What did I know?
Psychopathy and Creativity are intimately related.
Today’s Psychopathic Times has a stunning article: What do psychopaths and creatives have in common? I have always cherished our ability to “think outside the box,” conscience-free, able to go wherever our muse leads us. Some great artists have been considered scandalous. My favorite composer, Richard Wagner, was, as my mother called me, “a law unto (my)himself.” What got tongues wagging the most was his tendency to borrow money without paying it back. My sister and I got into some heated arguments. I maintained the great music he composed more than paid for whatever he owed. Later, when society’s widespread anti-Semitism fell into general disfavor (without necessarily diminishing), Wagner was attacked for being anti-Semitic. The fact that anti-Semitism was part of society, not considered antisocial at all, didn’t seem to matter. Now a man can be retroactively antisocial as the social standards change and make what was normal now demonized. If that hadn’t been enough, Hitler loved Wagner’s work (as do many other people) and caused his work to become associated with Nazism in the minds of the public and historians. The fact that there is a vast distance between loving and being loved seems to elude Wagner’s critics.
Blake, an indisputably great poet and artist wrote the Proverbs of Hell. Some of them were “The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.” That has always struck of chord with me. Others are
- “The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow.”
- “The road of folly leads to the palace of wisdom.”
- “Sooner murder an infant in it’s cradle than nurse unacted desires.”
- “You never know what is enough until you know what is too much.”
Blake also painted the Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in the Sun. This stunning painting has been featured in Thomas Harris’ novel, The Red Dragon, the first on the Hannibal Lecter novels, and Diary of a Drug Fiend, by Aleister Crowley.
Some artists outraged common sensibilities by their very creativity. Wagner, Blake, Crowley and even Ayn Rand were among them. Rand has often been called a “psychopath” due to her philosophy. I don’t agree with her social Darwinism. However, her daring to state that selfishness is a good thing pushed many buttons. She ever wrote an essay called The Virtue of Selfishness. Isn’t that what psychopaths are always being damned for? Crowley, of course, is notorious. He has been nicknamed “the evilest man on earth” for his colorful reputation, some of it earned and some made up.
Freedom enables “antisocial” acts as well as sublime acts of creativity. There’s a slogan that well-behaved women never make history. Of course, that was more about politics than art but the underlying issue is freedom, after all. Those who dare step outside the protective confines of society can be monsters or geniuses or just people who have a greater range of choices because we have taken them. We all have an aura of the forbidden. As Coleridge wrote in his wonderful poem, Xanadu — Kubla Kahn.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.