A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
~ Robert Heinlein
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
~ Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
All great men, then, have a conviction, really independent of external proof, that they have a soul.
~ Otto Wieninger
Evola wrote to Guenon to clarify what is meant by “Real Man” and this is a summary – with comments – of the response he received.
Every Real Man has realized all the possibilities of the human condition, but each one has does so in a way which is typical of him alone, and which differentiates him from all other Real Men. If that were not the case, how could there be room, in our world, even for beings who have not achieved that level?
In other places, Guenon identifies this as the characteristic of a man of the Kshatriya caste. This differentiates him from the Brahmin caste, whose goal is the jivan-mukta – liberated while still in this life – who has realized the totality of the possibilities of all the states of being.
In order to realize his possibilities, the Real Man needs to engage the world. Since Guenon’s characterisation is general and therefore vague, it is instructive to compare the concept of the Real Man with the concept of the Genius as described in great detail by Otto Weininger in has masterwork, Sex and Character. He writes: “Genius is, in its essence, nothing but the full completion of the idea of a man.” It is remarkable how close these two conceptions are, despite coming from radically different sources.
The Genius, then, has a complete understanding of men, since he embraces all their personalities in his own consciousness. This is how the great Leader is able to deal appropiately with many sorts of men, or how the great Writer can describe so many varied characters, their actions, and their motives. Weininger writes:
The man of genius takes his place as someone who understands other beings incomparably more than the average man does. Goethe is said to have said of himself that there was no vice or crime of which he could not trace the tendency in himself, and that at some period of his life he could not have understood fully. The genius, therefore, is a more complicated, more richly endowed, more varied man; and a man is the closer to being a genius the more men he has in his personality, and the more really and strongly he has these others within him.
This is what makes the Genius free. Since he has more possibilities, he has more choices in any situation. The lesser man is inhibited and restricted by his own personality.
And so the ideal genius, who has all men within him, has also all their preferences and all their dislikes. There is in him not only the universality of men, but of all nature. He is the man to whom all things tell their secrets, to whom most happens, and whom least escapes. He understands most things, and those most deeply, because he has the greatest number of things to contrast and compare them with. The genius is he who is conscious of most, and of that most acutely.
The Genius is distinguished from the merely talented man by his universality. The latter may do one thing well, even very well, but he is still not a Genius. The talented man may develop one idea, perhaps two, but then spends the rest of his life as a series of footnotes to that original impulse. A new idea has little chance of penetrating his mind.
Universality is the distinguishing mark of genius. There is no such thing as a special genius, a genius for mathematics, or for music, or even for chess, but only a universal genius. The genius is a man who knows everything without having learned it.