At this time forces, energies that might carry mankind up carried it down. For finer purposes of life, little was available. Terror of the sublime maddened all minds. Capacities, impressions, visions amassed in human beings from the time of origin, perhaps since matter first glinted with grains of consciousness, were bound up largely with vanities, negations, and revealed only in amorphous hints or ciphers smeared on the windows of condemned shops. All naturally were frightened of the future. Not death. Not that future. Another future in which the full soul concentrated upon eternal being. Mr. Sammler believed this. And in the meantime there was the excuse of madness. A whole nation, all of civilized society, perhaps, seeking the blameless state of madness.
– Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler’s Planet (1970)