The scientific basis of genius, even more elusive than anecdotal
observations and behavioral theories, is nevertheless an area ripe
for exploration. Some have traipsed in this territory, including
the late Maxwell Cade, a British psychobiologist and biophysicist.
He and electronics expert Geoffrey Blumdell developed a special
electroencephalograph (EEG), dubbed the Mind Mirror, to measure
different frequencies in each brain hemisphere and thus map various
states of mind. Cade was particularly struck by a pattern he called
Anna Wise, author of The High-Performance Mind (Tarcher/Putnam,
1997), continued Cade’s investigations in the United States. She
found that the awakened-mind pattern was ‘produced at the moment of
creative inspiration, regardless of a person’s spiritual dogma,
belief, or tradition. The musician composing, the choreographer
creating a dance, and the artist painting all produced this
combination at times of peak creativity.’ So too did scientists
performing experiments and mathematicians solving difficult
In her book, Wise describes four types of brain waves and the
kinds of activities that might produce them. At the top of the
pattern are beta waves, associated with logical thinking, concrete
problem-solving, and focus on the outside world. In a waking state,
most people produce splayed beta waves, indicating an overabundance
of mental activity: planning, judging, making lists. Too much beta
can mean anxiety, tension, and panic — or what we may refer to as
the stress of everyday life.
Next down in the pattern are alpha waves, associated with
daydreaming, fantasizing, and visualization. They are the bridge
between the conscious and the subconscious mind. Most of us don’t
produce enough alpha. The initial biofeedback research in the late
’50s and ’60s involved discovering how to amplify alpha waves,
which, researchers found, can be done by relaxing, closing your
eyes, and following guided imagery exercises.
Below the alphas are theta waves, also linked to meditative
states. Theta is the subconscious, the seat of memories,
sensations, and emotions. Active during dreaming sleep and deep
meditation, these waves are also the repository of suppressed
creativity and inspiration.
Delta waves form the base of the pattern; they are the
unconscious mind. Intuition and empathy exist here, as a sort of
personal radar active during deep sleep, yet also present in waking
Within each brain-wave category is a range of frequencies, which
provide each of us with a ‘signature pattern.’ But the
awakened-mind pattern is distinctive: It’s characterized by strong
alpha waves and creates the exhilarating, inspired, transcendent
feeling of ‘knowing that you know.’ To produce this pattern, one
must first clear out all the beta waves, practice meditations that
induce both alpha and theta, then add the beta back in to achieve
the conscious content necessary for creative endeavors. The last
step is not so simple: You need the right frequencies and
quantities of beta to accomplish your purpose.
Much of the creative state is passive; you must allow ideas to
arise. But for the parts that are active, Wise suggests practicing
mental fluency exercises — like this one from her book — that can
teach you to awaken your mind by stretching your imagination.
First, relax and get still; then let your mind go wild.
Adapted from an article that originally
appeared in the May 1998 issue ofThe Futurist.Used
with permission from the World Future Society, 7910 Woodmont Av.,
Suite 450, Bethesda, MD 20814; 301/656-8274; www.wfs.org.