Thomas Carlyle’s “On Heroes and Hero Worship”

Carlyle’s “On Heroes and Hero Worship” is about society being caught up in a cult-like worship of heroes as people are led to believe that these heroes have god like qualities. The essay reflects on how such beliefs lead to societal ills.

“On Heroes and Hero Worship” by Thomas Carlyle is a book about the history of heroism. The author discusses how heroes are created and what they do for society. The book was published in 1841.

Vintage old bearded man praying saying grace at dinner table.

From 1840’s On Heroes and Hero Worship, as well as the Heroic in Society Carlyle, Thomas

In every sense, it is true that a man’s faith is the most important information about him. It is a man’s, or a country of men’s, property.

By religion, I do not mean the church-creed he confesses, the articles of faith he will sign and affirm, in words or otherwise; not entirely, and in many instances not at all. Under any or any of them, we witness persons of all types of declared creeds achieve practically all degrees of merit or worthlessness. This profession and statement is not what I term religion; it is frequently merely a profession and assertion from the man’s outworks, from his simple argumentation zone, if even that deep.

But the thing a man does practically believe (often without even admitting it to himself, much less to others); the thing a man does practically lay to heart, and know for certain, concerning his vital relations to this mysterious Universe, and his duty and destiny there, is always the most important thing for him, and creatively determines all the rest. That is his religion; or, it may be, his skepticism and no-religion: the way he perceives himself to be spiritually connected to the Unseen World or No-World; and I say, if you tell me what that is, you tell me a lot about the guy and the kinds of things he would do.

As a result, the first question we ask of a man or a country is, “What faith did they have?” Was it Heathenism, with its multiplicity of gods, sensual portrayal of the Mystery of Life, and Physical Force as the most acknowledged element therein? Was it Christianism, confidence in an Invisible, not only as real, but as the sole reality; Time, in every instant, resting on Eternity; the pagan dominion of Force supplanted by a nobler dominance, that of Holiness? Was it skepticism, uncertainty, and questioning if there was an Unseen World, any Mystery of Life other than a crazy one—doubt about all of this, or possibly disbelief and outright denial?

The answer to this question reveals the essence of a man’s or nation’s history. Their sentiments were the parents of their thinking; their thoughts were the parents of their feelings: it was the unseen and spiritual in them that controlled the outward and real; and, as I said, their religion was the main fact about them.



“On Heroes and Hero Worship” is a work of historical fiction by Thomas Carlyle. It was first published in 1841. The book explores the idea of heroism and its influence on society. Reference: thomas carlyle.

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