Mysticism and Violence

Est Reading Time: 2 min

Mysticism is typically associated with peace:

  • Mother Teresa is considered the ultimate mystic/ascetic/saint in modern mythology (however this is bullshit).
  • There are of course older archetypes like Francis of Assissi
  • Mysticism is seen as a “more advanced” version of a religion, in opposition to the “naive/literal” interpretation. eg. Sufis considered by many to practice a less dogmatic, more “spiritual” version of Islam.
  • Mystics are often recluses — surely they harm no-one, right?

Wrong. Mysticism has a VERY close connection with violence, one that goes way beyond a coincidence:

  • Zen is famous for violent imagery. See koans 3 and 41 here. These are not just symbollic, Zen’s nihilism played a major role in amoral creeds like those of the samurai and the rape of Nanking. It combined with Japanese nationalism to produce many other horrors in WW2.
  • Mystical visions are often violent, eg. the Book of Revelation, other apocalyptic literature, the vision of Anne Catherine Emmerich that was the basis of The Passion movie.
  • The term Assassin comes from the Hashashin sect. They kept members in a daze with mystical visions of paradise — complete with hashish, indulgences in food and sexual fantasies — after which they would do the murderous bidding of their master.
  • The Nazis were fascinated with the mysticism of Tibet and sent an expedition there (headed by Ernst Schaffer) to find the Central Asian roots of the Aryan race. This book details their quest, if you look at the bottom right picture on the cover you’ll see SS officers sitting with the Panchen Lama’s people. This is not a reductio ad hitlerium it’s a core aspect of mysticism that it attracts racist and genocidal ideologies.
  • See this for more examples, a lot of the people in the article are mystics.

I think it’s clear that mysticism is NOT benign. The reasons aren’t rocket science: mysticism is all about:

  • elitism and superiority
  • secrecy
  • a deliberate denial of the rational
  • the notion of a hierarchy of mystic and follower, including blind obedience

This has obvious parallels in authoritarian dictatorships, complete with a cult of personality, secret police and a propaganda machine that panders to the people’s worst emotions.

The New Age brings death, buyer beware (to quote the Simpsons, the yoghourt is poisoned!).