Saints and Psychopaths

Below is a short summary of a book by William Hazlitt given by Chota Haridas das where he gives some important information that any sane devotee should not ignore.

Saints and Psychopaths

Psychopaths pretending to be saints present a very serious problem for all spiritual traditions. There are many more psychopaths pretending to be saints than there are real saints.

If you have a true saint for a teacher, then you have a real possibility for spiritual attainments, including enlightenment. If your teacher is a psychopath, then you may become a programmed puppet, and you risk being sexually or financially abused. You also may lose your job, family and possibly even your sanity. Eventually you risk disillusionment from pursuing any spiritual quests.

In his book, Saints and Psychopaths, William Hazlitt gives a checklist of saintly and psychopathic qualities. With some word changes so they fit better within the frame of more common Krishna conscious usage I include both lists below. In as much as Srila Prabhupada has cautioned in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita that there are mundane men in the dress of Vaishnavas in the Krishna consciousness movement and that we should practice upeksha and “neglect” these persons, I thought it would be helpful to post this checklist with the possibility that it may help saragrahis to gain perspective on this aspect of things.


  • Are consistent in what they say, mean, and do.
  • Follow the moral standards they teach.
  • Keep promises.
  • Pay debts.
  • Hold truth as the highest standard.
  • Insist that their close associates tell the truth.
  • Present rational, unaggressive philosophy.
  • Are attractive but don’t exploit others and ingrain dependency.
  • Wait for you to seek their help.
  • Good reputation endures and improves.
  • Things turn out well in the long run.
  • People get long-term benefit from their association.
  • Are concerned about their actions on themselves and on others.
  • Immediately apologize for errors.
  • Look for their own mistakes and will voluntarily make amends.
  • If trapped do not renounce their principles.
  • Can sit very still.
  • Encourage associates to be self-reliant.
  • Refrain from using mind-dulling substances.
  • Are comfortable being in the background.


  • Are inconsistent in what they say, mean, and do.
  • Have different rules for themselves and for their followers.
  • Break their promises.
  • Have bad debts, scheme to avoid paying, even write bad checks.
  • Have no regard for the truth.
  • Will order close associates to lie.
  • Are aggressive with philosophy and may not try to appeal to reason.
  • Are attractive and use it to exploit others and ingrain dependency.
  • Come on with unsolicited advice.
  • Good reputation fades in time.
  • Things turn out badly in the long run.
  • People are damaged by long term association.
  • Are unconcerned about their actions on themselves and on others.
  • Apologize as a last resort.
  • Ignore their own mistakes and rectify them only if cornered.
  • If trapped will do or say whatever it takes to escape.
  • Typically have variable and exotic health problems.
  • Can sit still only when the center of attention.
  • Enslave those around them.
  • Often indulge in using mind-dulling substances.
  • Are obsessed with being in the limelight.

Hazlitt stresses that the person with only one or two of these symptoms is not necessarily a psychopath, nor is the occasional occurrence of these symptoms a definite indicator of psychopathology. On the other hand, if someone has several of them to a marked degree we should not twist our perceptions but should be decisive in avoiding them.