The French philosopher Joseph de Maistre once perceptively commented: “I do not know what the heart of a rascal may be; I know what is in the heart of an honest man; it is horrible.” Even the most kind-hearted of us would hesitate to expose his innermost thoughts to public scrutiny. Barbarous thoughts and inclinations are always bubbling just beneath the surface, and this is why it is so important for man’s baser instincts to be kept firmly in check by a moral code that carries with it the authority of experience, and the lineage of antiquity.
More and more, we are becoming unwelcomingly acquainted with the mentality of the fanatic. Whether modern society–with its corrosive influence on ancient moral codes and its titillating stimulus of man’s baser instincts—is breeding more and more of these people, or whether modern information technology simply unmasks them easier than in the past, is not entirely clear. In either case, an understanding of the mentality of the fanatic is important. We will discuss a few of his salient features here.
The fanatic sees the world in absolutes. For him, there are no mixed tones of grey. It is all one thing, or all the other. The world is a battleground between the forces of good and evil, and only he himself is fully aware of the dimensions of this conflict. He is blind to the nuances in things, because he can only see the world through the lens of his own monomania.
The fanatic sees himself as under constant attack. His projection of the all the world’s evils onto the demonic “other” creates this Zoroastrian conception of the universe, where all of creation is held hostage to this battle between the forces of Good and Evil. If he lets his guard down for an instant, the evil Other will overwhelm him.
[This is my latest article at Return of Kings. It explores the psychological profile of the extremist, and how his mentality influences his actions. To read the rest of the article, click here.]