Monday, June 19, 2017


The Anti-Fanatic

Stefan Zweig (1881-1942), Erasmus of Rotterdam, tr. Eden and Cedar Paul (1934; rpt. New York: Viking, 1956), pp. 5-6:
On this ground Erasmus set his face against every form of fanaticism, whether religious, national, or philosophical, considering it as the prime enemy to mutual understanding. He detested bigotry in all its manifestations; he loathed the stiffnecked and the biased, whether these wore a priestly cassock or a professorial gown; he hated those who put on blinkers, and the zealots of every class and race who demanded immediate acquiescence in their own opinions while looking upon the ideas that failed to correspond with theirs as rank heresy or rascality. Just as he himself never wished to impose his outlooks upon his neighbour, so in turn did he refuse to be burdened with the religious or political theories of others if these happened to be alien and unacceptable. He took it as a matter of course that a man had a right to his own opinions; absolute independence of mind was essential. Himself a free spirit, he looked upon it as a fettering of the delightful manifoldedness of the universe when, from pulpit or university chair, a man declared his truth to be the only truth, to be a special message which God had whispered into his ear and his ear alone.
Id., p. 17:
To right of him was exaggeration and to left was exaggeration, to right he saw fanaticism and to left; and he, the intractable antifanatic, desired to serve neither one form of excess nor the other.
Id., pp. 68-69:
But his favourite method of resistance was simply to withdraw into his shell like a snail whenever the tumult raged around him. The safest shelter, then, was his study, behind a barricade of books. Here he deemed himself really secure.
Id., p. 233:
[N]one was willing to understand what his neighbour said, but instead each tried to impose his own pet belief, his particular doctrine, upon all the rest. Woe unto him who stood aside and took no part in the game! Twofold hatred was hurled against those who remained aloof. Those who live for the spirit are lonely indeed at times when passion rages. Who is there left to write for when ears are deafened with political yappings and yelpings?

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