“The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer (1951) – Part 3 – Factors Promoting Self-Sacrifice

“The True Believer” by Eric Hoffer (1951) – Part 3 – Factors Promoting Self-Sacrifice

Chapter 12 – Preface (43)

  • 43 – The vigor of mass movements comes from followers’ united action & self-sacrifice. We ascribe success of a movement to faith, doctrine, propaganda, etc. but it’s really unification & inculcation of a readiness for self-sacrifice.
    • Manifestation of peculiarities of a mass movement – any group or organization trying to create & maintain compact unity & constant readiness for self-sacrifice.
    • A mass movement is bound to lose steam when it relaxes collective compactness & begins to allow self-interest as an activity.
    • In peacetime, democracy allows individuals freedom but under times of great threats, it reinforces unity & generates a readiness for self-sacrifice, resembling a mass movement. Religions & revolutionary movements do the same thing.
      • The difference is that the frustrated have a desire for united action & self-sacrifice arising spontaneously. Clues as to why can be traced in examining the frustrated mind: consciousness of an irredeemably blemished self & desire to escape it in united action & self-sacrifice for a collective whole.
      • There’s a deprecation of the present, facility for make-believe, a proneness to hate, readiness to imitate, credulity, etc.
    • Capacity for united actions & self-sacrifice seem to go hand-in-hand. In order to become part of the compact whole, a follower has to give up privacy, individual judgment & possessions, & be ready for self-denial

Chapter 13 – Factors Promoting Self-Sacrifice (44-64)

Identification with a Collective Whole

  • 44 – To make a man ready for self-sacrifice, he must be stripped of individual identity & distinctness. To achieve this is done through complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. He has no purpose except for his collective body & as long as that body lives, he can never die.
    • Without belonging, mere life is all that matters.
    • The effacement of individual separateness must be thorough. Every act, emotion & state of being must come from & be pointed toward the collective. He must never feel alone, even when he actually is alone. To be cast out from the group is for him to die.
  • 45 – Capacity to resist coercion comes partly from an individual’s identification with a group. When an individual faces torture or annihilation, he can’t rely on his individuality. The only source of strength is not from himself but something large, glorious & indestructible. Faith is a process of identification, ceasing to be himself & a part of the eternal.
    • Totalitarian leaders recognize this courage & use it to boost followers & break their opponents. Stalin’s purges broke proud & brave men into cowards in public for all to see. They were severed from the population they had fought for.
  • 46 – The Kremlin knew that in order to maintain the submissiveness of Russian masses, there couldn’t be any chance of them identifying with anything outside of Russia. The Iron Curtain wasn’t just to block Russians from reaching out but to block infiltration by outsiders. This eliminated citizens from marrying outsiders & blurred the awareness of the world outside of Russia.
    • The psychological barrier was also important, keeping the Kremlin’s propaganda fresh so that there was nothing worthy & eternal coming from outside of Russia.


  • 47 – Dying & killing are easy when a part of a ritual, performance or game. So there’s a need for make-believe to face death unflinchingly. To our real selves, there’s nothing worth dying for. Only when we see ourselves as actors in a staged performance does death lose its frightfulness & just seems a part of a play.
    • The leader has to hide the reality of death & killing by convincing his followers they’re participating in a spectacle or performance.
    • This is particularly true in armies. Uniforms, flags, parades, elaborate etiquette & rituals are designed to separate the soldier from his true self & hide the reality of life & death.
    • Glory is a theatrical concept. There’s no striving for it without an audience, knowing our deeds will be seen or heard of by others.
    • When faith & power to coerce are gone, make-believe lingers on. In staging processions, rituals & ceremonies, mass movements touch a chord in every heart. Maybe the frustrated are more responsive to this need to make a show & identify with the spectacle.

Deprecation of the Present

  • 48 – Mass movements seem to champion the present against the past. They see established institutions & privileges as trampling on the present. To pry the stranglehold of the past on the present, there’s a need for unity & self-sacrifice.
    • This means that in order to attack the past to deliver the present, there must be an enthusiastic sacrifice of any chance of tasting or inheriting the present. The present is driven back as if it’s unclean & lumped in with the terrible past. To lose one’s life is just to lose the present, which isn’t much to lose.
    • Mass movements depict individual existence as dour, hard, repressive & dull. Ordinary enjoyment is trivial & pursuit of personal happiness is immoral. To enjoy oneself is fraternized with the enemy – the present. The campaign against appetite is to pry loose the present of its grasp on us.
    • Many goals of mass movements show themselves to be campaigns against the present. To offer something practicable tries to reconcile us with it. Faith in miracles implies a rejection & defiance of the present. Mysticism of a movement deprecates the present as a shadow & illusion.
  • 49 – You can’t properly deprecate the present without hope for a better future. If the future is seen as a deterioration of the present or just unchanged, we can reconcile ourselves with our existence.
    • All mass movements deprecate the present by depicting it as a mere stepping stone to a glorious future. To the religious, the present is a place of exile from heaven. To a social revolution, it’s a way station on the road to Utopia. To a nationalist, it’s a bad episode before a final triumph.
    • The hope given by mass movements is a potent source of daring & self-forgetting. They have to focus followers on the future even if not in a life & death struggle with present institutions & privileges. The sacrifice & cooperative action needs that hop.e When today is all we have, we grab on to what we can get. When the best is yet to come, we can forgo the good things around us.
  • 50 – To glorify the past can serve to belittle the present. An exaggerated view of the past can lead to spur people on to look towards a glorious future. Mass movements turn away from the more immediate past but also look to a gold age when men were free, equal & independent. It serves to legitimize the movement & delegitimize the old order, & to show the present as an interlude between the past & future.
    • Historical awareness gives a sense of continuity. With visions of the past & future, the true believer connects with the eternal & can let go of the present & become a participant in a soul-stirring drama of make-believe.
  • 51 – Deprecating the present fosters a capacity for prognostication. The well-adjusted don’t make good prophets. Those at war with the present tend to see change & lots of potential in small beginnings. Pleasant life blinds us to drastic change by having us cling to common sense.
    • Those who reject the present & gaze on the future. The frustrated individual & the true believer make better prognosticators than those who want to preserve the status quo.
  • 52 – The Conservative doubts the present can be improved upon & forgets about the future. He even looks to the past for a sense of continuity & assurance that past blunders came out of human nature. New fads are ancient heresies & beloved things are being threatened.
    • The Skeptic is very similar to the Conservative. To him the present is the sum of all things that have been & will be. There is nothing new & proposed changes are to be scrutinized heavily.
    • The Liberal sees the present as a legitimate offspring of the past & it is growing toward a better future. To damage the present is to maim the future.
      • All 3 have a skeptical attitude toward self-sacrifice.
    • The Radical & Reactionary both loathe the present, seeing it as an aberration & deformity. They’re ready to break with it & see self-sacrifice as an interesting idea. They different in how they see man’s malleability.
      • Radicals have a passionate faith in the perfectibility of human nature through changing his environment & perfecting a technique of soul-stirring & rebuilding a totally new society from scratch.
      • The Reactionary doesn’t believe man has unfathomed potential for good. A stable & healthy society must be based on past models. The future must be a restoration & not an unprecedented innovation.
        • The boundary between these 2 isn’t always distinct. Reactionary radicalism comes from an ideal recreating the past. The radical needs practical guidance when rebuilding & will need to find some in the past.
  • 53 – Mass movements & frustrated individuals both deprecate the present. One bizarre thing is how much joy they get from doing so. This comes not just from venting grievances. By complaining about how horrible the present is, the frustrated lessen their sense of failure & isolation. They see the times & conditions of the present as to one to blame for all their wasted lives.
    • So the mass movement makes the present unpalatable to strike a chord with the frustrated. The self-mastery needed to control appetites gives them the illusion of strength. By mastering themselves, they master the world.

Things Which Are Not

  • 54 – One rule behind promoting self-sacrifice is the desire must be stronger to die for what one wants to have & what one wants to be than what one has or is. When men have something worth fighting for, they usually don’t fight. Craving is the mother of a reckless self-sacrifice.
    • Those who cling to the present are least capable of defending it. Those who spurn the present have all its gifts & treasures showered on them. Dreams, visions & wild hopes are good weapons & tools.
  • 55 – It’s not totally crazy that people are ready to die for a button, flag, word, opinion, myth, etc. One’s life is the most real of all things & without it, there can be nothing worth having. Even when we’re ready to die in order not to get killed, the impulse to fight springs less from self-interest than from intangibles such as tradition, honor & hope. When there’s no hope, people either run or allow themselves to be killed without a fight.


  • 56 – Readiness for self-sacrifice is contingent on being impervious to the realities of life. Self-sacrifice is unreasonable act & can’t be the end-product of a process of probing & deliberating. All mass movements strive to put up a fact-proof screen between the faithful & reality
    • They claim the ultimate & absolute truth is embodies in their doctrine & there’s no truth outside of it. Facts the true believer bases his conclusions can’t be derived from experience or observation but from a holy write.
    • To rely on the evidence of senses & reason is heresy & treason. The true believer’s ability to shut his eyes & stop his ears to facts that don’t deserve to be seen or heard is a source of strength & constancy. Strength of faith manifests itself not in moving mountains but in seeing mountains move. Certitude of the infallible doctrine makes the true believer impervious to uncertainties, surprises & unpleasant realities of the world.
  • 57 – The effectiveness of doctrine doesn’t come from meaning but its certitude. No doctrine will be effective unless presented as the embodiment of the one & only truth. It’s to be the one word from which all things are & speak. For it to be effective, it doesn’t have to be understood but believed in. A doctrine is stripped of strength.
    • The devout are always urged to seek absolute truth with hearts & not minds. When a movement starts to rationalize its doctrines & make it intelligible, it’s interested mostly in stability.
    • If a doctrine isn’t unintelligible, it has to be vague. If not unintelligible or vague, it has to be unverifiable.
  • 58 – To be in possession of an absolute truth is to be intimately familiar with the eternal. There are no surprises or unknowns. All questions have already been answered, all decisions made & all eventualities foreseen. The true believer is without wonder or hesitation. The true doctrine is a master key to all the world’s problems. With it, the world can be taken apart & put back together.
  • 59 – Are the frustrated more easily indoctrinated than the non-indoctrinated? Are they more credulous? There’s a connection between dissatisfaction with oneself & proneness to credulity. The urge to escape oneself is coupled with an urge to escape the rational & obvious. That makes us want to avoid facts & logic.
    • Salvation only comes from the miraculous which seeps through a crack in reality. They ask to be deceived.
    • Credulity is linked with proneness to imposture. The association of believing & lying isn’t characteristic just of children. Inability or unwillingness to see things as they are promotes gullibility & charlatanism.


  • 60 – Even though mass movements are necessary for the realization of drastic & abrupt changes, practical & desirable changes need the same atmosphere of intense passion & faults of follies as mass movements.
    • The main preoccupation of a mass movement is to instill in followers facility for united action & self-sacrifice by stripping individuals of uniqueness & autonomy with no will or judgment of his own. Human plasticity is a by-product of the unification & readiness for self-sacrifice.
    • Estrangement from the self proceeds in our atmosphere of intense passion. It upsets an equilibrium between a man & himself, through the disruption of harmony. This can actually make him feel dispassionately toward the world & thus he rejects, renounces, distrusts & forgets himself & turns into a reactive entity, becoming a part of the mass movement.
    • The mass movement makes the man need to belong to it by destroying his independent self, making life alone & without the movement unbearable.
  • 61 – The fanatic is perpetually incomplete & insecure. He can’t find self-assurance from within. He can only find it from clinging to what he’s embraced. That’s the essence of his blind devotion & religiosity, because he sees it as a source of strength. To prove his worth of it, he’s ready to sacrifice himself.
    • He’s convinced the cause is eternal & monolithic. His security comes from his passionate attachment to the cause, not from the excellence of it. He’s not fussed about principles or if the cause is holy or just but because he needs to hold onto something.
    • He can’t be weaned away through reason or morality. He fears compromise & can’t be convinced but only converted.
  • 62 – While they seem to be at opposite poles, fanatics are very similar. It’s the fanatic & moderate who are at odds. While fanatics might be at each other’s throats, they have the same qualities, hating each other like brothers do. It’s easier to convert a communist to fascism than a liberal.
    • The opposite of a religious fanatic isn’t an atheist but the gentle cynic. An atheist is just as fanatical about atheist as a religious person is about his faith.
  • 63 – It’s not clear that a fanatic who deserts his cause or is without one can ever live an autonomous individual existence. He is a hitchhiker looking for the next eternal cause. Individual existence seems sinful, futile & trivial. To be without dedication is to be lost.
    • Tolerance is a sign of weakness. He hungers for the assurance his total surrender gave him through a creed & cause. So, he’s always ready to join a cause when he’s presently without one.

Mass Movements & Armies

  • 64 – The similarities are many. Both are collective bodies that strip the individual of his separateness, demand self-sacrifice, unquestioning obedience & single-hearted allegiance. Both use make-believe to promote daring & united action, serve as a refuse for the frustrated who can’t deal with an autonomous existence.
    • The differences: The army doesn’t come to fulfill a need for a new way of life. It’s not a road to salvation. It can be used to impose a new way of life & force it on others. But it’s preserve or expand an established order. It can be assembled or taken apart at will. Its function is to preserve the present.
      • The mass movement is an instrument of eternity & those who join do so for life. It is to destroy the the present. The preoccupation with the future & gets its vigor from that. Once it focuses on the present, it’s arrived. Then it’s no longer a movement but an institutionalized organization. It loses its faith, enthusiasm, asceticism, etc.
      • The army focuses on glory, faith in an actually tangible cause, esprit de corps & adventures. That’s not out of deprecation of the present & the revulsion of the self.
    • The biggest difference between the 2 is their attitude to the many & the rabble. A general sees a disunited army as a mass & sees its inconstancy as prone to anarchy, a poisonous end-product of a crumbling collective body.
      • Mass movement leaders draw inspiration from the faces, a force that only they can harness.

Chapter 14 – Unifying Agents (65-103)


  • 65 – Hatred pulls the individual away from his own self & allows him to become a part of one flaming mass. Mass movements can rise & spread without belief in God but never without the devil. The strength of the mass movement is proportionate to the vividness to the vividness & tangibility of its devil.
  • 66 – Common hatred unites heterogeneous elements giving a feeling of kinship & sapping powers of resistance.
  • 67 – There has to be an ideal devil – omnipotent & omnipresent. Every difficulty & failure within the mass movement is the work of that devil & every success is a triumph over his evil plotting.
    • The ideal devil is a foreigner. Even domestic devils must have a foreign ancestry.
  • 68 – We don’t look for allies when we love. We look at those who love with us as rivals for & trespassers of that love. But we look for allies when we hate. It’s not strange to look for others to side with us when we have a just grievance & crave to retaliate against those who’ve wronged us. But when our hatred isn’t justified & the grievance is less visible, we look even harder for allies. We feel the need to find those who share our unreasonable hatreds & merge with them. These are an expression of awareness of inadequacy, worthlessness & guilt. Self-contempt is turned into hatred of others. We try to find as many others as possible who hate as we do.
    • Proselytizing is more about infecting others with hatred than faith. The hatred is less about wrong done to than self-contempt.
    • When we feel superior to our tormentors. We’re more likely to despise & pity them than hate them. But often when we’re wronged by one person, we turn blind hatred toward a wholly unrelated person or group. Self-contempt produces in man “the most unjust criminal passions imaginable” because it creates a moral hatred for the truth that blames & convinces him of his faults.
  • 69 – The hatred coming from self-contempt is seen in the connection between a hatred & a guilty conscience. The best way to infect ourselves with hatred towards a person is to do him grave injustice. It stirs in them arrogance & reckless aggressiveness. Self-righteousness drowns out the voice of guilt within us. Behind every brazen word & act, every manifestation of self-righteousness is a guilty conscience.
  • 70 – To wrong those we hate fuels our hatred. To treat an enemy well is to blunt the hatred for him.
  • 71 – The best way to silence guilt is convince ourselves & others that those we’ve sinned against are depraved creatures deserving of punishment & even extermination. We can’t pity those we’ve wrong. We must hate or be open to self-contempt.
  • 72 – Extreme religions generate strong feelings of guilt. There’s a strong but unavoidable contrast between loftiness of profession & imperfection of practice. The feeling of guilt promotes hate & brazenness. The more extreme the religion, the more virulent the hatred it breeds.
  • 73 – It’s easier to hate an enemy with good in him than one who’s all bad. The undercurrent of admiration in hatred manifests itself in the inclination to imitate those we hate. The oppressed almost always mold themselves in the image of the oppressor. The evil men do lives on after them because those who hate them perpetuate the same evil long afterwards. By converting & antagonizing, the fanatic shapes the world in his own image. Although hatred is a convenient mobilizing instrument for defense of a community, in the long-run, we pay for it by losing all or many of the values we wanted to defend.
  • 74 – When we see ourselves as oppressed by our own worthlessness, we see ourselves as the lowest of the low of mankind. Then we hate the whole world. There’s a reassurance for the frustrated in seeing the downfall of the fortunate & disgrace of the righteous. This is all a part of the hold falling so that a new world can be built.
  • 75 – Passionate hatred can give meaning & purpose to an empty life. They fill it by dedicating themselves with a holy cause & nursing a fanatical grievance.
  • 76 – Hatred is an all-pervading ingredient in our inner lives. All enthusiasms, devotions, passions & hope – when they decompose, they release hatred.
  • 77 – Unity & self-sacrifice, when fostered even with noble means, produce a facility for hating. Even those looking to promote tolerance & peace on earth will be intolerant to those not like-minded. The estrangement from self produces the proclivity for passionate attitude, including hatred.
    • Self-denial seems to give us the right to be harsh & merciless towards others. Surrendering & humbling of the self produce pride & arrogance. He who is not of his faith is evil & he who will not listen shall perish.
    • When we renounce the self & become part of a compact whole, we not only renounce individual advantage but individual responsibility. This frees a man to be cruel & ruthless because he’s freed from the fears, hesitation, doubts & decency that go with individual judgment. This is part of the attractiveness of the mass movement. We find in it the right to dishonor. When we see the bloodshed, terror & destruction from generous enthusiasm, we blame on a cynical, power-hungry leadership. But it is the unification set in motion by enthusiasms that transmutes noble causes into hatred & violence.


  • 78 – Development of a close-knit group requires uniformity. One-mindedness of mass movements are achieved as much by imitation as obedience. Obedience itself is mostly imitation of an example in following a precept.
    • The frustrated are usually better equipped for this. Perhaps it’s to escape the frustration.
    • The frustrated are conscious of their blemish lives & ineffectual selves & they want to slough off their lives & start over. To do this, they need a new identity which they create by imitating others. The less satisfied we are with ourselves, the more we want to be like others. We imitate those who are different from us more than those who are like us. The blurring & losing of the self can only be done through imitating others.
  • 79 – Mere self-rejection can lead to imitativeness. The rejected self stops asserting distinctness & there’s nothing to stop the propensity to copy.
  • 80 – The feeling of superiority counteracts imitation. Immigrants to the US were the lowest & poorest of their countries & upon arrival imitated each other & adopt new behaviors. They craved a new life & identity.
  • 81 – Imitation is often a shortcut to a situation. When we copy, we lack inclination, ability or time to work out an independent solution. So hurrying tends to produce uniformity. The deliberate fusing of individuals in a group will see incessant action playing a large role.
  • 82 – Unification tends to intensify the imitation capacity. The unified individual is without a distinct self. He’s incomplete & immature, & therefore without resistance against influences. Readiness to imitate is both an advantage & peril of a mass movement. The faithful are easily led & molded but are also susceptible to foreign influences. So the imitation of outsiders is branded as treason & apostasy. Every device is used to cut off the individual from unbelievers. Some mass movements even set up in the wilderness to physically remove them from outside influences.

Persuasion & Coercion

  • 83 – We tend to exaggerate persuasion’s effect in inculcating opinion & sharing behavior. Propaganda is so effective an instrument that we even fear the world itself. But its effectiveness is a fraction of what’s reported. Propaganda can’t force its way into unwilling minds. It only enters into already open minds & articulates & justifies opinions rather than instilling them. The propagandist brings to a boil ideas & passions that were already simmering in the hearers. When opinion isn’t coerced, people can only be made to believe only in what they already “know”.
    • Propaganda by itself succeeds mainly with the frustrated. Their fears, hopes & passions get between them & the outside world. The propagandist plays on these emotions & reinforces & validates them. But propaganda can’t reinvigorate those who’ve stopped believing mass movements have to order things so those who no longer believe, they can be made to believe by force.
  • 84 – Propaganda becomes more fervent & persistent when it works together with coercion when it only has to rely purely on its own effectiveness. The converter & the converted by coercion need the conviction that the faith they impose or are forced to adopt the only true one. Without this, the proselytizer, if not vicious enough, is likely to feel like a criminal & the coerced convert would see himself as a cowards & a sell-out. Propaganda serves more to justify ourselves than to convince others. The more we have to feel guilty, the more fervent our propaganda.
  • 85 – Violence breeds fanaticism & fanaticism begets violence. It’s impossible to say which came first. Both those who use violence & those subjected to it are likely to develop a fanatical state of mind. There’s evidence that the coerced convert is often as fanatical in his adherence to the new faith as the persuaded convert, sometimes more so.
    • Fanatical orthodoxy is a late development. It comes when the movement is in full possession of power & can impose faith by force & persuasion. Coercion when persistent has unequaled persuasiveness.
  • 86 – There’s little evidence of a mass movement achieving vast proportions & a durable organization solely by persuasion. Where a mass movement can either persuade or coerce, it usually chooses coercion. Persuasion is clumsy & has uncertain results.
  • 87 – Force can stop & crush even the most vigorous movement. To do the force must be ruthless & persistent, which can only come from fanatical conviction. The terrorism coming from individual brutality neither goes far enough nor lasts long enough. It seems that we need ardent faith not just to resist coercion but to be able to exercise it effectively.
  • 88 – Intensity of conviction isn’t the main factor impelling a movement to spread its faith to the 4 corners of the earth. The impulse to proselytize isn’t an expression of an overabundance of power. The missionary zeal is more of an expression of a deep misgiving, a feeling of insufficiency at the center. It is a passionate search for something not yet found more than a desire to bestow upon the world something we already have. It’s the search for a final & irrefutable demonstration that our truth is the one & only truth.
    • Passion for proselytizing & passion for world dominion are both symptoms of some serious deficiency at the center. The conquistadors & apostles are like a band of fugitives setting out for a distant land to escape an untenable situation at home.


  • 89 – No matter how vital we think leadership is in the rise of a mass movement, a leader can’t create the conditions that make a mass movements arise. It can’t be conjured out of nothing. There has to be an eagerness to follow & obey, as well as intense dissatisfaction with things as they are before the leader can appear.
    • There’s a period of waiting in the wings – often very long – for all leaders to show up at the right moments. Accidents & activities of others have to set the stage for them.
  • 90 – Once the stage is set, the presence of an outstanding leader is indispensable. Without him there’ll be no movement. The ripeness of the time doesn’t automatically produce a mass movement. There needs to be an iron will, daring & vision of an exceptional leader to concert & mobilize existing attitudes & impulses into creating a mass movement. The leader personifies the certitude of the creed, & the defiance & grandeur of power. He articulates & justifies the resentment in the souls of frustrated. He kindles the vision of the future, stages the world of make-believe to realize the self-sacrifice & united action.
    • What are the talents required? Exceptional intelligence, noble character & originality aren’t indispensable & maybe not desirable.
    • The min requirements seem to be audacity & joy in defiance, iron will, faith in destiny & luck, capacity for passionate hatred, contempt for the present, cunning estimate of human nature, delight in symbols, unbounded brazenness found in disregard of consistence, & fairness, recognition of the craving of a following is for communion, & a capacity for winning & holding the utmost loyalty of a group of able lieutenants.
    • Not all the qualities are equally essential. The mos decisive for effectiveness of a mass movement seem to be audacity, fanatical faith in a holy cause, understanding of a close-knit collective, & ability to evoke loyalty in lieutenants.
  • 91 – The crude ideas advanced by many mass movement leaders make you think that a coarseness & immaturity of mind is an asset of leadership. A truly wise leader who dared to follow the course of his wisdom. Quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is arrogant gestures, complete disregard for others’ opinions & defiance of the world.
    • Charlatanism is indispensable because no mass movement can exist without deliberate misrepresentation of facts. The leader has to be practical & a realist but must speak the language of the visionary & the idealist. Originality isn’t a prerequisite. A successful mass movement leader has the readiness to imitate friend & foe from the past & contemporary models.
  • 92 – Total surrender of a distinct self is a prerequisite to attain both unity & self-sacrifice & the best way to inculcate blind obedience. The disorder, bloodshed & destruction marking the trail of a rising mass movement makes us think the followers to be rowdy & lawless. Person truculence militates against united action. It produces the pioneer, adventurer & bandit.
  • 93 – People with barren & insecure lives seem to show great willingness to obey than the self-confident & self-sufficient. To the frustrated, freedom from responsibility is more attractive than freedom from restraint.
  • 94 – The frustrated make the most loyal followers. In a cooperative effort, the least self-reliant are the least likely to be discouraged by defeat. When the undertaking fails, they are spared individual responsibility of failure.
  • 95 – There’s a crucial different between a mass movement leaser & a leader in free society. In a free society, the leader can only retain a hold on the people only when he has blind faith in their wisdom & goodness. He actually follows the people as he leads them. When he becomes contemptuous of the people, he starts to believe that all men are fools & blunders into defeat.
    • When the leader of a mass movement acts, he can exact blind obedience, he can operate on the sound belief that all men are cowards & treats them accordingly.


  • 96 – Action unifies. There’s less individual distinction in a genuine man of action than in the thinker or one whose creativity comes from communion with the self. The go-getter & hustler have a lot in them that’s abortive & undifferentiated. One is never purposed for action until stripped of a distinct & differentiated self. So active people tend toward uniformity.
  • 97 – Men of thought seldom work well together, while men of action usually have an easy camaraderie. Intellectuals & artists rarely work in teams but teams are indispensable for men of action.
  • 98 – All mass movements use action for the purposes of unification. The conflicts they seek are not just to fight enemies but to unify the followers by stripping them of individuality & make them more soluble in the collective. A mass movement’s call for action evokes an eager response in the frustrated because they see it as a cure for what ails them, makes them forget themselves, & gives them a sense of purpose & worth. The sense of frustration comes from the inability to act & the feeling of rusting away in idleness.
  • 99 – Faith organizes & equips a man’s soul for action. To possess the one & only truth, never to doubt one’s righteousness, to feel backed by a mysterious power, to be convinced that one’s opponents are evil & must be crushed, to exult in self-denial & devotion to duty – all admirable qualifications for resolute & ruthless action.
    • Revolutionary & nationalist enthusiasm have a similar effect, turning spiritless & inert people into fighters & builders. Fitness of the true believer for a life of action can also put the prospects of mass movements in danger. By opening fields of action, a mass movement can hasten its end because successful action tends to be a goal in itself. Faith & action aren’t the supreme purpose but lubricants for action. A true believer who succeeds in all he does gains self-confidence & becomes reconciled with himself & the present. Then he no longer sees self-sacrifice in a corporate body & will look toward himself for any meaning & the need to be a part of the collective dies.


  • 100 – Suspicion acts as a unifying force. Self-contempt sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others. We strive to reveal in others the blemishes we hide in ourselves. When the frustrated congregate in a mass movement, the air is laden with suspicion. But the pathological mistrust within the ranks leads not to dissension but to strict conformity. Knowing they’re constantly being watched, the faithful strive to escape suspicion by adhering zealously to prescribed behavior. Suspicion associates all opposition within the ranks with the enemy trying to destroy the movement from without.
  • 101 – Collective unity isn’t the result of brotherly love between the faithful. The loyalty of the true believer is to the whole – the church, party, nation – not to his fellow true believer. Loyalty between individuals is only possible in a loose & free society. The active mass movement sees in the person ties of blood & friendship a diminution of its own corporate cohesion. Mutual suspicion seems to be a precondition of corporate strength.

The Effects of Unification

  • 102 – Thorough unification, however it is brought about, tends to intensify the inclinations & attitudes that promote unity. It intensifies the propensity to hatred & imitation. The unified individual is more credulous & obedient than an autonomous individual. Leadership usually keeps hatred at a white heat, encourages imitation & credulity, & fosters obedience. But unification itself intensifies the reactions which themselves serve as unifying agents.
    • Unifying factors originate in the revulsion of the frustrated individual from an unwanted self. The true believer wholly assimilated into a compact collective body is no longer frustrated – he has a new identity & life. He is now one of the chosen & is destined to inherit the earth.
    • For the unified individual, unification is more of a process of diminution than addition. To be assimilated in a collective, he has to be stripped of his individuality, deprived of free choice & independent judgment. His natural bents & impulses have to be suppressed. These are all acts of diminution. The elements added – faith, hope, pride, confidence – are negative in origin. The exaltation he feels is not from wisdom & strength but sense of deliverance from a meaningless existence. He is eternally incomplete & insecure.
  • 103 – The mass movement accentuates & perpetuates incompleteness by elevating dogma above reason & preventing self-reliance of the adherent.

Author: knowit68

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