The Mark of the Crackpot

The Mark of the Crackpot January 28, 2014

…is his complete imprisonment in the clean, well-lit prison of a single idea. Chesterton remarks on this in Orthodoxy:

If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory. Or, to speak more strictly, the insane explanation, if not conclusive, is at least unanswerable; this may be observed specially in the two or three commonest kinds of madness. If a man says (for instance) that men have a conspiracy against him, you cannot dispute it except by saying that all the men deny that they are conspirators; which is exactly what conspirators would do. His explanation covers the facts as much as yours. Or if a man says that he is the rightful King of England, it is no complete answer to say that the existing authorities call him mad; for if he were King of England that might be the wisest thing for the existing authorities to do. Or if a man says that he is Jesus Christ, it is no answer to tell him that the world denies his divinity; for the world denied Christ’s.

Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable mark of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic’s theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way. I mean that if you or I were dealing with a mind that was growing morbid, we should be chiefly concerned not so much to give it arguments as to give it air, to convince it that there was something cleaner and cooler outside the suffocation of a single argument.

I think of this as I behold the spectacle of the discernment-free herd of Independent Thinkers who, getting their marching orders from Church Militant TV and obeying to the letter, are now defending the “The Principle” (the rock solid new film proving geocentrism beyond the shadow of a doubt and inaugurating a Revolution in our understanding of cosmology).  To a man, they are dutifully reciting the rhetoric crackpots always recite when normal people point out that they are crackpots.  It goes like this:

  • Have you *read* Mein Kampf? Then how can you possibly say that it’s the work of a monster? How do you know it’s not Jews controlling the media responsible for the bad reviews it gets?
  • Have you read the latest research proving that Lizard Creatures control the Vatican? Then how can you know that the people dismissing this theory are not, in fact, Lizard Creatures?
  • Have you read the latest research showing that International Jewish bankers created Nazism as a prelude to conquest of the land of Palestine?  Then how do you know that my gratuitous assertion of this fact in your combox just now is false?
  • Have you read the science in support of the fact that the universe circles a non-rotational earth at hyper-light speeds every 24 hours?
  • I have to say that I am absolutely shocked at the way Professional Catholics like you simply dismiss people who have been talking about nothing but these matters for years and years. Who made you the arbiter of what you decide is “crazy” and don’t spend your time on? You have to spend all your time researching every “crazy” thing so-called “lunatics” want to discuss or we will call you a coward–and a Lizard Creature who may well have Jewish blood. Can you prove you aren’t? Ha! That’s just what a Jewish Lizard Creature would try to do!

Just so it’s clear.  I haven’t boned up on geocentrism or Lizard Creatures in the Vatican or the Jewish International Banker conspiracy to create Nazism as a prelude to conquest of Palestine.  I have better things to do than read the turgid manifesto of a mass murderer.  These things will not occupy one moment of my waking thought, much less every moment for years and years.  Because that is the mark of a crackpot. “Apostolates” like Church Militant TV should not be promoting and mainstreaming utter and complete crackpots.  But since they have chosen to do so, I heartily urge their growing audience of crackpots to make their thoughts and ideas about geocentrism and, especially, the Jewish conspiracy heard loud and clear in every American chancery and in Rome itself.  It’s long overdue that they receive the attention and reward they so richly deserve.

"Late to the game, but while I agree with him that the end doesn’t justify ..."

Building Bridges of Trust vs. Winning
"I also think netflix is more evil than good, the things they have and support ..."

A reader struggles with scruples about ..."
"I am pretty sure remote cooperation is evil unless with proportionate reasons..."

A reader struggles with scruples about ..."
"Just one nit - the Dickey Amendment (the bit of law that supposedly "forbids" the ..."

Heresy of the Day: Antinomianism

Browse Our Archives