Features June 2020
The God that flickered
On Alexander Herzen and the revolutionary mind.
Perhaps the best way to understand the psychology of radicals is to read accounts of former believers. In that classic collection of essays by disillusioned communists—The God That Failed—six major writers evoke what passionate belief feels like and analyze the kinds of thinking that sustain it. In the opening selection, Arthur Koestler describes the heady moment when “the new light seems to pour from all directions across the skull; the whole universe falls into pattern like the stray pieces of a jigsaw puzzle assembled by magic at one stroke. There is now an answer to every question, doubts and conflicts are a matter of the tortured past” when one still lived among “those who don’t know.” One has at last achieved complete serenity and assurance, except for the “occasional fear of losing faith again, losing thereby...
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