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Observations placeholder

Koestler, Arthur - Janus - The need to question beliefs



Type of Spiritual Experience


In this extract Koestler is describing the dangers of religion,  power and its misuse as well as blind adherence to beliefs and belief systems.

A description of the experience

Arthur Koestler - Janus

No historian could deny that the part played by crimes committed for personal motives is very small compared to the vast populations slaughtered in unselfish loyalty to a jealous god, king, country or political system.

The crimes of Caligula shrink to insignificance compared to the havoc wrought by Tarquemada.  The number of people killed by robbers, highwaymen, gangsters and other associated elements is negligible compared to the masses cheerfully slain in the name of 'true religion' – the [so called 'righteous cause'.]

Thus the historical record confronts us with the paradox that the tragedy of man originates not in his aggressiveness but in his unquestioning devotion to trans-personal ideals.


The group mind is dominated by a system of beliefs, traditions, moral imperatives, with a high emotive potential regardless of its rational content and quite frequently its explosive power is enhanced by its very irrationality.  Faith in the group's credo is an emotional commitment; it anaesthetises the individual's critical faculties and rejects rational doubt as something evil.

The group mind must function on an intellectual level accessible to all its members – single mindedness must be simple minded.  The overall result of this is the enhancement of the emotional dynamics of the group and simultaneous reduction of its intellectual faculties, a sad caricature of the ideal of hierarchic awareness.

The source of the experience

Koestler, Arthur

Concepts, symbols and science items


Belief systems


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Suppressing memory