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Rational logic, affective logic,
and mystic logic

The genesis and development of the Sikh revolutionary movement revolved round the Sikh religious faith; but some scholars try to interpret its history exclusively in terms of rational logic and environmental factors. They either turn a blind eye towards the role of other factors, such as religious and affective, in its historical or social development, or dismiss the examination of the contributions thereof by any approach other than their own as being unscientific. For understanding the Sikh movement, we would, therefore, first of all attempt to point out the lop-sidedness of the premises of such scholarship with the help of the related findings of eminent scholars of social sciences, which cannot be dubbed as less scientific than the methodology followed by them.

1. Other Factors Also
“Among the most important factors of history, one was preponderant — the factor of beliefs… So long as psychology regards beliefs as voluntary and rational, they will remain inexplicable. Having proved that they are usually irrational and always involuntary, I was able to propound the solution of this important problem; how it was that beliefs which no reason could justify were admitted without difficulty by the most enlightened spirits of all ages.

“The solution of the historical difficulties which had so long been sought was thenceforth obvious. I arrived at the conclusion that besides the rational logic which conditions thought, and was formerly regarded as our sole guide, there exist very different forms of logic : affective logic, collective logic, and mystic logic, which usually overrule the reason and engender the generative impulses of our conduct.
“This fact well established, it seemed to me evident that if a great number of historical events are often uncomprehended, it is because we seek to interpret them in the light of a logic which in reality has very little influence upon their genesis.”1

2. Affective Logic and Reason
Mere rational conviction is unable to propel vast human masses into movement or to evoke heroic sentiments and great deeds.2 It is strong emotions allied to a revolutionary ideology which are the propelling force of a revolution, which in turn is the locomotive force of history.3 It is enthusiasm that drives men’s minds off the beaten tracks and produces the great revolutions both in thought and politics.4 The French Revolution was an explosive release of energy.5 This view is hardly contested, but the significant point is that affective logic, which is such a potent force in revolutionary movements, is not born of or governed by, rational logic. “Although in its beginnings a religious or political revolution may very well be supported by rational elements, it is developed only by the aid of mystic and affective elements which are absolutely foreign to reason.

“The historians who have judged the events of the French Revolution in the name of rational logic could not comprehend them, since this form of logic did not dictate them.

“The power of the Revolution did not reside in the principles... which it sought to propagate, nor in the institutions which it sought to found. The people care very little for institutions and even less for doctrines. That the Revolution was potent indeed… was due to the fact that it had founded not a new system of government, but a new religion. Now history shows us how irresistable is the might of a strong belief. Invincible Rome herself had to bow before the armies of nomad shepherds illuminated by the faith of Mohammed. For the same reason, the kings of Europe could not resist the tatterdemalion soldiers of the Convention. Like all apostles, they were ready to immolate themselves with the sole end of propagating their beliefs, which according to their dream, were to renew the world.

“The religion thus founded had the force of other religions, if not their duration. Yet it did not perish without leaving indelible traces, and its influence is active still.”6

Although the origin of a revolution may be perfectly rational, we must not forget that the reasons invoked in preparing for it do not influence the crowd until they have been transformed into sentiments. Rational logic can point to the abuses to be destroyed, but to move the multitude its hopes must be aroused. This can only be effected by the action of affective and mystic elements which give man the power to act. At the time of the French Revolution, for example, rational logic, in the hands of the philosophers, demonstrated the inconveniences of the ancien regime, and excited the desire to change it. Mystic logic inspired belief in the virtues of a society created in all its members according to certain principles. Affective logic unchained the passions confined by the bonds of ages and led to the worst excesses. Collective logic ruled the clubs and the assemblies and impelled their members to actions which neither rational nor affective nor mystic logic would ever have caused them to commit.”7

Hagopian supports Gustave substantially on the role played by beliefs in revolutions. “By myths we mean the value-impregnated beliefs and notions that men hold, that they live by or live for. Every society is held together by a myth-system, a complex of dominating thought forms that determinates and sustains all its activities. … Since myth is essentially a stimulus to immediate action, any attempt to discuss how far it can be taken literally as further history is devoid of sense. An utopia’s appeal to reason is a fatal weakness from the standpoint of revolution, because mere rational conviction is unable to propel vast human masses into movement or to evoke heroic sentiments and great deeds… A myth… arouses the sub-rational level of sentiment and passion; it alone can endow the masses with the bellicosity required for a revolutionary showdown.”8

3. Belief and Reason
“While scientific revolutions derive solely from rational elements, political and religious beliefs are sustained exclusively by affective and mystic forces, reason plays only a feeble part in their genesis… a political or religious belief constitutes an act of faith elaborated in unconsciousness, over which, in spite of all appearances, reason has no hold. I also showed that belief often reaches such a degree of intensity that nothing can be opposed to it. The man hypnotised by his faith becomes an apostle, ready to sacrifice his interests, his happiness, and even his life for the triumph of his faith. The absurdity of his belief matters little; for him it is a burning reality. Certitude of mystic origin possesses the marvellous power of entire domination over thought, and can only be effected by time.”9

“The force of the political and religious beliefs which have moved the world resides primarily in the fact that, being born of affective and mystic elements, they are neither created nor affected by reason.

“Political or religious beliefs have a common origin and obey the same laws. They are formed not with the aid of reason, but more often contrary to all reason. Buddhism, Islam, the Reformation, Jacobinism, Socialism, etc., seem very different forms of thought. Yet they have identical affective and mystic bases, and obey a logic that has no affinity with rational logic.”10

4. Belief and Modern Revolutions
The Enlightenment embodied the sway of rational logic in the West, and the Jacobins were its standard-bearers in the French Revolution. Hence, the study of Jacobin mind by Gustave assumes importance, as an illustration, for understanding the great role of belief, faith, or mystic logic in modern revolutions, which are otherwise supposed to be mainly governed by rational logic.

“The chief characteristic of the mystic temperament consists in the attribution of a mysterious power to superior beings or forces, which are incarnated in the form of idols, fetishes, words, or formulae.

“The mystic spirit is at the bottom of all the religious and most political beliefs…
“Grafted on the sentiments and passionate impulses which it directs, mystic logic constitutes the might of the great popular movements. Men who would be by no means ready to allow themselves to be killed for the best of reasons will readily sacrifice their lives to a mystic ideal which has become an object of adoration.

“The principles of the Revolution (i.e., the French Revolution) speedily inspired a wave of mystic enthusiasm analogous to those provoked by the various religious beliefs which had preceded it. All they did was to change the orientation of a mental ancestry which the centuries had solidified.”11

“The mystic aspect of all revolutions has escaped the majority of historians. They will persist for a long time yet in trying to explain by means of rational logic a host of phenomena which have nothing to do with reason.”12

Given the silent power of reason over mystic beliefs, it is quite useless to seek to discuss, as is so often done, the rational value of revolutionary or political ideas. Only their influence can interest us.

The mystic mentality is an essential factor of the Jacobin mind. The Jacobins do not in the least suspect their mysticism. On the contrary, they profess to be guided solely by pure reason. During the Revolution they invoked reason incessantly, and considered it as their only guide to conduct. But they did not suspect for a moment that after all their personal views were only hypotheses, and that they were all the more laughable for claiming a Divine right for them precisely because they deny divinity.13

“This analysis will show in the first place that the Jacobin is not a rationalist, but a believer. Far from building his belief on reason, he moulds reason to his belief… the Jacobin is never influenced by reasoning, however just, and it is precisely here that his strength resides.

“And why is he not accessible to reason. Simply because his vision of things, always extremely limited, does not permit of his resisting the powerful and passionate impulses which guide him.

“These two elements, feeble reason and strong passions, would not of themselves constitute the Jacobin mind. There is another.

“Passion supports convictions, but hardly ever creates them. Now, the true Jacobin has forcible convictions. What is to sustain them? Here the mystic elements whose actions we have already studied come into play. The Jacobin is a mystic who has replaced the old divinities by new gods. Imbued with the power of words and formulae, he attributes to them a mysterious power…

“With these three elements — a very weak reasoning power, very strong passions, and an intense mysticism — we have the true psychological components of the mind of a Jacobin”14

According to Eliade, the Marxian vision of a classless society is no more than a refurbishment of the myth of the Golden Age, which comes at the end instead of the beginning of history.15 Parts of other revolutionary ideologies are also considered to be infused with ancient mythical motifs. Only, “the old religious idiom has been replaced by a secular one, and this tends to obscure what otherwise would be obvious”.16

5. Comment
The object of this exercise is to bring home that in interpreting revolutionary movements, the validity of rational logic is circumscribed by some other logics like affective logic and mystic logic. Therefore, it would be irrational to close one’s eyes to these logics and judge the Sikh revolutionary movement exclusively in the name of rational logic and environmental factors. “Given the silent power of reason over mystic beliefs”, it is useless to discuss the rational value of revolutionary religious faith. What matters is the influence it has exercised on the historical development of the movement.



1. Le Bon, Gustave : The Psychology of Revolution, pp. 14-15.
2. Hagopian, p. 261.
3. Friedrich, Carl J : Revolution, p. 92.
4. Focqueville : Oeuvres, i, 11, 267, cited by Friedrich, p. 92.
5. Friedrich, pp. 12, 85, 92.
6. Le Bon, Gustave : op. cit., pp. 17-18
7. Ibid., pp. 23-24.
8. Hagopian, p. 261.
9. Le Bon, Gustave, pp. 26-27.
10. Ibid., p. 28.
11. Ibid., p. 87-88.
12. Ibid., p. 89.
13. Ibid., pp. 91-92.
14. Ibid., pp. 94-96.
15. Mirca Eliade : Myths, Dreams, and Mysteries, p. 25 (Cited by Hagopian, p. 260).
16. Norman Cohn : Pursuit of the Millennium, p. 288 ( Cited by Hagopian, p. 260).



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