Monday, March 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

It is the true believer’s ability to “shut his eyes and stop his ears” to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy. … And it is the certitude of his infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to the uncertainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the world around him.

Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from the self and the world as it is. …

The effectiveness of a doctrine does not come from its meaning but from its certitude. No doctrine however profound or sublime will be effective unless it is presented as the one and only truth. …

It is obvious, therefore, that in order to be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand. A doctrine that is understood is shorn of its strength. …

If a doctrine is not unintelligible, it has to be vague; and if neither unintelligible nor vague, it has to be unverifiable. One has to get to heaven or the distant future to determine the truth of an effective doctrine. When some part of a doctrine is relatively simple, there is a tendency among the faithful to complicate and obscure it. Simple words are made pregnant with meaning and made to look like symbols in a secret message. There is thus an illiterate air about the most literate true believer. He seems to use words as if he were ignorant of their true meaning. Hence, too, his taste for quibbling, hair-splitting, and scholastic tortuousness.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951)

(h/t to The Mahablog)

1 comment:

  1. Yay, Eric Hoffer! It took me a year, but I now have every book he wrote. The True Believer is my favorite one.

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