What is the nature of genius? Where does it come from? And what can we learn from this phenomenon? These are some of the questions, which are raised by the film 32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD, the legendary Canadian pianist (1932-1982).
In an interesting and original way this film pays tribute to the genius of Glenn Gould. As a rule, the "title" of genius is rarely bestowed upon a performer. It is usually reserved for the composers - the general feeling being that, after all, a performer only interprets what the composer has already written down. This is a fair distinction, except for those few occasions when a performer happens to stand on the same level with the composers, whose music he is interpreting. Glenn Gould was such a performer, and this fact was acknowledged early on in his career. After his first public recital, which included works of Scarlatti, Beethoven, Chopin and Liszt, a reviewer wrote of Gould: "genius as profound as their own was at the keyboard".
It is interesting to note that in today's world, in an atmosphere distinctly marked by skepticism and even disdain for all the high human concepts and ideals, the word "genius", for some mysterious reason, still elicits in the hearts of most people an attitude of reverence. Even those human beings, who use the Creator's Name daily in countless thoughtless exclamations, halt in quiet respect before the name "genius". In striking contrast to all other words, this word is used sparingly and its usage is carefully guarded and controlled by the user. (The day is no longer far off, when human beings will have to learn that ALL words of the language must be treated in such a responsible manner, because each word produces a distinct vibration, which functions much like each note of a musical composition, contributing to its overall beauty or ugliness, serenity or brutality, vulgarity or purity - and, in reality, through our choice of words, among other things, we indeed have been given the ability to determine the "composition" of our own fate. And just as it would be pointless to blame Mozart for a bad performance of his work, so it is pointless to blame the Creator for a bad life: in both cases, all the necessary "materials" for a successful "performance" have been provided - the rest is our responsibility to acquire the True Knowledge of how to use these "materials" of life.)
The film highlights the abilities and the genius of Glenn Gould, and at the same time it does not conceal the fact that he was plagued by eccentricities and phobias. Nevertheless, Gould's earnest attempts to restructure his personal life around the concepts he was projecting in his music (purity, serenity, heroism) are worthy of note and even admiration. Of course, some of what people regarded as "eccentricities" were actually strides in the right direction: Gould's expressed need for solitude, for instance. It was regarded almost as a kind of malady, for which he should have sought a cure. Yet in today's world of communal familiarity and increasing promotion of togetherness as a way to happiness the value of solitude needs to be rediscovered by every individual, who does not wish to be engulfed by the herd mentality. Without solitude there can be no introspection; and without introspection there can be no inner-deepening, which alone brings one to the point of asking that age-old question: "Why am I living?"- but asking it in such a way as though no one had ever asked it before!
While Gould engaged in many activities besides piano playing, it is only in his piano playing that his genius is truly revealed. Therefore, it is fortunate that the film makes generous use of his recordings. His interpretations of well-known pieces, which have been played and recorded almost to death (such as Mozart and Beethoven sonatas) are so unexpected as to leave one breathless. This familiar music sounds so fresh in Gould's hands that at first one feels somewhat disoriented: is this really Mozart? Could this be Bach? Might not this be Beethoven himself playing his own sonatas? And yet Gould's originality is NOT the result of intellectual cleverness. Rather it is his heightened intuition that makes it possible for him to make time stand still, while his spirit speaks to us through music, which has been inspired from Above, from beyond time and space. That is why his playing has that "timeless" quality, be it J.S. Bach, Mozart or Beethoven. When listening to Gould playing these pieces, which have been played over and over again (and which one has played oneself), a statement of Henry David Thoreau comes to mind on how the works of great poets have never been read, for only great poets can read them.
The mystery connected with the origin of genius has occupied humanity for some time. However, all that could be done up till now was simply to chronicle the exceptional abilities of certain individuals. This film too documents such abilities, which manifested already early on in Gould's life. In centuries past, it used to be said that these abilities are "a gift from God". While this broad and vague statement contains something of the Truth, it doesn't give a clue as to the actual process of such an acquisition. Unfortunately, in the course of time, some artists have come to believe that their gift comes directly from God. This view is simply the result of utter ignorance about the actual order and hierarchy in Creation. Man's placement within the structure of Creation does not give him direct access to the Godhead at any time - not even if he reaches the highest pinnacle of perfection possible for a human being. This is because man's inner core is comprised of SPIRIT, but NOT DIVINITY. Spirit is a much lower gradation than Divinity in the natural hierarchal structure of Creation.
Another view on the nature of genius has emerged in the more modern times. This view attributes the phenomenon of genius to the development of the brain. Here too the lack of real Knowledge is in evidence. The brain, together with the physical body, belongs to the level of matter - the lowest level in the structure of Creation. Even the brain activity (intellectual activity) cannot rise above this low level. Everything material (including the brain and the body) is meant to be only a temporary instrument for the activity of the spirit, which alone is the actual inner core of man. Much like the piano, no matter how finely tuned and crafted, remains only a tool at the disposal of the pianist, so the intellect must remain a well-functioning tool at the disposal of the human spirit. This means, it must always remain subordinate to the spirit. The prevailing interchangeable use of the words intellect and spirit once again indicates the failure to acquire the Knowledge to distinguish between the essence of man (spirit) and his tool (intellect). And while the Level of the Spirit is infinitely lower than the Level of Divinity, it is nevertheless infinitely higher than the Level of Matter. In other words, the Level of the Spirit (from which man originates and to which he belongs) is located in-between the Level of Matter and the Level of Divinity. This awareness of the hierarchy in Creation is crucial to unraveling the mystery of the origin of genius.
From a few simple facts stated above, concerning the actual structure of Creation, it becomes easy to see the following:
1) genius is NOT DIVINE, because man himself is only SPIRIT (in his core)
2) genius is NOT INTELLECT, because man himself (by virtue of his SPIRITUAL core) stands above matter.
Every spirit (every human being) must descend into the Level of Matter in order to develop consciousness. If he or she develops this consciousness along the spiritual lines, then (and only then) can such a spiritually developed human being return to the Realm of the Spirit. If, on the other hand, he or she decides to develop and cultivate the lower material inclinations during the formation of consciousness, then for such a spiritually underdeveloped human being the return to the Realm of the Spirit is impossible. In view of this, the role of geniuses (in all art forms) becomes clarified: they turn our attention towards and help us develop the spiritual qualities within us. (Needless to say, those artists, who cultivate intellectual cleverness over beauty, do not deserve to be called geniuses.) But the artists, who use their gifts to further and nourish the virtues of nobility, courage , purity (to name just a few) do help immeasurably in the upliftment of the entire humanity as well as in their own spiritual advancement. For the geniuses do not receive spiritual Knowledge along with their gifts (as they themselves demonstrate on numerous occasions). But through their heightened spiritual sensitivity they do receive an additional impetus to seek this special Knowledge for themselves. And only the complete Knowledge of the exact processes of interaction between the various levels of Creation and of the interconnections between these levels (all the way up to the Creator) can form the foundation for the right understanding of where genius comes from. This special Knowledge is contained in the book "IN THE LIGHT OF TRUTH: THE GRAIL MESSAGE" by Abd-ru-shin.