15 February 2010

Havelock Ellis on genius

The following is an extract from A Study of British Genius by the psychologist Havelock Ellis, published in 1904.

Every original worker in intellectual fields, every man who makes some new thing, is certain to arouse hostility where he does not meet with indifference [...] It is practically impossible to estimate the amount of persecution to which this group of pre-eminent British persons has been subjected, for it has shown itself in innumerable forms, and varies between a mere passive refusal to have anything whatever to do with them or their work and the active infliction of physical torture and death.*

I, throughout my life, have certainly encountered a great deal of hostility, which I suppose arose from the fact that I was perceived as someone who might do something innovative or unfashionable if I was allowed to do anything.

The hostility and obstruction that is aroused by people with high IQs and/or autonomous motivation not only ruined my education and subsequent life but has played a large part in the deterioration of Western civilisation.

SBG was revised in 1926 but has been largely ignored for at least the last fifty years, as has the particular approach which Ellis took to the topic of genius, a topic which itself has been fairly unfashionable for some time. Bringing Ellis’s work up to date is one of the ways in which we could be helping to keep suppressed points of view alive, particularly by relating it to modern prejudices in the areas in which it deals. We hereby appeal for funding to do so.

* Havelock Ellis, A Study of British Genius, Hurst and Blackett, London 1904, pp. 221-223