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  “genius” in classical Greece
gary e. davis
May 2020
Genius was at first “an attendant spirit of a person or place : tutelary deity” (M-W Unabridged). Spirit was “the animating or vital principle giving life.” A deity was “the essential nature of a supreme being.”

One had a genius, a notion born of Greek genea: birth, race, family; or genos: race, kin, kind—born of gignesthai: to be born. To have genius was to have a lineage that is tutelary—“having the guardianship or charge of protecting a person or being”—personified. To have genius was to have good lineage personified, not in the beginning to be a “genius.” One grows up thanks to one’s genius, which remains distinct from oneself—a humility, I’d venture, that is privileged to draw on reserves of wisdom that are never depleted. To have a genius is to retain the channel of a kind of wisdom. To have genius is to be humbly wise in a special sense.

There were many dieties, thus many supreme beings. Which supreme beings prevailed for one’s genius could vary.

The original Greek deities were sources of domain-specific knowledge (knowing how and knowing that) who oriented seekers in, and/or practitioners of, their special regions (being) of being (seeking, practicing).

The deities were not “gods,” per se. The notion of a god derives from our theistic history of the singular “God,” which is theo-logical (i.e., neo-Platonic). Originally,
a “god” was a northern European notion of calling which traces back to Sanskrit havate: “he calls, invokes,” which associates to Greek kauchasthai: “to boast” (showing sophistry?).

The Greek dieties were divisions of experienced spirituality, i.e., divisions of
“the animating or vital principle giving life” (M-W Unabridged): natural powers (personified as supreme beings), respected sacredly for the sake of prosperity, thus for avoidance of suffering and early death.

The notion of singular power (supreme being) is a creature of human desire for ultimate cohering, striving for conceivability of all unintegrated beings being experienced, which years of experience across generations distills into proper-named powers (dieties) that cannot be in singularity for humans because the plural sufficiency of their comprehensive interplay, as Nature showing in Time, is incomprehensible for humans. Ultimate comprehensibility, thus ultimate comprehension, belongs to the supreme beings among themselves, whose callings draw humans into the appeal of their comprehensive interplay.

Yet, it’s singularly human to strive to comprehend the powers altogether. Mean-while, a genius may embody oneself. Yet, only plural humanity can embody them all. The ultimacy of genius is at once among/within the ultimacy of “Us.”

next—> “genius” in Latin life



  Be fair. © 2020, gary e. davis