman, Fyodor Dostoevsky experienced the state of impressing as a bright and deep emotional shock that awakened their higher, genius Self and powerfully determined their selfless, creative life fulfilment.

3.1.5. Culturogenic theory says that a genius is born by the Spirit of place (German- Ortgeist) and the Spirit of time (German – Zeitgeist) and by specific urgent needs and demands of a certain historical stage of cultural development. It is born by cultural and creative atmosphere of the given period of time. Cross-cultural strategies are based on the concept of Ortgeist and emphasize cultural factors that are correlated with creativity and genius.
Transhistorical study of a creative genius is based on the concept of Zeitgeist. It takes a historical period as a unit of analysis (D. Simonton, W. Cassandra). Culture is the highest open integrated system that includes objective, social, symbolic and inner worlds; it makes cultural and creative impact on a person. This cultural and creative context created by the current state of the art, science, society and the individual, gives the start and helps to develop a genius as the totality of cultural heritage of previous epochs.
According to this theory the initiation and the formation of genius does not depend so much on socio-economic events but on cultural and historical determinants and objective laws of development of culture, on underlying trends of functioning and formation of scientific and artistic systems, schools and movements.
Thus A. Kreber having studied the dynamics of the appearance of geniuses in various fields of culture came to the conclusion that geniuses represent the implementation of coherent patterns of growth of cultural values.
The main characteristic of “creatogenic” epochs  that create geniuses are: free access to culture heritage and openness to different cultural stimuli, free access to education and a high level of it, developing a tolerant, democratic society, diversity and interpenetration of cultural trends, the interaction of creative individuals. Government stimulation of creativity, system of rewards, presence of cultural role models, harmonious combination of empiricism and analysis are necessary for such a process as well (S. Arieti, D. Simonton, John Gowen, M. Olson). A. Kroeber wrote that creative geniuses appeared and became concentrated mainly during the Golden and Silver Age. Creativity flourished and faded away according to the growth, flourishing, and decadence of cultural patterns. Up to this, alternation of “golden” and “dark” periods of history, that are characterized by different concentrations of genius, depends on own logic and laws of cultural development.
According to A. Weber the great spiritual and historical geniuses such as Confucius, Buddha, and Socrates are born in the periods of so-called “axial age”,  at crucial times in order to realize and interpret the previous historical period, to create new philosophical and religious movements and culture trends that gave an impulse to a new round of historical development. Thus Dante who was the last titan of the Middle Ages and the first genius of Renaissance created at the frontier of different cultural and historical stages. Bacon also created his own scientific concepts at the frontier of the Renaissance and Early modern period.
S. Arieti considered that the socio-cultural factors influence on creative activity to a greater extent than biological structure. Thus, ancient periods, Renaissance, and American Revolution prove that creativity does not occur by chance, but depends upon cultural factors. Groups and flashes of geniuses developed in one and the same place as a result of social succession and communication of geniuses with each other, – V. P. Efroimson thought, – because the works of geniuses were  understood not only by their supporters, but also by  common people. in this way  the secret to become a genius is the challenging environment.

A. Kroeber, M. Csikszentmihalyi, D. Simonton, John Gowen, M. Olson believed that “golden” periods in the history of mankind naturally gave rise the whole “constellation of geniuses.” At the very beginning of our era Roman historian Gaius Velleus Paterculus (19 BC – 31 AD) made an attempt to understand the phenomenon of clustering of geniuses.  He noticed that all of great Greek tragedies were written almost simultaneously by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides. At the same time the bloom of Greek philosophy is associated with the names of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle who lived in Athens at the same time.
According to the Roman historian this phenomenon can be explained by a creative competition between makers. One of the geniuses was the leader and served as a model. The others wanted to be better and did their best. When the peak was reached and all opportunities were used, the development usually found another way. Besides A. Kroeber believed that Italian literature was born at the time of three giants – Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. Probably a lot of gifted people were suppressed by values, norms and cultural patterns that existed in society at that time. That meant that they were born earlier or later than their talents could be required by society.

The first «constellation» of geniuses who were the founders of the philosophical and religious movements included Zoroaster, Buddha,  Laozi,  Confucius, Thales, Pythagoras  appeared at the frontier of the VII and VI centuries BC. Unusual concentrations of geniuses were peculiar for:
• the Age of Pericles who spent time with geniuses of world rank: Anaxagoras, Zeno, Protagoras, Sophocles, Socrates, Phidias (V.P. Efroimson);
• “Golden Age” of Chinese art in the VII century AD;
•  Arab Renaissance era in VIII-XI centuries;
• The European Renaissance period in XIV –XVII centuries;
• The Age of Enlightenment in XVIII century ;
• Great artists, writers and composers who lived and created in France during the 30th -40th  years of the ХІХ century Victor Hugo, Balzac, Stendhal, Heine, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Delacroix,
• Bloom of art in Russia and France in the late 19th century;
• Powerful scientific schools in the first half of 20th century.
Following Gaius Velleus Paterculus and A. Kroeber, we can continue the list of “great threesomes” and in each period of flourishing culture it is possible to distinguish three geniuses who appeared unexpected and surprisingly at the same time and in one particular branch of culture. They are: Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo in painting, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven in music, Hugo, Balzac, Dumas, and Tolstoy, Chekhov,  Dostoevsky in literature, Kant, Hegel, Schelling in philosophy, Einstein, Bohr, Born, in physics, James, Freud, Jung in psychology.

The way of genius development is a way, the ideal  life trajectory  which at every time stage is characterized by an optimal interaction of personality with the world, parents, teachers, and the closest professional environment.  It is also characterized by ever-increasing role of a creative person in this interaction. Just as the world culture includes all the higher manifestations of all the phenomenal worlds, so the culturogenic theory absorbs the most essential features of all theories, and especially of the closest one to it, the social theory.
Thus the effect of independent systems in science literature is often combined in the form of socio-cultural theory where the cultural and historical determinants play a crucial role (D. Simonton, M. Csikszentmihalyi). At the same time besides socio-cultural we can distinguish anthropological-cultural, symbolic-cultural (M. Csikszentmihalyi) and objective-cultural approaches to the formation and development of genius.

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