All major creators can
be significantly grouped in 14 challenged personality
Therivel's GAM/DP Theory of Personality and Creativity.
The Fourteen GAM-Challenged
The above is the title of chapter 3 of volume 1 of
William A. Therivel's The GAM/DP Theory of Personality
and Creativity (G stands for genetic
endowment, A for assistances of youth, M
for misfortunes of youth, DP for division of
power, UP for unity of power). For an introduction
to the GAM part of the theory click "Introduction
to GAM"; for an introduction to the DP
part click on "Introduction
In this website, the reader is also offered a shortcut:
The GAM/DP Synopsis
and an expanded version, The GAM/DP
Summary of volumes 1 through 4.
Hereafter are excerpts of this chapter:
are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its
own way," said Tolstoy at the very beginning of
his novel Anna Karenina. This observation applies
specifically to the challenged personality shaped by
major misfortunes of youth, because all misfortunes
hurt; all bring unhappiness.
Yet, something more can
be said about the challenged personalities without denying
their strong diversity. That something concerns a certain,
limited for sure, similarity among those affected by
the same kind of misfortune. Within this optic, in this
chapter, the GAM theory is applied to the study of the
specific impact on personality of each of 14 major creativogenic
misfortunes when backed by sufficient assistances. Not
included, therefore, are misfortunes, like slavery and
child abuse, which by their very nature exclude, or
greatly reduce, the assistances.
The main source of my
data is a lifelong interest in the lives of eminent
people, their youth in particular, as described and
discussed in biographies. By now, I have studied more
than three hundred eminent people, often reading several
works on each of them, for instance more than 20 biographies
on Napoleon, (one of them by Louis Madelin in 14 volumes),
and not counting the biographies of several of his key
men, e.g. Talleyrand, Caulaincourt; more than ten biographies
on Hitler; about half a dozen each on Mozart, Goethe,
Picasso, Tolstoy, and Thomas Mann.
I have always focused
my attention on the origins of these eminent people,
being thankful to the many good biographies which devote
a chapter (or several) to their subject's youth, with
emphasis on any major misfortune of youth, and on all
assistances from parents, relatives, friends, schools,
cultural and socioeconomic status, and the general environment.
Good biographers often explain the personality and works
of their subjects in terms of the misfortunes, assistances,
cultural influences and historical events of youth and
adulthood. Gradually, I noticed that several of the
explanations given were similar when dealing with similar
misfortunes and assistances of youth. I expanded these
explanations with my own observations. The results of
this work are summarized in Table 1 devoted to 15 personality
families-one dedicated and 14 challenged.
Later, this table was used to develop the 15 personality
dimensions, which I tested empirically (Therivel 1988,
1990) as discussed in the next chapter.
The eminent creators of
Table 1 are first to be considered as exemplars chosen
because of the clarity of their misfortunes, assistances,
philosophy of life, and nature of their works. They
can help in understanding others similarly challenged.
Also, the short presentations of the misfortunes and
assistance of each exemplar may provide evidence for
GAM if the readers, based on their own knowledge, find
that Table 1 makes sense to them. For instance, most
of us are aware of the different impact of love versus
abuse on a child, or of two loving parents versus two
who betray and hate each other. It should not come as
a surprise that the pains of suffered illegitimacy (especially
in the past when illegitimate birth brought major injustices
and insults) has a major negative impact on the vision
that a person has of parenthood, of God, of society.
This impact and derived personality will clearly be
different from that of an orphan, or a blind youth,
to whom many give friendly and generous help: a kind
of help that was rarely given to the illegitimate.
In other words, it is
hoped that GAM will be found intuitive as soon as the
reader becomes attuned to Figure 1 and Table 1, and
pardons the author for the strange names he chose. I
hope, by a second reading, those names should not only
sound familiar but also make sense. For instance, the
real alchemists wanted to transform lead or other material
into gold; the GAM alchemists, as discussed shortly,
transform many of their life experiences into artistic
However, one must not
forget that everybody is affected by a multiplicity
of influences: some have little impact or are balanced
by others, some instead leave deep scars. For instance,
Mozart suffered bitterly from the oppression by his
master, the prince-archbishop of Salzburg, and from
other aristocrats. Indeed, Mozart's two greatest operas,
Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro
(and possibly too the finale of The Abduction from
the Seraglio), were blistering reforming
(GAM-challenged family #6) critiques of their abuses.
Some people are so affected by major misfortunes (or
assistances) of adulthood that their later personalities
(and related scripts) have no clear relation to the
misfortune(s) of their youth. In such cases, even if
they remain challenged personalities, table 1 does not
apply to them.
The GAM Dedicated and 14 Challenged Personality Families:
Causes and Results.
No major misfortune
conservative; sociable, realistic, mature, many
old and new friends; strong family and community
ties; in academia, science, and the arts, they work
within the system
parental death or much parental coupled with love
and good assistance from the remaining parent or
relatives; good assistance from school and stable
of moral concepts that are logical and prescriptive;
absence, have penchant for vast, non- relativistic,
theoretical thinking; fond of higher intellectual
pursuits such as religion, philosophy, mathematics,
science and law.
same as universalists, but are involved from
an early age in an aristocratic, upper class, military,
professional or business environment.
vision and great enterprise; give priority to the
institution they are part of or have created. (Many
of the greatest statesmen, founders of great enterprises
and/or great families).
infirmity, coupled with much parental love and assistances
escape from this world by putting emphasis on intellectual
or spiritual matters; search for answers, especially
from religion or philosophy or mathematics, science,
or engineering. Many mystics are seekers.
professional/character failure;coupled with quality
courageous, protean; perpetually shaping and creating;
often moving to new grounds in their love for variety
and pantheistic synthesis
or uprootedness (e.g., forced conversion or assimilation
of parents to religion or ethnic ways of majority;major
changes of abode; major religious or cultural differences
between parents); good assistance
critical thinkers; relativistic; often hold cosmopolitan
and pragmatic attitudes.
paternal domination (e.g., a successful father wants
to guide and help too much, makes heavy use of the
power of the purse to achieve his aims)
any kind of personal or social tyranny; want to
stop abuse; malpractice, and corruptive power; want
to make the world better by removing defect and
by demolishing oppressive superstructures
who often compensate by escaping into their own
world of imaginary excitement; avoid emotional involvement;
patient, sharp observers of people and of the ambiguities
of loyalties; often hold a negative view of the
between father and mother (e.g., arguments, fights,
with the possibility of a meaningful dialogue; critical
of society; often cynical and disconcertingly remote;
sharp observers of the contrast between appearances
of love (e.g., lack of love from remaining parent
after one died, divorced or was pushed aside)
with a tendency to pessimism and satire; sharp eye
for hypocrisy (Many great poets are miners)
indolent, forgetful, procrastinating; moody, with
strong fluctuations of temper; sometimes bitingly
satirical; mixture of passive and aggressive; resists
demands of others.
paternal domination often Compounded by physical
tortured, introverted, outwardly cool, self-controlled;
concerned to appear in the best light, while inwardly
harboring feelings of Insecurity and repressed rebellion;
often detached, reticent, seemingly unemotional;
small remnant of the reformer's zeal.
or humiliating physical Infirmities
eye for anything that is sick in people and society;
may have some religious or mystical interests (like
seekers), but permeated with pessimism
parental death or parental separation with subsequent
downfall of family fortunes and status in which
society is seen as the main culprit of their suffering
and identify with the oppressed, the partisan, and
the clown; humor is the preferred weapon of attack
and defense; vitriolic social criticism
that say that the child is not as "legitimate"
as other siblings or peers and that the child is
stained, inferior realists
bitterly uprooted; without illusions; little respect
for parenthood, marriage, family, and society; ambitious
In line with table 1,
I will hereafter discuss Mozart, Goethe and Picasso
(and a few others) as GAM alchemists.
are shaped by the misfortune of paternal or maternal
failure (character or professional): a challenge met
successfully thanks to good assistance from the mother,
the father, or other relatives and friends, moderate
to good SES, and a valid genetic endowment.
As discussed, the father
of Mozart (and then his family) suffered from his inability
to be promoted to the rank of Kappellmeister.
The difficult character of Goethe's father made him
into a grumpy recluse, a situation that left his wife
and son free to live their own lives. With the fathers
of Picasso, Einstein, and Walt Disney it was plain professional
or business failure. In the case of father Marx (he
was the son of a rabbi and was married to the daughter
of a rabbi, and his brother was a rabbi), his failure
of character (in the eyes of many) was his conversion
to Protestantism solely in order to be able to continue
his profession of counselor-at-law to the High Court
of Appeals in Trier.
Marx and Einstein are
not fully alchemists because of the added misfortune
of uprootedness or rootlessness. Marx was baptized at
the age of seven, following the conversion of his father.
His mother converted later, only after the death of
her father. None of these conversions had anything to
do with religion. The parents of Einstein were lax Jews
who sent "Albert and his sister, Maja, two and
half years his junior, to the nearby Catholic elementary
school, where the two children learned the traditions
and tenets of the Catholic faith" (Hoffmann, 1972,
The failure of the father
of Jung is special because his shortcomings became evident
in the way he exercised his ministry for the Lutheran
Reformed Church. Jung wrote: "For my father in
particular I felt compassion-less, curiously enough,
for my mother. She always seemed to me the stronger
of the two. Nevertheless I always felt on her side when
my father gave vent to his moody irritability . . .
What he said [about grace] sounded stale and hollow,
like a tale told by someone who knows it only by hearsay
and cannot quite believe it himself" (1977, pp.
one step forward in the study of the misfortune, the
following on the nine-year-old Mozart is indicative
of his "professional" relationship with his
score was no sooner put upon his desk, than he began
to play the symphony in a most masterly manner,
as well as the time and style which corresponded
with the intention of the composer . . . His voice
in the tone of it was thin and infantine, but nothing
could exceed the masterly way in which he sung.
His father, who took the underpart of the duet,
was once or twice out . . . on which occasions the
son looked back with some anger pointing out to
him his mistakes (related by Daines Barrington,
who in June 1765, was sent to test Mozart's powers,
and reported by Shaffer, 1979, p. 10).
Goethe, remembering his youth (at the age of
10 to 13) wrote:
father] siding as he did with the Prussians, was
now to find himself besieged in his own chambers
by the French: it was, according to his way of thinking,
the greatest misfortune that could happen to him.
Had it, however, been possible for him to have taken
the matter more easily, he might have saved himself
and us many sad hours; since he spoke French well
. . . For it was the king's lieutenant [Count Thoranc]
who was quartered on us [for two and one-half years]
. . . My father's ill humour increased; he could
not resign himself to the unavoidable. How he tormented
himself, my mother, the interpreter, the councillor
and all his friends, only to rid him of the count!
. . . In this, his activity, which he had used chiefly
to devote to us, was crippled" (Goethe, 1811-22/1969,
Goethe's mother, instead,
began to learn French, and her son followed her immediately
taking a passionate liking for French literature and
theater, something that further embittered the "daily
more of a hypochondriac self-tormentor" (p. 85).
On the side of the assistances, the paternal library,
with its many books in French and English, was a trove
for the young Goethe who became an aficionado of Shakespeare
to the point of organizing, in Frankfurt, at the age
of 22, the first Shakespeare festival in Continental
Picasso's father, Penrose wrote:
José had grown morose and rarely left the
house except to attend Mass. When not at work
he stood at the window watching the rain. One
evening, when the weather was less depressing,
he set a task for his son [aged 13] and went for
a stroll. . . . On his return, the pigeons were
completed, and so lifelike were their legs that
Don José, in a burst of emotion, abruptly
gave Pablo his own palette, brushes and colours,
saying that his son's talent was now mature, in
fact already greater than his own, and that he
himself would never paint again. (1981, p. 20)
And, in the words of
Howard Gardner (1993): "Picasso found it necessary
to denigrate his father and even to render an unflattering
portrait of him. While it is uncertain whether Picasso's
father actually stopped painting when his son surpassed
him, it is a matter of record that Pablo dropped his
father's surname, Ruiz, and elected to become known
to the world by his mother's name of Picasso" (p.
In a very compact way,
each of these biographical sketches speaks of the growth
of the son at the expense of the paternal failure. The
father was not in a position to guide or criticize effectively.
Correspondingly, the son, free of this guidance and
control, could try, experiment, and contrast his first
successes with the paternal failure or paralysis. The
son's errors were soon pardoned, even admired for their
daring, and in the end the whole family was behind the
lively youth who seemed able to transform into gold
everything he touched. Later on, these alchemists became
experts in converting into artistic gold even their
"failed relations." Goethe, for instance,
failed painfully in his courtship of Lotte Buff, but
triumphed over the situation by writing an extraordinarily
moving and beautiful novel (The Sorrows of Young
Werther) about that failure. But while in the novel,
Werther, his alter ego, committed suicide, so
high and irreplaceable was his love for Lotte, Goethe,
the artist, moved on, "cleared of failure"
by his superb act of creation.
Alchemists are superbly
manifold in their creativity-true Proteuses. They can
create marvels on the spur of the moment and enjoy doing
it, especially when making fun at the expense of others
and of themselves.
Mozart was one
of the greatest musical geniuses of all times, one of
the world's three or four leading operatic composers,
the superb creator of masses, cantatas, oratorios, orchestral
works, and chamber and keyboard music. He was also a
poet with a wonderful sense of humor as shown, for instance,
in the poem he wrote for the marriage of his sister
(see Mozart, 1972, p.225).
and its diversity is phenomenal: poems, novels, political
and psychological plays. He was also a critic, journalist,
painter, theater manager, statesman, educationalist,
natural philosopher -- his writings on science alone
fill 14 volumes.
too, is unique for its intensity, volume, and diversity
of style and techniques: painting, drawing, engraving,
and collage, sculpture and constructions, pottery and
other mediums. He also wrote poetry and two plays.
More than the other challenged
personalities, the alchemists are like those red Japanese
dolls, the Darumas, which will not be kept down: release
the pressure, and immediately they stand up again. The
alchemists learned, in their youth, to always try again
to make something valuable, with a clear knowledge of
the difference between doing things well or failing
(as per the permanent example they had at home). But,
and we should not forget it, they could dare and experiment
in a protected environment: somebody was there should
the hero come back wounded or bruised.
Alchemists tend frequently
to move to new grounds in search of variety or pantheistic
syntheses. In the case of Mozart, we notice this not
only in his Don Giovanni (the Don is sent to
Hell by the Commendatore without any reference to religion
or God) but also in his The Abduction from the Seraglio,
where he and his librettist gave the highest praise
to Islam (and not Christianity) by showing the wonderful
generosity of Pasha Selim to his prisoner Belmonte,
the son of the Spanish commandant of Oran who, in Selim's
words, was "the cause of my exile. His relentless
greed deprived me of my beloved, whom I valued more
than life itself, robbed me of my honor, my wealth,
of everything; [still] I hold your father in too much
contempt to follow in his footsteps. Take Costanza.
Sail back to your homeland. Tell your father that you
were in my power and that I have set you free in order
to prove that it is a far greater pleasure to repay
injustice with kindness than evil with evil." Then,
for double measure, the final chorus of the opera repeats
many times: "Long live Selim. Blessed be his noble
virtues" (Bretzner, 1782/1956, pp. 156, 169, 178-79).
2. The GAM professional columns
Another way to understand
Mozart, and by contrast Salieri, consists in comparing
Mozart's personality and musical interests with those
of other exemplar-challenged composers on one side and
others with similar personalities but different professional
interests on the other, all classified in "families"
according to the GAM Theory of Personality as summarized
in table 1.
A first attempt at this
is presented in table 2, which shows four professional
columns (musical composers, religious personalities,
painters and sculptors, poets and novelists) and four
GAM rows (universalists, alchemists, radiologists, trappers)
out of the 14 challenged families of table 1. Basically
with table 2 it should be possible to detect corresponding
personality differences, family by family, down each
column. In turn, one should detect personality similarities
across each row even if, at times, veiled by professional
or medium differences.
Four GAM Rows and Four Professional Columns
(or field of interest)
Sor Juana de la Cruz
Leonardo da Vinci
Among the GAM universalists
we encounter some of the greatest names in the fields
of religion, philosophy, law, science, literature, music
and visual arts. Universalists were affected by the
misfortune of early parental death and, well assisted,
developed a thirst for high all-encompassing solutions,
with a strong feeling for the religious, as if the missing
parent would be with God, partake in some way of the
divinity, and protect, guide, or inspire son or daughter.
The works of the universalists are like medieval cathedrals
in their dimensions, full of harmony, and with high
luminous windows. Universalists are often very religious,
even if in their own distilled way, as were Bach, Dante,
Newton, and Tolstoy.
Here, I will deal with
Bach only and not delve into the well known universal
aspects of Buddha's and Muhammad's philosophical and
religious teachings, Dante's Divine Comedy, Tolstoy's
War and Peace, or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
Still some "causal dates" might be useful.
These dates are reported in table 3.
Few of these eminent
persons in table 3 are strict universalists, especially
the many who suffered additional major misfortunes of
youth, which for Dante, Michelangelo and Beethoven,
for instance, were father character and professional
failure. To try to compensate, one could use a system
of fractions (e.g., two-thirds universalist, one-third
alchemist) but the drawbacks would be too many. Also,
there are many persons whom one cannot classify at all
because of an overly complex blend of environmental
and genetic factors of youth or adulthood. In addition,
major subsequent difficulties of adulthood (e.g., health,
marriage, profession), or too much power and success
will bring major deviations, so much so that for some,
table 2 will reflect only a number of years and not
the whole life span. For instance, toward the end of
his life, the alchemist in Mozart began to disappear
under the impact of poor health and professional difficulties
from the neglect by the aristocracy which he had dared
to criticize. To this one may possibly add the impact
of a lower respect and love from his wife which, in
her, may have been proportional to her husband's success
Johann Sebastian Bach
Bach's mother died when
he was nine and his father one year after. Subsequently
he was assisted by his fourteen-years-older brother
Johann-Christoph, organist at the principal church of
Ohrdruf, and by his wife, Dorothea. These are conditions
that tend to give birth to a universalist personality
who often looks at God and religion as the source of
profoundly felt moral concepts that are logical and
prescriptive. These individuals look at God as the signifier
of individual and social life, as the signifier of history,
as the redeemer of all pains and injustices. Indeed,
"Bach was a deeply and sincerely religious man.
. . . His music was the expression of his religious
faith" (Seaver, 1969, p. 262). "The S.D.G.
(Soli Deo Gloria, 'to God alone praise') and
the J.J. (Jesu juva, 'Help me, Jesus!') with
which he garnishes his scores, are for him no formulas,
but the Credo that runs through all his work. Music
is an act of worship with Bach. His artistic activity
and his personality are both based on his piety. If
he is to be understood from any standpoint at all, it
is from this" (Schweitzer, 1966, I, pp. 166-167).
Similarly, "Bach led a fundamentally private existence
devoted to cultivating and perfecting his talents for
music, an activity he considered a divine calling"
(Marshall, 2000, p. 47). Specifically, universalist
is the praise that Spitta (1951) gave to Bach's B
minor mass, in that it "showed Protestantism
no longer as the antagonist and foe of Catholicism,
but as an inevitable outcome and development from it,
grown from the same soil. The B minor mass plainly reveals
how immeasurably deeper and broader Bach's church feeling
was than that of his age" (1951, III, p. 44). Also,
Bach's genetic "componential intelligence"
must have been phenomenal. For King Frederick the Great
he improvised on the spot a fugue first in four parts,
then in five parts, and finally in eight parts. "One
could probably liken the task of improvising a six-part
fugue to the playing of sixty simultaneous blindfold
games of chess, and winning them all. To improvise an
eight-part fugue is really beyond human capability"
(Hofstadter, 1980, p. 7).