Heroes And Hero-worship "The Greatest Of Faults Is To Be Conscious Of None"

Thomas Carlyle

"The Greatest Of Faults Is To Be Conscious Of None"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Having shown the first hero to have been Odin, made into a god, Carlyle, in the second of his series of six lectures "On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History," considers "The Hero as a Prophet." After the transformation of some Norse thinker and man of genius into the Teutonic god Odin, development came next among the Arabs. Men, now more sophisticated, were no longer willing to concede God-like qualities to their leaders; all they would grant was that the leaders were prophets, God-inspired. Basically every great man, as he comes from the hand of Nature, has similar qualities. Odin, Luther, Dr. Johnson, Burns, "are all originally of the same stuff." They are all "men of genius," the Soul of a man actually sent down from the skies with a God's-message for us. As example of a prophet, "we have chosen Mahomet, not as the most eminent, but as the one we are freest to speak of." Carlyle says that he is willing to call Mahomet a true Prophet, since 180,000,000 men during 1,200 years have listened to him. That fact could not have happened unless he had been sincere. His words as a prophet were unlike any other man's words,–direct from the Inner Fact of Things. And his rude message was a real one, an earnest, confused voice from the unknown Deep. Perhaps he had faults, but Carlyle goes on:

. . . Neither can the faults, imperfections, insincerities even, of Mahomet, if such were never so well proved against him, shake the primary facts about him.
On the whole, we make too much of faults; the details of the business hide the real center of it. Faults? The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none. Readers of the Bible above all, one would think, might know better. Who was called there "the man according to God's own heart?" David, the Hebrew King, had fallen into sins enough; blackest crimes; there was no want of sins. . . . David's life and history, as written for us in those Psalms of his, I consider to be the truest emblem ever given of a man's moral progress and warfare here below. . . .