One definition of genius is “that you leave your subject different from how you found it, therefore Newton was a genius, so was Einstein.”
According to a renowned UK national journalist, October 2003, “Genius comes along from time to time in human affairs.” He could have been referring to Shakspere/Shakespeare. He went on “There is no timetable which guarantees when the next one will arrive.”
At its best, a performance of a Shakespeare play can call up the experience of unity in an audience. It is known, in the “rich quality of the glowing moment” when ‘time’ stands still. For so-called ‘individual’ members of the audience there is “a direct, pure, emotional response”… and “a moment of timeless, formless shared perception, the unity of Being”.
A justly-famed director says, “Shakespeare’s theatre does not vulgarise the spiritual, to make it easier for common man to assimilate, nor does he reject the dirt, the ugliness, violence, absurdity, the laughter of the base existence. It does awaken an audience to an instant of deep insight into the fabric of reality. The moment cannot last, as Truth can never be defined nor grasped.”
A London teacher, with insight into the Bard’s Works, says, “You realise that you are watching yourself, and you understand, you do not judge.” She highlights the self-development path to be taken, “Even Prospero is torn between his nobler reason against his fury.”
That is why his Works, the canon, are described as “the literary Crown Jewels of western civilisation”.
As the human gains entry into and attains higher consciousness, genius can flower. As did Shakspere, or those who contributed or combined to pen the plays of ‘Shakespeare’. And, say some, that potential for genius already is rooted at birth in that higher consciousness?
About the ‘Golden World’, Philip Sidney (The Defence of Poesy) believed the poet/writer (but almost surely, in his purist view, not the playmaker?) rose to where there was “artistic freedom and joyous creativity… ranging only within the zodiac of his own wit”.
What do we mere mortals really know of genius? as with say (offered in one compelling modern study) Plato, Darwin, Gandhi, Einstein and of course Shakespeare! To which may we add the Buddha and Shankara from the East, and Christ from the Middle East?
And there are many others, in the history of man, I’m sure, East and West. Or hidden among today’s scientists, good men all, exploring the Big Bang or the Steady State, or DNA, genetics and genome? and equally likely to experience great inspiration, insight or revelation as did say Brunelleschi or Copernicus in their fields?
The question arises because, if the apparently self-educated (that also could be ‘Self’-educated) Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon was the superbly-talented Shakespeare of universal-fame, then he was in his time a genius and yet sought no fame by name. He is indeed the Elizabethan invisible man.
One writer recently described Shakespeare’s characters and plays as “stepping stones to universal qualities and truths.” What is the secret of the extraordinary abilities to create living archetypal characters? His answer:
“Shakespeare in composing has no I but the I representative.” He asks if it is Shakespeare’s very ego-lessness that gives him access to that limitless universal “I” Self?
Genius is indicated in “exceptional and transcendent creative power”, say dictionaries. That is the impersonal, but genius encompasses the personal, too. Someone said that a man of genius is a sublime altruist in his disregard of himself and, acidly, an atrocious egoist in his disregard of others. Another that genius will always suffer from melancholy, that state which may bring deeper appreciation of Man’s suffering – which the ‘realised’ have always said is domination by ignorance. Shakespeare’s Works are infused with “dulcet melancholies” and his Sonnets have “deep shadows on the speaker.”
Imagination – “my soul’s imaginary sight” – underpins everything in Shakespeare’s Works. Is imagination (true imagination, not imaginings) enhanced by education and acute observancy during lifestyle, or does it arise purely from inspiration from a natural, unshakeable inner source – “each soul’s spirit-god ruling over character and fortune” ?
“Information and experience are necessary for strengthening the imagination,” said Babington, Lord Macaulay. He also said, “Genius will not furnish a poet with a vocabulary.” We might consider, too “Genius is a fire that lights itself.”
Hazlitt said Shakspere was like the genius of humanity, changing places with all of us at his pleasure. His genius shone equally on the evil and on the good, on the wise and the foolish, the monarch and the beggar; the secrets of the grave were hardly hid from his searching glance.
Renowned as essayist and dramatic critic, he also commented that the great distinction of Shakespeare’s genius was its virtually including the genius of all the great men of his age – some kind of synthesis, with advancement gained metaphysically from all insights by his peers since say 1560-1595? It accrues intangibly, mystically in the collective consciousness.
Bacon, just a few years older than Shakspere, was always “a serious, precocious boy” and went on to become, like Shakspere “a writer of exceptional genius”. Just maybe, Shakspere and Bacon, and others can only attain great heights when there is the conscious environment, the spiritual manifesting, which feeds Men’s minds so that higher consciousness prevails.
As it appears to have occurred with many of the great names in the previous 15th century’s Italian Renaissance.
In such a realm of finer consciousness, genius flowers and one or several ‘individuals’ express its benefits, its universals? And is higher consciousness the mystical, metaphysical activities of the gods, to whom men can only be supplicants?
Shakspere without doubt tapped into a higher level of consciousness. This allowed his consciousness, Being and mind the energy and clarity to function most productively and universally.
Another miracle is ego-lessness, which few humans ever have attained.
Hazlitt saw Shakspere as the least of an egotist that it was possible to be. “He was nothing in himself, but he was all that others were, or that they could become.”
It resounds the comment, as we have been discussing, that “Genius is someone standing on the shoulders of giants!” And aware of it all. We might ask rhetorically, OR even seriously, just who was the ‘foundational giant’ that Shakspere associated with and was influenced by?
As with the Authorship Mystery itself, it is all part of what some would say is the Divine mystery. Truly, said the London teacher, mentioned earlier, “Genius is the soul’s capacity to hear the voice of God.” And, quoting ancient Sanskrit, she mentioned, “Truth is that fine line between God and our own ego.”
The quotation beneath the Heading, at the start of this ‘essay’, is by a Professor of Mathematics of today, and an observer of what follows …
In 2001 in the USA there was news of a 12 year old child prodigy who is a brilliant mathematician, with an IQ that “runs off the scale”. At 14 months he could solve arithmetical problems. At kindergarten he knew the alphabet, could read books and could do simple algebra. By six he picked up faults in textbooks. He completed senior school in two years with A-plus averages. He aims for four Phds by his 18th year.
His Professor of Mathematics at College is immensely impressed but says cautiously that by the definition (of genius, earlier in this essay), the boy has “some way to go.”
Very notably, this young ‘giant’ says he has dedicated his life to helping others, and believes in working through children. He set up a foundation for peace through education and has spoken in six countries and raises money by giving addresses to a variety of audiences.
He is responsible, well behaved, confident and careful in speech, a mixture of ‘early years’ innocence and spiritual-dimension ambition, and is balanced, with a range of interests and ordinary activities. His parents, bright, intelligent and ‘ordinary’, say he has a great deal of innate wisdom and has “purity of spirit.”
Quoting the London teacher on the plays, and why not this gifted modern American? :
“They show us the human condition
There is not critical judgement
There is an underlying forgiveness
Love pours forth and goodness triumphs”
Some characters, personalities survive, some vanish… all have played their parts. The note of optimism is eternal.
This now-14 year old seems blessed with the “makings” of a truly “worthwhile life” from which Mankind will benefit.
Is he able enough to avoid the many pitfalls often awaiting the child genius turning into man? Particularly as he is, in his time, unavoidably and unchangeably in the spotlight of this global village, of the global Media, as the man Shakspere never was.