Lipton’s Journal/January 31, 1955/337

From Project Mailer

The conservatism of the female element applies even to heaven. The woman, reaching heaven, is content to stay there. The male element demands to go on—“Is it possible,” he asks with curiosity, “that beyond Heaven there may be Hell. If so, we have to take a look at it.”

This is the essence of genius, and provides a clue to why there have been so many more men geniuses than women—leaving social considerations aside—finally women did not rebel against their suppressed social role for so many centuries because it was not that essential to them, and indeed much of their “social liberation” is due to the efforts of men, the radical rationalists of the nineteenth century.

The genius is a person who cannot bear the answer—like the physicist (and in science one finds the most geniuses because science is the most social of the arts, so social that it is nominally called knowledge, and therefore it receives the most sanction.) But to repeat, the genius cannot bear the answer, he must go on to pose a new question. So, no matter what nominally he is doing, he is journeying deeper and deeper into the H, for the H contains all wisdom possible at any age to man since it is a part of life.

But to do this, the genius must make a voyage which is opposed to society. No matter what his own notion of it, he is always attacking society because he is always carrying further our knowledge of the Self. (Note, word echo: Knowledge is now—ledge. It is society’s use of soul-intuition. It is the present ledge, the present petrifaction of what the souls of the past have given us.) But to go into the self is to go against society which demands as the condition of its being that people be as self-less (not unselfish—a very important distinction) as possible in order that they be more malleable.

So, the genius always carries with him the fear of Hell which is society’s most poetic symbol of the punishment it gives for above all symbols, even above Heaven which is misty to people while Hell is concrete (this true even for organized religions and Stalinism and Hitlerism which make Hell concrete, and leave Heaven to take care of itself). So, as a poetic symbol, Hell is capable of speaking to the deep self. And the genius moves into beauty—which is danger, and into exaltation—which is terror.

The genius is a man, therefore, who is tormented all of his life by doubt whether he is a saint or a psychopath, good or evil. He is the gambler carried to divinity, for the genius wagers every creative instant of his existence that he is going to heaven and not to hell, and therefore he must be obsessed with feelings of terror and danger. It is a bet to take one’s breath away—not to know never whether one goes to Heaven or Hell, and to be always aware that either is possible. What makes a genius is his incredible courage for he is a man who lives always in fear, and yet continues.