Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Mythology’s Cyclops represents the one-eyed view of true-believing fanaticism, of fixation on one point of view while ignoring the larger reality. As the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism portrays, every situation, experience, and person has a positive and a negative, a multiplicity of factors, influences, and qualities. Santayana’s definition of fanaticism as "redoubling your effort after you've forgotten your aim” led to the character Wile E. Coyote in the Road Runner cartoons. Perhaps the appeal of the Wile E. Coyote image rises from the similarity of his motivation and results to so much of what we see in our personal, political, religious, and economic environments.

Fanaticism, however, may also have an evolutionary imperative, a subtle but important value. Birds sing the same songs over and over, generation to generation. As a force of evolutionary conservatism most animals have a narrow range of sounds narrowly repeated again and again. Humans feel independent and unique yet like most animal species, think and repeat the same thoughts and beliefs as their parents, their ancestors, and name this their cultures. Evolutionary change makers however say something new and as a consequence must face antipathy and often persecution from the herd committed to the status quo, against change, and afraid of any new notes.

This inherited culture becomes both a building block enabling us to see farther, innovate beyond, and further evolve as well as a conceptual chain that prevents us from going beyond. Wanting approval and appreciation easily becomes a strong chain in the herd instinct dynamic, something noticeably diminished in the lives of history-changing innovators. Studying and learning from different cultures, from different historical biographies, and from different wisdom traditions help break these golden chains that ensnare us to the words over the sense, to delusion over reality, to an insipid life in the herd instead of the creative awakening of open mind.

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Quotes (86)

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Buddha गौतम बुद्ध 563 – 483 BCE
(Siddhartha Shakyamuni Gautama)
Awakened Truth

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“The noble-minded are principled, but never dogmatic.”

Confucius 孔丘 551 – 479 BCE
(Kongzi, Kǒng Zǐ)
History's most influential "failure"

Themes: Fanaticism

“The mob is the mother of tyrants.”

Diogenes 412 – 323 BCE
(of Sinope)
from Lives of Philosophers

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”

Demosthenes Δημοσθένης 384 – 322 BCE

“Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought 'Let me glorify my own religion,' only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others.”

Ashoka 304 – 232 BCE
One of the world's most enlightened leaders

“As long as you remain in one extreme or another, you will never know Oneness.”

Jianzhi Sengcan 鑑智僧璨 529 – 606 CE
(Jiànzhì Sēngcàn)

Themes: Fanaticism

“Seeing that the living are soft and the dead are hard, we can infer that those whose virtue is hard and those whose actions are forceful die before their time, while those who are soft and weak are able to preserver their lives.”

Wu Cheng 吴澄 1249 – 1333 CE via Red Pine
"Mr. Grass Hut"
from Tao-te-chen-ching-chu

Themes: Fanaticism

76. The Soft and Flexible

“Superstition discounts reason and builds an absolute monarchy in our minds making wise men follow fools.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE via Shan Dao
from Of Goodness and the Goodness of Nature

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

“Atheism and fanaticism are two monsters which may tear society to pieces; but the atheist preserves his reason which checks his propensity to mischief while the fanatic is under the influence of a madness which is constantly urging him on”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

“Atheism and fanaticism are two monsters which may tear society to pieces; but the atheist preserves his reason which checks his propensity to mischief while the fanatic is under the influence of a madness which is constantly urging him on”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

“Tell me if there have been peoples other than the Christians and the Jews in whom zeal and religion wretchedly transformed into fanaticism, have inspired so many horrible cruelties…. Yes, the Mohammedans… As for the other nations there has not been one right from the existence of the world which has ever made a purely religious war.”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE
from Philosophical Dictionary

“In the affairs of this world, men are saved not by Faith,but by the lack of it.”

Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790 CE
from Poor Richard's Almanack

“From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step.”

Diderot 1713 – 1784 CE
from Encyclopédie

“The death of dogma is the birth of morality.”

Immanuel Kant 1724 – 1804 CE
from Critique Of Pure Reason

Themes: Fanaticism

“With most people, disbelief in a thing is founded on a blind belief in some other thing.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg 1742 – 1799 CE
One of history’s best aphorists

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

“The more narrow-minded a system is the more it will please worldly-wise people.”

Novalis 1772 – 1831 CE

41. Distilled Life

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity

Themes: Fanaticism

“Fame is proof that people are gullible.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism

Themes: Fanaticism Fame

“Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion; against the tendency of society to impose its own... rules of conduct on those who dissent from them”

John Stuart Mill 1806 – 1873 CE
from On Liberty (1859)​

“Credulity is always greatest in times of calamity. Prophecies of all sorts are rife on such occasions, and are readily believed.”

Charles Mackay 1814 – 1889 CE
from Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“What believer sees a disturbing omission or infelicity? The text, whether of prophet or of poet, expands for whatever we can put into it and even his bad grammar is sublime.”

George Eliot 1819 – 1880 CE
(Mary Anne Evans)
Pioneering literary outsider

from Middlemarch

Themes: Fanaticism

“But when a man's religion becomes really fanatic; when it is a positive torment to him; and, in fine, makes this earth of our an uncomfortable inn to lodge in; then I think it high time to take that individual aside and argue the point with him.”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

“Friends are a costly luxury, and when one invests one's capital in a mission in life, one cannot afford to have friends.”

Henrik Ibsen 1828 – 1906 CE
"The world's 2nd most-performed playwright"
from Peer Gynt (1867)

“Man is a Religious Animal, the only Religious Animal... He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author
from The Damned Human Race

“Extremes are alone logical, but they are always absurd... Reason betrays men into the drawing of hard and fast lines... there is hardly an error into which men may not easily be led if they base their conduct upon reason only... reason uncorrected by instinct is as bad as instinct uncorrected by reason.”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.”

William James 1842 – 1910 CE
"Father of American psychology”

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from The Portable Nietzsche, 1954

Themes: Lies Fanaticism

“Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.”

Annie Besant 1847 – 1933 CE

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

“An editor must have a purpose. ... What a legacy for one's conscience to know that one has been instrumental in mowing down the old prejudices that rattle in the wind like weeds.”

Joel Chandler Harris 1848 – 1908 CE

“We must eliminate the fanatic devotion to exalted ideals of national egoism and pride”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE

“It is not disbelief that is dangerous in our society: it is belief.”

George Bernard Shaw 1856 – 1950 CE
UK playwright second only to Shakespeare

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

“He that is slow to believe anything and everything is of great understanding, for belief in one false principle, is the beginning of all unwisdom.”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

Themes: Fanaticism Belief

2. The Wordless Teachings

“The effects of boredom on a large scale in history is underestimated. It is a main cause of revolutions, nd would soon bring to an end all the static Utopias and farmyard civilization of the Fabians.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher

“Religious fanaticism, unlimited competition, and war are the murderers of freedom. Though they win victories, we now know that they end in suicide.”

Dean Inge 1860 – 1954 CE
Christian mystic and philosopher
from The Modern Churchman

“Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”

Santayana, George 1863 – 1952 CE
(Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás)
Powerfully influential, true-to-himself philosopher/poet
from The Life of Reason

“Conscious faith is freedom. Emotional faith is slavery. Mechanical faith is foolishness.”

G. I. Gurdjieff 1866 – 1949 CE

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“When the mind withdraws into itself and dispenses with facts it makes only chaos.”

Edith Hamilton 1867 – 1963 CE

“The one thing more difficult that following a regimen is not imposing it on others.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE
Apostle of Ordinary Mind

Themes: Fanaticism

“Neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”
from Unpopular Essays

Themes: Fear Fanaticism

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Bertrand Russell 1872 – 1970 CE
“20th century Voltaire”

“A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Fanaticism

18. The Sick Society

“Our blight is ideologies — they are the long-expected Antichrist!”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Belief Fanaticism

71. Sick of Sickness

“Fanaticism turns into a means of salvation, enthusiasm into epileptic ecstasy, politics becomes an opiate for the masses, a proletarian eschatology; and reason veils her face.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from "An Appeal to Reason" (1930)

“Our true religion is a monotheism of consciousness, a possession by it, with a fanatical denial of the existence of autonomous partial-systems… This leads to collective delusions, instigations to war and revolution, in a word, to destructive mass psychoses… this narrowness of consciousness is always the shortest way to the insane asylum.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

31. Victory Funeral

“opposites always balance on the scales – a sign of high culture. One-sidedness, though it lends momentum, is a mark of barbarism.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Secret of the Golden Flower 太乙金華宗旨; Tàiyǐ Jīnhuá Zōngzhǐ

2. The Wordless Teachings

“Puritanism consists in a desire to impose the natural asceticism of age upon the young, and this position is largely founded on the untenable theories of an absolute ethic and an only true theology.”

Ananda Coomaraswamy குமாரசுவாமி 1877 – 1947 CE
Perennial philosophy's Citizen of the World
from The Dance of Shiva (1918)

“The mission of Hafiz was to express to a fanatical religious world that the presence of God is not to be found only in heaven, but also here on earth.”

Inayat Khan 1882 – 1927 CE

Themes: Fanaticism

“Many causes produce war. There are ancient hatreds, turbulent frontiers, the 'legacy of old forgotten, far-off things, and battles long ago.' There are new-born fanaticisms.”

Franklin Roosevelt 1882 – 1945 CE
Champion and creator of a more just and equitable society

Themes: Fanaticism Karma

“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.”

A.A. Milne 1882 – 1956 CE
(Alan Alexander Milne)
from War With Honour

67. Three Treasures

“We do not want any other god than Germany itself. It is essential to have fanatical faith and hope and love in and for Germany.”

Adolf Hitler 1889
the most immoral and cruel conqueror in human history

Themes: Fanaticism

“A democracy smugly disdainful of new ideas would be a sick democracy. A democracy chronologically fearful of new ideas would be a dying democracy.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1890 – 1969 CE

“Give us this day our daily Faith, but deliver us, dear God, from Belief.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

Themes: Belief Fanaticism

71. Sick of Sickness

“This state of 'no-mind' exists on a knife-edge between the carelessness of the average sensual man and the strained over-eagerness of the zealot for salvation.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Perennial Philosophy

Themes: Fanaticism

“The really hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. Many of them are normal because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

Themes: Fanaticism

38. Fruit Over Flowers

“The human desire to see only one phase of the truth which we happen to perceive, and to develop and elevate it into a perfect logical system is one reason why our philosophy is bound to grow stranger to life.”

Lín Yǔtáng 林語堂 1895 – 1976 CE

“the world is neither good or bad, it is our attitude toward it that makes it either good or bad. By applying our moral principles to nature, we blind ourselves to things as they are. Instead, we should apply ethical standards only where they belong, namely to ourselves.”

Anagarika​ (Lama) Govinda 1898 – 1985 CE
(Ernst Hoffmann)
Pioneer of Tibetan Buddhism to the West

from Inner Structure of the I Ching

“The reiteration of slogans, the distortion of the news, the great storm of propaganda that beats upon us 24 hours a day mean either that democracy must fall a prey to the loudest and most persistent propagandists or that the people must save themselves by strengthening their minds so that they can appraise the issues for themselves.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

Themes: Fanaticism Reason

“Most people are not even aware of their need to conform. They live under the illusion that they follow their own ideas and inclinations, that they are individualists, that they have arrived at their opinion as the result of their own thinking - and that it just happens that their ideas are the same as this of the majority.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from Art of Loving

67. Three Treasures

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims, but accomplices.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

“Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence
from Nineteen Eighty Four

“The cause of conflict is some fixed or one-sided idea… there is not particular way in true practice. You should find your own way”

Shunryu Suzuki Roshi 1904 – 1971 CE via Trudy Dixon
from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

“Passion is by no means the fuller life which it seems to be in the dreams of adolescence, but is on the contrary a kind of naked and denuding intensity, verily, a bitter destitution, the impoverishment of a mind being emptied of all diversity, an obsession of the imagination by a single image.”

Denys de Rougemont 1906 – 1985 CE
Non-conformist leader, influential cultural theorist

Themes: Fanaticism

“Every time we are confronted with a new revolution we take to the opium pipes of our own propaganda (1963).”

I. F. Stone 1907 – 1989 CE
One of the greatest 20th century reporters
from I.F. Stone's Weekly

“Two ideas are psychologically deep-rooted in man: self-protection and self-preservation. For self-protection man has created God, on whom he depends for his own protection, safety and security, just as a child depends on its parent. For self-preservation man has conceived the idea of an immortal Soul or Atman, which will live eternally. In his ignorance, weakness, fear, and desire, man needs these two things to console himself. Hence he clings to them deeply and fanatically.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

“I am terrified of restrictive religious doctrine, having learned from history that when men who adhere to any form of it are in control, common men like me are in peril.”

James Michener 1907 – 1997 CE
Historical and Generational Saga Master

from The World Is My Home (1991)

“Truth needs no label: it is neither Buddhist, Christian, Hindu nor Moslem. It is not the monopoly of anybody. Sectarian labels are a hindrance to the independent understanding of Truth, and they produce harmful prejudices in men's minds.”

Walpola Rahula Thero 1907 – 1997 CE
“Supreme Master of Buddhist Scriptures”

Themes: Fanaticism Truth

“I am terrified of restrictive religious doctrine, having learned from history that when men who adhere to any form of it are in control, common men like me are in peril.”

James Michener 1907 – 1997 CE
Historical and Generational Saga Master

from The World Is My Home (1991)

“A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription for salvation. It synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“One belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals... This is the belief that... there is a final solution.”

Isaiah Berlin 1909 – 1997 CE
"the world's greatest talker"
from Two Concepts of Liberty

Themes: Fanaticism Evil

“There is no way of thought so experimental, and no philosopher so tentative that his suggestions cannot be frozen into a dogma by self-seeking disciples.”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination, 1992

Themes: Fanaticism

“It is when we insist most firmly on everyone else being 'reasonable' that we become ourselves, unreasonable.”

Thomas Merton 1915 – 1968 CE
from The Way of Chuang Tzu

“remember that not so many years ago men were burned at the stake just for saying the earth went round the sun!”

James Clavell 1921 – 1994 CE
Fictionalizing and fictional historian
from Tai-Pan, 1966

“the United States was a democracy with certain liberties, while Germany was a dictatorship persecuting its Jewish minority, imprisoning dissidents, proclaiming the supremacy of the Nordic 'race'... However, blacks, looking at anti-Semitism in Germany, might not see their own situation int the U.S. as much different.”

Howard Zinn 1922 – 2010 CE
Historian of the oppressed and defeated

from A People's History of the United States​

“that cold but somehow enthusiastic look, as if he believed in nothing and yet somehow had absolute faith. They’re not idealists; they’re cynics with utter faith. It’s a sort of brain defect, like a lobotomy—that maiming those German psychiatrists do as a poor substitute for psychotherapy.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“to continue to see a race of people, any race of people as one single personality is an ignorance of gothic proportions, an ignorance so vast, so public, and perception so blind and so blunted, imagination so bleak that no nuance, no subtlety, no difference among them can be ascertained.”

Toni Morrison 1931 – 2019 CE
(Chloe Ardelia Wofford)
Story-telling voice of American wisdom
from A Humanist View (1975​)

“Heresies play an essential role by keeping our minds argumentative and alert.”

Hubert Reeves 1932 CE –

“Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

George Carlin 1937 – 2008 CE
One of the most influential social commentators of his time

“Sectarian views of any kind are a great obstacle, preventing the student's insight and his spontaneously existing dignity from shining through. However, it is useful to see the useful aspects of these systems in order to be able to apply them to the appropriate situations of time and country.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Political Treatise (1972)

Themes: Fanaticism

“if anyone, even the writer, tells you that something only means one thing, they are ALWAYS wrong. Because nothing only means one thing.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom

“Trump uses many of the fascist’s tools: a contempt for facts, spreading a pervasive sense of fear and overwhelming crisis, portraying his backers as victims, assigning blame to foreign or alien actors and suggesting only his powerful personality can transcend the crisis. He endorsed the violence done to a dissenter at one of his rallies, and he now floats the idea of making entry to the United States contingent on religion.”

Dana Milbank 1968 CE –
Author, and Washington Post columnist
from Washington Post

Themes: Fanaticism

“dreams present the very opposite of a closed, rigid mind... We work with the direct experience that dreaming offers us to challenge our assumptions and expand our perceptions.”

Mingyur Rinpoche 1975 CE –
Modern-day Mahasiddha

from In Love With the World

Themes: Fanaticism

“Most stories are held together by the weight of their roof rather than by the strength of their foundations. Consider the Christian story. It has the flimsiest of foundations. What evidence do we have [and yet] Entire wars have been waged over changing a single word of the story.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Fanaticism

“Monotheists have tended to be far more fanatical and missionary than polytheists... Over the last two millennia, monotheists repeatedly tried to strengthen their hand by violently exterminating all competition. It worked... Today most people outside East Asia adhere to one monotheist religion or another”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Fanaticism

“From an ethical perspective, monotheism was arguably one of the worst ideas in human history... What monotheism undoubtedly did was to make many people far more intolerant than before, thereby contributing to the spread of religious persecutions and holy wars... as Christianity and Islam spread around the world, so did the incidence of crusades, jihads, inquisitions, and religious discrimination.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Fanaticism God

“The differences between heresy on the one hand and infidelity, schism, and apostasy on the other suggest that heresy as a Christian concept is necessarily intrasystemic in reference, distinctly doctrinal in orientation an must be an exclusively ecclesiastical determination which on the church has the authority to establish”

Edward T Chʻien 1986 CE –
Chiao Hung and the restructuring of in the late Ming
from Chiao Hung and the restructuring of in the late Ming

Comments (1)

  1. Shan Dao
    Shan Dao 4 years ago
    Disappointment, poverty, suffering, and despair create a fertile planting mix for religious and political extremism. The more desperation people find themselves in, the more welcoming they become to promises of salvation. The more degraded the conditions we find ourselves here on earth, the more appeal we have for visions of heavenly perfection. Perhaps having the most vivid and pleasurable description of heavenly bliss described by a political or religious dogma; the more attractive to poverty-stricken, despairing populations. This could explain the rapid growth and power of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, of Islamic extremism in today’s world.