Living In Others’ Fantasies Makes Us Stupid

We are born without any ideas, but have individual tendencies. This is undeniable. These tendencies that have not yet taken shape are coloured by our environment; they are misdirected or exaggerated, and we learn others’ ways.

‘Stupidity’ is another word for ignorance, when we ignore those basic tendencies, be they positive or negative.

When talking to others about psychological, spiritual matters, they must be on the verge of inner enquiry for it to make any sense. Too many acquire data for intellectual reasons, but have not a scrap of compassion. Clever evil feeds off clever stupidity.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young pastor, began to speak publicly against the atrocities of National Socialism. Due to his involvement in a plot against Adolf Hitler, Bonhoeffer died on 9 April 1945 at Flossenbürg concentration camp – just two weeks before soldiers from the United States liberated the camp.

In his famous letters from prison, Bonhoeffer argued that stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of good than malice because, “while one may protest against evil; it can be exposed and prevented by the use of force, but against stupidity we are defenceless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here. Reasons falls on deaf ears.”

He wrote:

“Facts that contradict a stupid person’s prejudgment need not be believed by that person. When these facts are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential or incidental. Throughout this process, the stupid person is self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.

“For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature.

“This much is certain: stupidity is, in essence, not an intellectual defect but a moral one. There are human beings who are, intellectually, remarkably agile, yet stupid, and others who are intellectually dull, yet anything but stupid.

“The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or rather, they allow this to happen to them.

“People who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals in groups, and so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological problem, and more a sociological problem.

“It becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power, be it of a political or religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It is almost as if this is a sociological-psychological law, where the power of the one needs the stupidity of the other.

“The process at work here is not that particular human capacities – such as intellect – suddenly fail. Instead, it seems that, under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up an autonomous position.

“The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that they are not independent. In conversation with them, one feels that one is not dealing with them as a person, but with slogans and catchwords that have taken possession of them.

“They are under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in their very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil – and incapable of seeing that it is evil.

“Only an act of liberation – rather than instruction – can overcome stupidity. Here, we must come to terms with the fact that, in most cases, a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then, we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person.”

When we realise that we have acquired stupidity,
we are free!

We are free in the moment of seeing.”
– Tulku Urgyen

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