Posted by: glue | September 19, 2008

Artificial Genius

Heuretics works by analogy.  What does our tradition already know and believe about descent (avatar)?  Until modernity, in the Hellenistic Christian syncretic account of human being, each embodied person was an avatar (a spirit descended into a body).   During the descent from pure spirit the soul passes through the celestial realm of Daimons, the messengers between God and humans.  “Daimon” also named the guardian spirit that was born and passed away with each one.

“Daimon” has a complex history.  Heidegger complained in general about the betrayal or distortion due to Latin translations of Greek terms.  “Daimon” in Latin is “genius.”  Christianity demonized daimons of course.  A recent poll showed that two out of three Americans believe in the reality of angels and demons, and over half believe they have a personal guardian angel.   This collective state of mind is a mixed blessing for electracy, in that avatar in apparatus terms is a prosthetic daimon.  The experience of avatar (within a database environment) is that of an encounter with my daimon (guardian angel, genius).  The relay for this experience, however, is the Liberal Arts  (the likes of Socrates, Goethe, Nietzsche), rather than religion.  A prototype is Nietzsche’s account of how the notion of the eternal return came to him.

Pain's Sinkhole

Sinkhole Allegory

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you:  ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every  pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence –- even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself.  The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’  Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him:  ‘you are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.'”  (Nietzsche, The Gay Science, #341).

Avatar is a relationship:  me, my nature (genius), the outside.  Avatar reopens encounter with a guardian demon.  Warning:  it may not be so pleasant.


  1. Figure, Pattern

    I used the Eliade book cover as the image because it echoes (links with) the scene of the sinkhole pond at Payne’s Prairie that emerged as my landscape avatar within the disaster thread. See the post “Strangescape” (August 21).

  2. Logic of Invention

    It was inevitable, given the connection with creativity, discovery, invention (Eureka) that reflection on heuretics would address the tradition and nature of “genius.” The reduced notion of “genius” that we inherited from Romanticism (the overflow of natural talent; the genius gives the law to nature), however, must be positioned within the larger history and genealogy of the category.

    At least through the Renaissance, Genius (Daimon) was a tutelary spirit or guardian angel that was born and died with an individual. This spirit functioned as measure or limit as well as gift. The notion is related to conatus as virtue, disposition, temperament, being a personification or mythologizing of one’s embodied nature.

    A complicating factor is that one’s birth and life path were overseen not only by Daimon (Genius), but four other personified forces: Tyche (Chance), Eros (Love), Ananke (Necessity), Elpis (Hope). One’s destiny is an emergent direction, dialogically generated through the interaction of these five forces (elements, principles).

    In the renegotiation of subject formation underway in electracy, these arrangements, relative to creativity, are being reconfigured once again. Time to revisit “genius,” to rescue it from both its overestimation in Romanticism, and underestimation in “death of the subject” postmodernism.

  3. Perhaps that term “genius” – which has many negative connataions – is simply that capacity in every human being for a flash of recognition, insight into truth, the opening portal to wisdom that all are capable of experiencing. “Genius” may not be the domain of a few “intelligent” beings, but truely the “home” site where each of us commune and briefly understand our inter-connectedness. JanW.

  4. “Genius” is a concept and capacity that would benefit from a genealogy (Nietzsche + Foucault). The history of this term and its associated behaviors provides some important guidance for flash reason in general, and avatar in particular. The I Ching offers a useful relay for this recovery. When an oracle informs me of what my better part would do, that is a conversation with “genius” that may be adapted to digital support.

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