The Transcendentals and the Code of the Extraordinary Mind

Andreas Hofer
4 min readOct 28, 2022

“The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with joy are goodness, beauty, and truth.”

― Albert Einstein

Recently I have been reading Einstein’s The World As I see It (1934),The Code of the Extraordinary Mind (2016) by Vishen Lakhiani Transcend (2020) by Scott Barry Kaufman and I noticed that there is a common thread in all three of these books, one that goes back to Albertus Magnus and beyond to antiquity. The three typically acknowledged transcendentals are:

  • Logos corresponds to truth
  • Ethos corresponds to goodness
  • Pathos corresponds to beauty and passion

The three ideals that provided the greatest joy for Einstein and it’s not a coincidence that a genius like his would be interested in more than the fabric of reality (truth). Scott Barry Kaufman lists the characteristics of self-actualized/transcended people:

  • Truth Seeking (e.g., “I am always trying to get at the real truth about people and nature.”)
  • Acceptance (e.g., “I accept all of my quirks and desires without shame or apology.”)
  • Purpose (e.g., “I feel a great responsibility and duty to accomplish a particular mission in life.”)
  • Authenticity (e.g., “I can maintain my dignity and integrity even in environments and situations that are undignified.”)
  • Continued Freshness of Appreciation (e.g., “I can appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others.”)
  • Peak Experiences (e.g., “I often have experiences in which I feel new horizons and possibilities opening up for myself and others.”)
  • Humanitarianism (e.g., “I have a genuine desire to help the human race.”)
  • Good Moral Intuition (e.g., “I can tell deep down right away when I’ve done something wrong.”)
  • Creative Spirit (e.g., “I have a generally creative spirit that touches everything I do.”)
  • Equanimity (e.g., “I tend to take life’s inevitable ups and downs with grace, acceptance, and equanimity.”)

Here we find the same transcendentals and its different facets again in more detail: truth, beauty (appreciation, peak experiences), ethics (humanitarianism, moral intuition). Similarly, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind lists such “laws” as

  • Seeing beyond one’s cultural reality
  • Questioning the brules (bullshit rules)
  • Embracing one’s quest (life in meaning)
  • Pushing humanity forward

Why are these ideas, ancient and new ones, so similar? Behind all these philosophical and personal growth concepts lies a single psychological personality factor: openness to experience:

  • Truth: openness to ideas/intellect
  • Beauty: openness to aesthetics, feelings, fantasy
  • Ethics: openness to values, questioning traditional moral, political and religious reality

And here lies a huge catch for all those personal growth books like Transcend and The Code of the Extraordinary Mind : openness to experience has a strong genetic foundation and is probably the one personality factor that is hardest to change, which makes personal growth books much more useless than they pretend to be if so much of it is in our genes. Does this mean that people with high openness (O) are destined for greatness? No. Psychologists know that the most important factor for success is conscientiousness ©. High O people are what is called “orchids” in developmental psychology. High C people are dandelions. How can we resolve this conundrum?

I have argued that high C stems from evolutionary adaptation to farming: dutifulness, obedience to authority, orderliness, hard-working, self-discipline and long-term planning. All of these traits do not make sense for egalitarian, non-sedentary hunter-gatherers. High O is a trait that is related to hunter-gatherer egalitarianism, cognition and sensitivity.

We know from recent genetic research that hunter-gatherer admixture in Western societies are typically around 20%. That is also the percentage of people considered HSPs (highly sensitive people) and the estimated percentage of neurodiverse people. These are also the kind of people who are most attracted to books like Transcend and The Code of the Extraordinary Mind. Often these people are outsiders and consider themselves as geeks, just like Kaufmann and Lakhiani do. In the past, these kinds of people used to be philosophers like Albertus Magnus and Aristotle.

For more on the hunter-gatherer neurotribe check out my :

Originally published at on October 28, 2022.