Obscurantists (Lat. obscurare, "to darken, obscure") is the term originally applied in derision to a party who are supposed to look with dislike and apprehension on the progress of knowledge, and to regard its general diffusion among men, taken as they are ordinarily found, as prejudicial to their religious welfare, and possibly injurious to their material interests. Of those who avow such a doctrine, and have written to explain and defend it, it is only just to say that they profess earnestly to desire the progress of all true knowledge as a thing good in itself; but they regard the attempt to diffuse it among men, indiscriminately, as perilous and often hurtful, by producing presumption and discontent. They profess but to reduce to practice the motto,
"A little learning is a dangerous thing."
It cannot be doubted, however, that there are fanatics of ignorance as well as fanatics of science. There are religious, political, scientific, and artistic obscurantists. In the Reformation period the Humanists (q.v.) called those zealots who opposed all innovation Obscurantists.