Avoiding the Pitfalls of Fanaticism
Fanaticism is an unfortunate human condition that can emerge in various spheres of life. It is related to the subconscious defects of zeal, violence, pride and anger; it almost always clouds any light of objectivity of consciousness because of how strong those egos manifest at that moment, making the person believe that their view (and that of their group) is always the correct one. This last thing would not be so problematic would it not be accompanied by a strong emotion that can be dangerous to the person and to others around them. Once fanaticism is shaped by the circumstances of the person’s life, it is always present, and it is always lurking for opportunities to thunder out from its asleep host.
Even though fanaticism can appear in various spheres of life, it seems to be most often related to religions, to spiritual and atheistic circles, and also it is prominent among those who call themselves “the supporters of science”, and even in people who call themselves scientists.
Throughout history there have been many wars in the name of religions, many lands have been conquered under the guise of “such is the wish of God”, many people have been tortured and killed because of their faith and because they did not want to convert to the “one true religion”. The religious fanatics who massacred people in various lands “in the name of God” have believed that they are doing the right thing, because their fanaticism blinded them from perceiving reality clearly, and so instead of their desire to “move closer to God”, they distanced themselves from anything that is spiritual, opening the portal of darkness within themselves.
Today we can see a lot of fanaticism in the online commentaries, particularly from people who call themselves Christians and Muslims. It is very common to see fanatical zealots who interpret scriptures literally, undermining everyone who think differently than them, with threats of “eternal damnation” if they do not repent and if they do not accept their deity as “the one and true God or Saviour”, believing that any view that is different to theirs stems from “Satan” and is there to tempt the “faithful” and should be overcome, without putting the slightest thought to it. And on the opposite end stand the fanatical supporters of science, who criticise everything that has to do with the spiritual, using the scientific jargon and “rational thinking” as a mean to undermine their opponents, without understanding that they are also victims of propaganda and their own fanatical defects that control their thought, feeling and action.
Fanaticism can also entrap those who are more mature spiritually, who have interest in a deeper study of spiritual teachings. We can see this taking place in most spiritual groups, but unlike above-mentioned religions that widely use threats of eternal damnation, here it is more subtle and limited to a smaller circle. Perhaps we could say that it is a more refined fanaticism, of the type where the mystical pride plays a big role. Nonetheless, the potential for harm is equally great in both cases.
The way it often goes is that the person who starts a spiritual study for the first time in their life tends to take those teachings as some kind of basis of how, in their view, spiritual development takes place, or how spiritual things function in this world. This is often the case with many people who have serious interest in their spiritual development, and also people who become fascinated with such form of studies. Without them seeing it or not, they are building up a belief system that becomes especially fortified in that early stage of their spiritual journey, provided they place a real value on the teachings that they are studying. Without sufficient training or maturity in the early days of our spiritual journey, such belief systems can become very strong, bringing to surface the fanatical egos that are influencing us each time when we hear something that doesn’t match our viewpoint. Obviously, if we do not work on that, not only will we not learn anything new, but we can be taken over by fanaticism in a way that is very harmful for our progress.
However, even though this bleak scenario can manifest into reality if the person is not careful, many people in spiritual circles find ways to avoid this from occurring, though they still have as a basis their first spiritual teaching, which serves as a sort of spiritual truth checker. This in itself is not harmful, but it is necessary to be open enough to be able to learn new things, to ponder over them, and to be ready to let go of old things if that is what we need to do. As our understanding of reality grows, we come to know that the teachings are simply a form, a vehicle that takes us towards the reality, but once we start stepping into this greater reality, it is necessary to be open to look at it without hindrances of any shape or form.
The reality slowly and steadily grows within us when we do the inner work correctly. With the latter we build ourselves “eyes to see and ears to hear”, and the reality enfolds us more and more; we understand more, and we become more. It is not revealed to us at once, as many people wrongly suppose; nor do we know about It by reading books of spiritual masters, not even when we have strong faith in them. It is only given to us to see and to understand according to our capacity to see and to understand, and this is increased gradually.
We can avoid fanaticism by doing the inner work properly. This means noticing fanatical tendencies when they emerge, detaching ourselves from them, and dissolving them with the mystical death. We should be especially on guard if we are prone to having strong emotions, if we are easily moved by emotions, if we are of the temperamental type. We should also be on guard if pride is strong within us, if we think highly of ourselves.
Fanaticism is a real trap that can become a problem for anyone. Spiritual beliefs should be questioned and not taken as the absolute truth. It is with practice and the inner work that the mysteries of the Creation and the Absolute are revealed to us.
HDP, May 2021.