Ideologues, those entrapped in their self-serving ideology, can never recover from this malady. They are like alcoholics who, in recovery-culture have the axiomatic bromide, “Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” The culture of recovery uses this bromide to address the truth that even those in recovery are still an alcoholic and always will be. And I personally must confess that I am an “ideologue” in recovery and will always be, a fact that is certainly related to by persistent focus on the peril of ideology and threat of “ideologues.” This ideological malady is intrinsically related to this gift of thinking that makes us driven by instinct alone.
Religious culture of our day illustrates this problem just as does our political culture. Religious people are susceptible to being so intoxicated with theology and religious tradition that the essence of their spirituality is obliterated by their enslavement to their ideas, the, “letter of the law.” An identity plague with this malady is often so entrapped in his ideas of himself, in “ideas” about his spirituality that he is unable to recognize and acknowledge that his spirituality is largely, if not completely, “performance art.”
There is a related story in the news which broke yesterday about the Pope having fired a prominent member of the House of Cardinals, Theodore McCarrick, for his history of sexual abuse. The evidence against this 88 year old man is extensive and could no longer be ignored by the Catholic hierarchy. But this aged man persists in his innocence even in the face of overwhelming evidence that he is guilty.
I would conjecture that this man is a “good” man with the life-long spiritual emphasis of his career; for, “good men” can do very bad things. But “good men,” steeped in the rigid structure of faith can gradually reach the place where their piety is so self-serving that they can and do overlook their gross “badness.” It is possible that this ex-Cardinal truly does believe in his innocence as “ideas” are so intoxicating that they often keep us trapped in self-deception, even though this dishonesty is so apparent to those looking on.
This is now glaringly obvious in our political system with prominent politicians so obviously guilty of blatant lying yet be so unaware of their dishonesty that they can readily accuse their foes of, “lying.” Yes, this is hypocrisy, but it is quite possible that some of these “hypocrites” really do believe what they are saying for being trapped in their ideas about themselves it is quite possible they do not believe they are lying. But this is a human malady, not merely one exclusive to religious leaders and politicians. It is very human to cling to our ideas of ourselves, our self-percept of our identity, rather than consider that beneath the surface there are unsavory dimensions to our psyche that need to be given the light of day occasionally. But this “unconscious” dimension of our life is too readily kept buried as our “conscious” beliefs, “i.e. ‘ideas,’” about ourselves will not allow the darkness to be acknowledged. This “darkness” would disrupt and even devastate our “ideological” identity even though spiritual teachings often present the notion that “in the darkness” there is, “light.” As Auden summarized this wisdom poetically, “And Truth met him, and held out here hand. But he clung in panic to his tall beliefs and shrank away like an ill-treated child.