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By June 11, 2008 53 Comments Read More →

The psychopath as anti-saint

Consider this extract from a piece by Anthony Daniels in The New Criterion:

In his essay, The Empire of the Ugly, the great Belgian Sinologist and literary essayist Simon Leys recounts the story of how, writing one day in a café, a small incident gave him an insight into the real nature of philistinism.

A radio was playing in the background, a mixture of banal and miscellaneous chatter and equally banal popular music. No one in the café paid any attention to this stream of tepid drivel until suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, the first bars of Mozart’s clarinet quintet were played.

“Mozart,” Leys says, “took possession of our little space with a serene authority, transforming the café into an antechamber of Paradise.”

The other people in the café, who until then were chatting, playing cards, or reading the newspaper, were not deaf to the radio after all. The music silenced them, they looked at each other, disconcerted. “Their disarray lasted only a few seconds: to the relief of all, one of them stood up, changed the radio station and re-established the flow of noise that was more familiar and comforting, which everyone could then properly ignore.”

Here is the conclusion Leys draws:

At that moment, I was struck by an obvious fact that has never left me since: that the real philistines are not those people incapable of recognizing beauty — they recognize it only too well, with a flair as infallible as that of the subtlest aesthete, but only to pounce on it, and smother it before it can take root in their universal empire of ugliness.

Thus philistinism is a positive, not merely a negative force.

In the article Daniels mentions other examples including that of Liberian rebels sawing off the legs of the only Steinway grand piano in the land, thereby rendering it useless. Now maybe this is just about snobs objecting to the blue-collar tastes of regular folks. But let’s take Ley’s thought about philistinism seriously for a minute and then apply it to psychopathy. So,

IF real philistines are not those people incapable of recognizing beauty — they recognize it only too well, with a flair as infallible as that of the subtlest aesthete, but only to pounce on it, and smother it before it can take root in their universal empire of ugliness,
THEN real pychopaths are not those people incapable of recognizing good — they recognize it only too well, with a flair as infallible as that of the saint, but only to pounce on it, and smother it before it can take root in their universal empire of sin.

I have never bought the idea that psychopaths cannot empathise with others; that they’re radically other, either brain-damaged or animals. To me the psychopath’s exquisite ability to know exactly how to hurt others suggests that he is brilliantly attuned to the inner worlds of others. Nor does the idea that psychopaths can’t tell the difference between good and evil stand up. Their infallible nose for doing wrong is evidence that the psychopath is an anti-saint.

One definition of saint is “persons eminent for holiness….those who distinguish themselves by heroic virtue during life”. Turn that on it’s head and you have the psychopath.

In my humble opinion, that is.


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53 Comments on "The psychopath as anti-saint"

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So many excellent comments here. I agree that you can’t let the P know that he has had any effect on you, good or bad. Although they take great pleasure in inflicting pain, what they mostly want is a reaction. I think that maybe these people have learned that it is much easier to get a negative reaction than a positive one, so they have made it a habit to take the “easy” route and get the bad reaction.

Base on decades of experience with my P, I think that he actually does have a conscience. His pleasure in hurting others is like drugs for an addict. The pleasure of hurting others, like the high for an addict, lasts for a while. Then he actually has some shred of conscience that kicks in and he feels bad/guilty for what he did. This is like the addict going into withdrawal. So then he does the only thing that he knows to give himself a quick “fix” and that is to hurt someone again.

I don’t believe that my P could ever be rehabilitated. He had so many chances with me, but the lure of the “drug” was too strong to let him join the human race and behave like a normal person. He would have short bursts of “acting nice,” but it was only a last ditch effort to keep me connected to him. I would think, oh, he’s being nice, he really does love me, and as soon as he got me to think that, he would be back to the mental torture. He would only squeak out the minimum effort needed to fool me or whoever was watching.

The short bursts of “nice” were like an addict who stays clean just long enough to pass the drug test, or fool the parole officer, or whatever. There was no recovery and I don’t think that there was even any desire for recovery.

I wholeheartedly agree with the advice to stay as far away and have as little contact as possible. My P’s first wife moved overseas to escape him!

I still live in the same area, but I do not have any contact unless it is absolutely necessary. In those cases (legal issues, etc.) I keep it to a complete minimum. He still tries to see me and makes excuses to come to my house. I think now that he is much older, he is having trouble finding a new victim.

I certainly have gained a lot of knowledge by reading this website and all the comments.

I was involved myself with an educated, successful sociopath who works at a major university and is quite outstanding in his field.

When I first met him, I thought I had met Prince Charming. He was absolutely wonderful….dinners, gifts, trips, dinners, etc… he always knew exactly what to do to win me over. His physical appearance and charisma were lacking, so he used his charm, flattery, and professional position to win women over.

Yes, I was lured in, hooked, hoodwinked, and then he “struck.” I fit perfectly into his game plan. I was just one more additon to his ever-growing harem. He had to have a constant influx because as some became aware of his false ambitions, they would drop off. Then all he had to do was pick up with the next one.

I, now, truly believe he enjoyed the thrill of the chase, became excited with each new conquest, and truly got off to juggling such a variey of women. He almost seemed at times that he deliberately left clues, so that doubt would be raised in the minds of the victims. It was and is a big, hilarious game for him where he is also the winner. He destroys peoples lives, sanity, and stability and walks away scot free… and falls right into someone else’s arms. He is never left without…in fact, I believe, this is his greatest fear….being alone.

Time, trusting in friends, research, reading, and many more self-improvement techniques have been used by me to get to where I am now. I still question myself, and what I could have done, should have done, etc…. but, in reality, no matter what, the outcome would still have been the same. It was not me, it was him.

Please trust your female intuition, listen, watch, ask questions, so that you do not also fall prey to such a character.

I love this site and always look forward to the next mailing.

Dr. Steve- I definitely agree.

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