Charisma, Detachment and Metanormal Abilities
Another Excerpt from Prophetic Charisma
Excerpt from Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities (1997) by Len Oakes [on the particular nature of narcissism in charismatic figures; Rajneesh and Vivekananda as case studies; detachment and being outside "conventional reality"; and metanormal abilities]
Chapter 3 Stage One: Early Narcissism
He who has been the undisputed darling of his mother retains throughout life
that victorious feeling, that confidence in ultimate success, which not seldom
brings actual success with it.
-Sigmund Freud, A Childhood Recollection from Dictung und Wahrheit.
How much can we say?i>really—about the inner life of another person? Some things we may safely assume; for example, that John felt hurt when Mary rejected him. But when we try to explain more complex behaviors such as leadership, we are much more speculative. It is possible, of course, by drawing on different sources and with the benefit of hindsight, to suggest credible reasons why Joan became a leader and Bill a follower, why Anne became an artist and Bruce a criminal. But to spell out, in a step-by-step way, all the processes and events that led up to the adoption of a particular role is, it must be frankly admitted, impossible, given the present state of our knowledge. Some heroic efforts to do this have been made, but an irreducible ambiguity remains (Runyon 1984). There is always some part of a person that cannot be known, no matter how hard we try. That is their dignity, and our humility.
The theories used herein come from depth psychology and the social sciences. At certain points these two approaches conflict, but both stress the early life of the child as crucially formative for later development (Conger and Kanungo 1988). The theory to be advanced herein begins with Heinz Kohut’s work on the narcissistic personality, and then describes how such a person may become a focus for charismatic affections in others. The two key questions are Why would anyone become a prophet? How does one do so?
In Kohut’s theory, the mother acts as a filter between the developing child and the external world, so that the period of primary narcissism is extended far beyond its usual time and becomes deepened and crystallized within the child’s mind as his or her basic view of life. The mother protects the child in such a way that the full significance of external reality is not recognized by the child. This is achieved by her devotion to, and support of, the child (mirroring, pacing, modeling and so on), which is extended throughout the child’s infancy and into later life. Kohut speculates that at some point in the later stages of this relationship there is a failure of rapport by the mother. In order to defend himself against the painful discovery that the world does not exist for him alone, the child may protect himself by incorporating the mother’s filter mechanisms into his self. Thus the child retains the illusion of oneness with the mother and deals with the world in a way similar to hers.
Several points need to be emphasized about this scenario. First, although in perhaps a majority of cases it is the nurturing role of the mother that prepares the ground for subsequent development, there is no intrinsic reason why this should be so. In the case of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (described below) his grandfather was his primary love attachment. When considering this theory, we must remain aware that it is the child’s constructed inner parent, the "self-object" derived from the relationship with an actual carer, that is crucial in narcissistic development.
Second, such a child has experienced a history of "baby worship" (Kohut 1971, 124), with all the heightened self-esteem and background of security that go along with it. Hence this is already a very secure, robust child. This corresponds with the facts of charismatic leaders; they seem to be fundamentally strong and secure people, their self confidence impresses one as real, not mere bombast. The leaders in this study were not mere actors; they were men and women who probably could have succeeded at almost anything they tried (including acting as impressive figures). Prophets are not weak people. For an infamous example consider Jim Jones, who, in his last days in Guyana, despite being sick with fever, unable to stand, and incoherent much of the time, nevertheless still inspired love, fear, and loyalty among his followers (Reiterman and Jacobs 1982).
Further, the failure of rapport by the carer is not the failure of an "optimally failing parent" (Kohut 1977, 237) who ushers in maturity in an age-appropriate manner. The failure is delayed long past the time when such failures would usually occur, and comes at a time—perhaps the crucial time—when the worldview of the child is crystallizing in important ways. Hence the failure of rapport is not the optimal failure that is necessary for the healthy development of a realistic worldview. Rather, it is a delayed failure that occurs when the child is much stronger and more advanced in terms of ego development. Such a child may be able to cope with this failure in some way that denies or diminishes a full recognition of the reality of the universe, allowing the child to cling to an egocentric view of the world.
Furthermore, although the failure of rapport is delayed, the child’s attempted solution to this problem when it does occur is extremely precocious, for it involves taking over the mature guidance strategies of the carer and incorporating them into the childish ego. This may seem like an impossible task, but we are dealing with an extraordinary child. Further, the carer’s failure of rapport need not be total; it may occur initially only for brief periods, partially, and in a generally supportive environment. If successful (and it is a big if; Kohut’s patients were mostly failed attempts), the child becomes an odd mixture of the immature and the premature, the infantile and the parental. This unusual blend of diverse elements of adjustment is typical of many prophets who are said to combine childlike innocence with ageless wisdom.
In order to adapt in this manner, the child will need unusual natural endowment, an extraordinary talent of some kind, or great native intelligence. For what the child is attempting to do is to live in a belief system that is fundamentally at odds with how the world is; that is, to retain an egocentric worldview in the face of an indifferent universe. The tension thus created probably would defeat most people (it creates problems for the prophet throughout his life), but perhaps, for an exceptional child, it may just be possible.
Last, in incorporating into his personality some of the carer’s parental strategies, the child identifies with the self-object in a particularly intimate way, and this in a relationship that already has indistinct boundaries. It is appropriate to speak of "oneness" here and to examine the benefits derived by the child. In a series of studies, Lloyd Silverman and others have argued that unconscious fantasies of fusion with the mother can enhance performance and adaptation (provided that certain other conditions exist that we need not discuss here; Silverman, Lachmann, and Milich 1982, 1). Silverman claimed to have demonstrated this in research subjects through successful psychotherapy outcomes, improved performance in exams, and increased self-esteem and personal security (Silverman and Weinberger 1988; Balay and Shevrin 1988). The narcissistic development described above involves just such a fantasy of oneness, as large chunks of the parental behavioral repertoire are internalized as parts of the self. The benefit should be to boost the child’s already burgeoning self-esteem to grandiose levels, and this is what we find among charismatic leaders. [Footnote omitted.]
But what is the nature of the "unpredictable failure of rapport" that, Kohut argues, turns the developmental stream toward grandiose narcissism? Kohut’s theory provides a credible account of how the child develops a mix of behavioral repertoires and experiential categories characteristic of charismatic leaders. But his theory also veers toward "eventism"; that is, the kind of "primal scene" theory that emphasizes a single event or series of events as determining all subsequent developments (Runyon 1984). It is, of course, entirely possible that some such imprinting is involved in the growth of charismatic personalities, but if the nature of the early carer-child relationship is explored further, it reveals other possibilities that enable us to avoid the postulate of a single determining event.
To begin with, the primary caregiver’s baby worship is in effect the creation and daily re-creation of a god—the sacred infant. Typically, a mother invests her ultimate concerns in her child, who becomes the main source of her feelings of self-worth. The child’s behaviors and worldview become more and more "divine," that is, magnificent, grandiose, and aloof. The challenge for the child in later life is to adapt these behaviors and worldview to a less indulgent audience.
This much of the theory is straightforward; cases of unhealthy over-identification by devoted mothers, of the Jocasta complex and similar neuroses, and of "son-and-heir" idealizing by emotionally blunted fathers are well known (Olden 1958; Chaplin 1968, 257). Further, there are well-documented accounts of such relationships in the lives of some charismatic leaders, for example, Adolf Hitler and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Waite 1977; Gordon 1987). In addition, several of the leaders in this study agreed that their early relationships with their primary caregivers had been especially close and idyllic, as far as they could remember. However, the motive for such involvement is probably some kind of insecurity. A mother’s long-term self-sacrificial devotion to her child at the expense of other attachments and investments suggests some kind of compensation for deficits that we can only guess at (and that are probably different in each case). It seems unlikely that a mother who had the opportunity to nourish her self-esteem from more usual creative outlets, such as other family relationships, work, and leisure activities, would involve herself so totally in the development of a child. We do not need to know quite what drives her to do so, but we can assume that such mothers give their children a double message. On the one hand there is the totally involved, attentive, patient, supportive, mirroring and pacing that exists on the surface and that the child mostly sees. But beneath this loving exterior we can expect the child sooner or later (and it may take some time) to glimpse something of the mother’s insecurities.
This is most likely to happen at those moments when the child falls out of role, that is, when he departs markedly from the pattern of interactions most satisfying to the carer. This is unlikely to occur in the first few years because of the predictability and simplicity of the baby’s needs. But as the child becomes more complex and autonomous, its psychic fusion with the primary caregiver and the synchrony of their behaviors come under increasing strain. At such times several things may happen. Some children may prefer to stay within the warm glow of the mother’s smile rather than risk provoking her anxieties. Others may enjoy disturbing her. But what is common to most possibilities is the sense that the child faces a clear choice between, on the one hand, infant-godlike behaviors that elicit the mother’s love and, on the other hand, ungodly behavior that elicits the mother’s insecurities. Given that there has been a long history of oneness between them, the child probably will not understand the nature of the mother’s newly exposed insecurity (which she has taken great pains to hide or deny). Rather, the most salient experience that the child has at such moments is of the loss of fusion, the "fall from grace" into jarring, anxious interaction. Seen from the child’s position, the experience is primarily of the loss of mother love. The reason for this loss—the carer’s underlying insecurity—is unlikely to be seen or understood.
Hence the child receives a double message, albeit not consciously and never in words. The baby worship aspect of the relationship may be characterized by the phrase "Mommy and I are one" (from Silverman’s research), but the times of loss of rapport may be felt as "Mommy will not love me unless I am God." [Footnote: The statements "Mommy and I are one" and "Mommy will not love me unless I am God" may appear to be typical of the wild oversimplifications of some ill-conceived psychoanalytic thought (Frosh 1989, 6). Such formulations are convenient descriptive devices, useful for translating descriptions of subtle and complex psychological states into easily understood terms. . . . . The aim of such phrases is to expose the unconscious significance of complex behaviors and to indicate issues that—especially in clinical work—need to be examined in order to understand the underlying motivations influencing these behaviors.] Note that it is not the mere occurrence of the failure of rapport that is important, but how it is construed by the child, typically as unconscious fantasies about its relationship with the mother or other self-object. Of course there may well be children whose responses to such problems are quite different from the line proposed here, but they will, it seems, be less likely to become charismatic leaders.
There are two things to notice about these messages. First, "Mommy will not love me unless I am God" may act as a limit on "Mommy and I are one," tending to lock in place the godly role. For God does not question His own behavior or motives, the more so if to do this is to risk losing Mommy’s love. Hence the role of adored and worshipped god may become rigidly crystallized in the mind of the child as the prototype for all subsequent relationships; to question or momentarily suspend the role is to expose the most terrifying conflict any child can face: rejection by the mother (or other primary love attachment).
Second, the fantasy "Mommy will not love me unless I am God" is very likely to produce hostility toward the mother and, in later life, toward the world. The charismatic leader is "opposed to all rules of morality" (Weber 1946), and this opposition is likely to be rooted in an early hostility toward the mother, made clearer if we alter the phrase slightly to "Only being God is good enough for Mommy" (or "I must be God for Mommy"), plainly an impossible demand. Hence, despite the prophet’s later claim to speak for a loving God, this element of hostility may pervade all his relationships, particularly with those who follow and worship him. (We can reflect, in passing, on all those charismatic leaders who have ultimately led their followers to destruction, including Jim Jones, whose mother told him at an early age that he was destined to be the savior; Abse and Ulman 1977; Ulman and Abse 1983.)
To summarize thus far, the pattern of early relationships most likely to predispose a child toward narcissistic, and ultimately charismatic, development includes an especially close but inappropriate relationship with a primary love attachment who teaches and models for the child the necessary elements for such development. This includes protecting the child in an unrealistic manner from learning about the reality of reality, while inducting him or her into a semi-divine social role. At some time such a relationship breaks down. This may occur suddenly and dramatically or slowly and gently, but when the break occurs, the child struggles on as best he can with the elements of this early relationship fixed in his mind as the basic matrix for all future relationships. Some children may be damaged permanently by such an environment, but for those with peculiar talents and intelligence, some adaptation may be made that both accommodates and denies reality. What this is most likely to involve will be discussed soon.
This theory is sketched here in simple terms in order to avoid delving into psychoanalytic jargon and metapsychology, which is "experience distant" (Kohut 1976) and involves some extremely difficult concepts. Plain language and striking terms are preferred in order to clarify a complex subject. But obviously things are seldom quite so simple in real life. What has been presented herein are some key metaphors that try to give a good-enough guide to the phenomenon (which varies in each instance and is near the limit of our intellectual ability to conceptualize). We should not demand greater clarity than the subject permits, and charisma is an elusive subject indeed. If we impose upon the sequence outlined above the usual tapestry of developmental complexities that occur at such periods—that is, language and social development, the influence of socioeconomic and cultural factors, other family events, and so on and on—the particular strand of development described may well seem obscured and modified virtually out of existence. The simple terms used are not measuring instruments but tools to dig out what is buried. And it does seem that something like the above sequence, albeit distorted greatly by other influences, occurs in the early lives of prophets. Given the paucity of reliable data, it is surprising just how often stories of events like those outlined above do crop up. Three examples follow.
[The first is that of Werner Erhard, founder of "est" and the Forum Seminars, who initially dabbled in Scientology and other new religious movements before having a spiritual experience that led him to formulate the basic teachings of the "est" workshops. Oakes quotes from biographies of Erhard describing Erhard’s impressions of his sudden, traumatic break in adolescence with the mother with whom he had had an unusually close, overly doting relationship.]
[O]verlaying the narcissistic trend is the usual gamut of neuroses, complexes, and hang-ups that infect us all. In fact, rather than narcissism being the result of favorable—albeit distorted—conditions, it may result from awful conditions, as the only refuge of a child beset with problems. The carer’s devoted empathy may in fact be something else. It may seem like empathy to an observer; it may be the nearest thing to empathy that those involved know; but there is something amiss with it. The guilty, cloying dependency of Hitler’s mother (Waite 1977) is an example, but other forms also occur. In such cases the child’s narcissism may exist as a kind of fantasy world to which he withdraws to generate self-esteem. This may become his main sense of reality, and all subsequent development may evolve from the emotional tones and experiences of this fantasy. A twisted, sadistic, paranoid version of "cosmic narcissism" may result. Or—another possibility suggested by Kohut (1976)--rather than narcissism pervading the entire personality, it may be restricted to only one sector, a sector that becomes increasingly dominant through life. This may be a fairly common thing. If we think of our own creative efforts, we may notice the tremendous sense of freedom and power that comes from creating an ego-reflecting miniworld of the imagination, free from conflict and anxiety. In fact a lot of one’s inner world, from creativity to sexual fantasies, seems highly narcissistic. The two accounts that follow involve some of these permutations.
The case of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh is notable because his primary caregiver was his grandfather. This example suggests that once a narcissistic developmental stream is set up, it may become conflicted with other influences that both open up and close off possibilities for growth. An intense empathic relationship may bestow great confidence and power, but its removal by death may be the ultimate form of a "sudden and unpredictable failure of rapport." What effect could this have?
Through the 1970s and most of the 1980s Rajneesh was the most visible of all Indian gurus, the most iconoclastic, entertaining, and sophisticated of them all. He was the intellectual’s guru, with a thorough arts and humanities education. He dictated over three hundred books, all couched in accessible, everyday language. His followers were among the best-educated members of the alternative reality traditions, numbering about a quarter of a million worldwide at their peak.
Rajneesh was born in 1931 to a family of the Jain faith. He claimed to have first reached enlightenment while still a child. Later, while studying for his master’s degree in 1953, he experienced a more complete enlightenment (Laxmi 1980). However, an earlier experience also influenced him greatly. This was the death of his grandfather, his closest love attachment, who raised him as his own son and refused to allow Rajneesh to visit his real parents, at one point telling him "When I die, only then can you go [to visit them]." The grandfather died, slowly and painfully, when Rajneesh was seven. Rajneesh witnessed this death and in later years recalled it:
His final dying became very deeply engraved on my memory ... he was [my] only love object, and because of his death perhaps, I have not been able to feel attached to anyone else much. Since then I have been alone . . . aloneness became my nature. His death freed me forever from all relationships. His death became for me the death of all attachments. Thereafter I could not establish a bond of relationship with anyone. Whenever my relationship with anyone began to become intimate, that death stared at me. For me love invariably became associated with death. . . . Afterwards I came to feel that this close observation of death at a tender age became a blessing in disguise for me. If such a death had occurred at a later age, perhaps I would have found other substitutes for my grandfather. If I had become interested in the other I would have lost the opportunity to journey towards the self. I became a sort of Stranger to others. Generally it is at this age that we become related to the other—when we are admitted into society. That is the age when we are initiated, so to speak, by the society which wants to absorb us. But I have never been initiated into society. I entered as an individual and I have remained aloof and separate like an island. (Laxmi 1980, 12-13)
This "journey towards the self" gave Rajneesh a central focus within his own mind, an inner audience that enthusiastically applauded his dreams and victories. From it he drew the strength to follow his inner light, independent of the judgments of others as to the value or realism of his actions. By holding on to a belief in his own specialness, and by ignoring external obstacles, he became able to project his vision with an intellectual power that struck a responsive chord in his followers. But this same mind-set limited his ability to enter into relationships with others, and in the end it led to his downfall at Rajneeshpuram in Oregon.
A final example, that of Swami Vivekananda, shows the narcissistic developmental stream interacting with cultural and familial conflicts in such a way as almost to cripple the aspiring prophet, yet spurring him on to great achievement. It is a classic tale of prophetic failure.
Born Narendranath Dutt in 1863, Vivekananda was the favorite disciple of Ramakrishna. He popularized yoga in the West, founding the Vedanta Society in New York in 1895. He produced four popular booklets on yoga, and his career became the model that many later gurus followed. He also became a leading thinker of the Hindu Renaissance, a modernized, nationalistic, version of Hinduism aimed at educated, urbanized Indians and also at Westerners.
Vivekananda was the sixth child of an upper-caste Calcutta family. Before his birth his only brother and two of his four sisters had died in infancy. While pregnant, his mother dreamed that the god Shiva agreed to be born as her son, a dream that suggests her emotional investment in her child. She became extremely devoted to the boy, whose brilliance at school and dominance of his peers suggest the "conquistador feeling" of one who is the "undisputed darling" of his mother.
Vivekananda’s father was educated and Westernized, but his mother was a traditional Hindu. He was born at a time of cultural conflict between traditional and Western values. These conflicts seem to have overlaid Vivekananda’s grandiosity. While some elements of his environment reinforced his sense of being "chosen"--most especially his closeness and striking resemblance to his grandfather, who had renounced the world to become a monk--nevertheless he remained throughout his life torn between competing worldviews: traditional and Western, masculine and feminine.
As a prophet, Vivekananda’s message asserted the "manly" values of activism and radical social change, as against the conservatism and tradition of the "nation of women," which was how he characterized India at that time. This mission closely paralleled his struggle for autonomy and potency against his dependence on--and emotional attachment to--his mother. When a boy’s early life experience is of a deep identification and bonding to his mother, he has to struggle harder than most to become a free individual in his own right (Kakar 1981, 170). In Vivekananda’s struggle, played out in the arena of Indian nationalism and the Hindu Renaissance, he alternated between passions of omnipotence and impotence, between vivid fantasies of isolation and fusion, between the elation of "I am All" and the despair of "I am Nothing," between masculine and feminine sensibilities (Kakar 1981, 176). At his most extreme he would say, "The older I grow the more everything seems to me to lie in manliness. This is my new gospel. Do even evil like a man! Be wicked if you must, on a grand scale. . . . I want the strength, manhood, kshatravirya or the virility of a warrior . . . take away my weakness, take away my unmanliness, and Make me a Man!" (Kakar 1981,175).
In 1897, at the peak of his success as a reformer, Vivekananda experienced a deep personal crisis and recanted, declaring that his ideas of progress and activism were delusions; things never got better, they remained the same. "It is all ‘Mother?[Kali, the mother goddess] now," he said. "All my patriotism is gone. Everything is gone. Now it’s only ‘Mother, Mother,?I have been wrong" (Nivedita 1910, 168). In a letter to a friend he wrote, "I am free. I am mother’s child. She works. She plays. . . . We are Her automata. She is the wire-puller" (Kakar 1981, 164).
Vivekananda showed this ambivalent leadership often in his career. He seems to have lived simultaneously in several different personae, moving from activist leader to ecstatic mystic, from rebellious son to one who follows his grandfather’s lead, from guru to perennial guru seeker, struggling between active and passive, modem and traditional, male and female, yet never achieving synthesis (Kakar 1981, 179). He failed in his mission because he remained conflicted in ways that, while they gave him his unique strengths, also limited his effectiveness as a leader. He seems never to have reconciled the grandiosity of "Mommy and I are one" with his need to achieve a secure masculine identity. The struggle propelled him to great heights, but it also tore him apart psychically; he died in 1902 at the age of thirty-nine.
These examples do not prove the theory of prophetic development put forward here; they are not genuine case studies in the psychoanalytic sense. (Narcissistic people seldom seek therapy, preferring to focus on problems in the world rather than in themselves.) Rather, they are snapshots that indicate that something like the theory proposed herein may be true. For further support, some recent research on child development will be considered.
[Summary of child development theories and experiments omitted.] In sum, this research demonstrates the child’s emerging ability to attribute subjectivity—internal states—to others (Bretherton 1985, 31), an ability that may become crippled during early development yet remains powerfully influential throughout adult life [footnote omitted], provided that basic needs are met (Erikson 1963). This directly parallels the theory of narcissistic development. The charismatic personality carries within the self a working model of reality that is in some way defective in its attribution of subjectivity to others--in short, narcissism. This defect inclines such a person to behave toward others in certain ways derived originally from the relationship with a primary caregiver. In later life these behaviors render such a person an attractive focus for charismatic affections by others.
However, to overcome a defect requires that compensations be made. Hence, any talents the child possesses have great survival value when he is attempting to maintain his narcissistic worldview. The followers in this study agreed that certain abilities, especially memory and social insight, were highly developed in their leaders. It is likely that these skills became so well-developed because of their survival value. These abilities are also related to other aspects of charismatic leadership, such as the subtle detachment of prophets and a certain fearlessness they possess. In the developing narcissistic child these traits may form a complex that becomes stimulated to exceptional levels of function. This brings us to the second question posed at the beginning of this chapter: Given the motive to become a prophet, how does one do so? What talents are needed?
In interviews with followers, the most frequently reported gift possessed by their leaders was an acute insight into other people. Some of the examples given seemed to verge on the paranormal--telepathy and omniscience being the most frequent--and were like the tales told of Jesus at the well or of Fritz Peris doing therapy. Excluding supernatural explanations, how can this insight be accounted for?
Kohut insists that charismatic personalities have stunted empathy for others (Kohut 1976, 414), a suggestion that seems to run counter to the extraordinary empathy shown at times by prophets. But Kohut also argues that this stunted empathy may actually sharpen some perceptions (Kohut 1985, 84-87). The leader comprehends his environment "only as an extension of his own narcissistic universe," and he understands others "only insofar--but here with the keenest empathy!--as they can serve as tools toward his narcissistic ends, or insofar as they stand in the way of his purposes (Kohut 1976, 417). There are problems with Kohut’s usage of the term "empathy" (Oakes 1992,139- 42), but the main point is that the charismatic personality possesses an acute perception of the feelings and behaviors of others. Yet he is unable to truly empathize with them, to feel within himself some resonance with their feelings. He interprets what he observes in terms of concepts that he holds in an intellectual way but not with any genuine opening of the heart. The theories he holds may even be true for him; he may have personally experienced the truth of, for example, the Christian worldview within which he interprets what he sees, but he is unable to suspend this worldview and genuinely empathize with another whom he observes. Lacking empathic responsiveness, he relates his observations to his beliefs rather than to his feelings. Thus it is really a kind of intuitive, intellectual analysis that he is engaged in; he is a "cold" rather than a "hot" system.
To digress briefly in order to describe what this condition might be like, there exist, in the writings of clinicians and some theorists, well-corroborated accounts of extraordinary human perceptiveness. Alfred Binet calculated that the unconscious sensitivity of a hysterical patient is at certain moments fifty times more acute than that of a normal person (Binet, cited Jung 1976). Others have remarked on "the exquisite sensitivity of schizophrenic patients to their social environment" (Dobson 1981) and on the "almost paranoid hypersensitive" awareness of narcissistic people (Balint 1965); Kohut also discusses such phenomena (Kohut 1971, 95). It seems that some deeply disturbed patients are able to sense the unconscious states of others with an almost psychic sensitivity. They can understand others?defense mechanisms even when these are out of the awareness of the person concerned. They probably do this by subliminal perception of body language and paralinguistic cues.
It is likely that in such persons the capacity for communication with another’s unconscious has been sharpened in early life, and is maintained longer than is usual. It becomes a kind of subtle emotional radar that makes one a superspecialist in understanding unconscious states, while at the same time limiting one’s ability to understand ordinary life. Psychoanalyst Helm Stierlin relates this ability to narcissism. He notes that young children are able to gather and organize data in ways that most adults have lost (Stierlin 1959, 148A9). They can perceive, in a particularly immediate and clear way, feelings and moods in others that are out of the others?awareness. This ability is a carryover from infancy and is similar to certain instincts in animals. Other clinicians have described how, as a result of the crystallization of thought processes in childhood, our way of experiencing the world becomes increasingly stereotyped and zombielike. As adults we no longer experience the immediate, intense, and colorful quality of life radiating toward us from nature. Rather, we experience the world in terms of our already formed and more or less petrified ways of thinking and sensing. Only occasionally may we rediscover something of the lost intense quality of moods and experiences, when the crust of concepts and structures that has increasingly overlaid and denaturalized our consciousness is lifted (Schachtel 1947, 1954). The narcissistic personality is, however, closer to such experience than others, for he has retained much of his infantile mind-set; he sees most clearly when the emperor has no clothes.
Kohut also says that narcissistic leaders are "superempathic" with themselves (Kohut 1976, 414). This may explain why the leader impresses a select few with his divinely inspired insight yet is ignored by others, who dismiss his message as banal or dangerous. For the leader is recognized as charismatic only by those whose needs he addresses and whose values he shares. He epitomizes their concerns. For them he seems to possess the sharpest vision into human affairs. But perhaps his clarity is not into others but only into himself. For others with similar values, complementary needs, or even a similar psychological makeup, his superempathy with his self may appear as an extraordinary insight into the world as they know it. When he talks about others in terms of his understanding of himself, he seems to possess astonishing acumen because these others genuinely are like him.
The group that forms around the leader is at first made up of people who share his vision. His appeal is restricted to them because he does not speak the truths of others. His limited perceptions are less apparent when he deals with his own group, where his clichéd rhetoric and generalized argument are accepted. He relates intensely to them, and develops a heightened sensitivity to their unconscious hopes and fears, for they are like his own. But to those with different values and needs, or whose psychological makeup is very different from his, he will seem to be quite misguided. Hence we have the phenomenon of the charismatic leader who describes the world in terms of, say, the central concepts of the Christian worldview--that is, sin and salvation--concepts that are true for him, and thus he speaks with utter conviction and has tremendous impact on fellow Christians, yet there are others with, say, a secular-humanist worldview, whom he fails utterly to impress. He is unable to understand groups that are different from his, and he fails to understand his own group when it changes.
By viewing the social world as part of his self, the narcissistic prophet lives partly within, yet partly outside, consensual reality; partly in the real world and partly in a fantasy of his own creation. He is sustained by his subjective heroics--he is a legend in his own mind--and he tends to perceive other people as types and clichés rather than as individuals. When they behave differently from how he wills, proving that they are not part of his self, he feels rejected and treats their behavior as a personal affront, a frightening and mysterious disturbance to his solipsistic universe. Thus the prophet suffers when his reality is exposed as fantasy. This may happen often because he is fundamentally out of synchrony with how others view the world. He may take these hurts in his stride because he knows no other existence, but he longs to remold the world into a less jarring place. His sufferings make him acutely sensitive to the sufferings of others. He learns to focus on their hurts, to articulate their hopes, and he urges them to identify their needs with his. In this way he comes to manipulate them, to melt them into his personality, bringing them and their actions under his control as if they were his limbs, his thoughts, and his feelings. The leader does not recognize his limitations; he merely dismisses others whose values are not similar to his own. His inability to comprehend human reactions beyond a certain range may contribute to his ultimate downfall. As his followers change, he may develop a steadily increasing contempt for them, as Hitler became contemptuous of the Germans when they did not completely fall in line with him. This misreading of others is the most common cause of charismatic failure.
Another line of Kohut’s theory deals with the social detachment of narcissism. Such individuals are unable to genuinely involve themselves in the affairs of others (Kernberg 1974; Kohut 1971, 1977) because they are psychologically detached from their fellows, a detachment that can be both a strength and a weakness. As Kohut describes it, the profound narcissistic isolation of the disturbed patient precludes any rewarding relationship with others (Kohut 1971, 1977). Less severe manifestations may, however, be another source of the sharp perception of charismatic leaders, who seem not to get caught up in other people’s games. In a crisis they can withdraw into themselves, to a more peaceful state, and reflect without fear of intrusion and in a nonjudgmental, amoral way. In this way they are enriched by insights that are not available to others who live more completely within social norms and who align themselves with conventional values (Stonequist 1937). The impression is of a slightly aloof person whose lack of involvement provides him with an overview, a clinical detachment or "strategic vision" (Conger and Kanungo 1988), a free- floating, detached scrutiny that is extremely useful in a crisis and that was well-described in a biography of Fritz Perls (Gaines 1979, 100). Such a person is not overwhelmed by the intensity or closeness of conflict and is able, with a cool head, to accurately diagnose a problem and plan a solution.
Perhaps an analogy will be useful here. Our behavior at the scene of a car crash highlights the difference between the normal worldview and that of the narcissistic leader. When we come upon a fatal crash, we are horrified; we sense our own fears and vulnerabilities in the hurts of those involved. We want to avoid, to drive on, to remain uninvolved and deny our mortality; or we are ghoulishly fascinated by the edge of the abyss: "There but for the grace of God go I." In short, we risk being overwhelmed by our emotions, and have to force ourselves to stop and give help.
The narcissistic leader reacts differently. He is able to comfort the grieving and assist the injured with care and sensitivity because his emotions don’t intrude. He does what is required with calm competence because he does not really see these people as like himself. For all his genuine compassion, his feelings are more like those of a kindly vet treating an injured animal than of a human being helping a fellow sufferer. His detachment allows him to respond accurately and efficiently to the situation without experiencing, or at least not to the same degree, the horror and revulsion that normals feel. Of course, as an intelligent person he is consciously aware of the horror of the scene, aware that it could happen to him, but he is driven by an unconscious grandiosity that holds him aloof. Intellectually he knows that it could happen to him, but emotionally he knows that it wont!
But there is a paradox here, for it is only by distorting reality that he comes to see it more clearly. That is, by failing to grasp the full significance of external reality, by denying the true otherness of others, the charismatic personality is able to accurately observe their behaviors and deduce their inner states. In time the inner states of others that cannot be explained by his worldview, those parts of reality that contradict or lie beyond his model, may cause problems, but these will be explained away.
Now to memory, for there is something odd about the charismatic leader’s use of memory. A lasting impression one retains of any charismatic leader one gets close to is of his singular memory, and of his equally singular lapses. However, memory is not a trait that impresses a researcher in the field doing a short-term investigation, so it tends to be overlooked in studies of charisma. Few scholars mention it, and then just to note in passing that charismatic leaders have excellent memories (Willner 1984, 144-46). But because memory is central to most cognitive functioning, this study sought comments from followers regarding the "central gift" or any "semi-magical quality" or "extraordinary gift . . . that seemed utterly striking" possessed by the leaders. All the followers agreed that the leaders had good memories, but several mentioned that they had noticed some oddities. For example, the leaders tended to repeat themselves in a stereotyped manner-- "Sometimes he’ll say something that he’s said a day or so, a week or so, before. He’s ma[d]e a point in a particular way and then he repeats it in exactly the same way the second time around. And I’ll be sitting there looking in his eyes, thinking ‘Surely you remember telling me this a couple of days back??But he doesn’t seem to, and I’ve never asked him about it."
From the descriptions received, it was clear that the leaders had developed myths about themselves and the world made from bits of information stored up and practiced over years. These myths were polished and presented as sermons or teachings in which the leaders defined their missions. One follower explained, "If something’s happening in [his] life, he gets it up into a story that he tells everyone. He’ll repeat that story almost verbatim, but each time he does it, it’s like he’s telling it for the first time." Another described a "preaching mode" that her leader was in most of the time and in which he went "round and around" without knowing that he did it. Another added, ‘I’m sometimes uneasy when he does it, because I’ve heard it before and I know how it’s going to go end, but I have to wait for him to run all the way through it before we can carry on."
David Millikan’s study of a charismatic prophetess seems to touch on something similar. He described the conversational style of the woman (who was quite elderly when he interviewed her and may have lost her edge) thus: ‘After several conversations with her it is clear she has a store of stories and insights which, expressed mainly in the form of anecdotes she has repeated many times, have lost spontaneity in the telling and retelling. She is unable to sustain an extended argument" (Millikan 1991, 67).
The effect of this is odd. It is as if the role of prophet--and perhaps even the leader’s whole personality--is organized into schemata. The feeling is of watching a pattern of behavior that is consistent but strained, as if the leader’s manner of attending and conversing had been set up within a particular role that had been perfected years before and within which he has complete confidence and ease of recall. He has a surety that he can respond to any question with an answer that is already there, somewhere in his head; that has been given on similar occasions; and that he can access easily. Charismatics can range freely over a broad knowledge base, yet much of what they say seems rehearsed and unreal. Sometimes, when taken by surprise, a leader would look momentarily perplexed and quizzical, then go into a kind of intuitive mode, as if he were listening for something within, yet still with the relaxed confidence of one who knows he has all the answers and merely needs a second or two to access them. The seamlessness of these performances was such that one tended to forget that normal human speech and thought are hesitant, uncertain, meandering, and repetitive. The performances were all too persuasive and reassuring to be real. And there sometimes seemed to be an element of play in their delivery. The distinction between the spontaneous and the contrived had vanished, and it became impossible to know how much of what they were saying was genuine and how much was part of some deep personal myth that each had worked out long before. Perhaps most of what they said was genuine, but each lived largely inside a myth of his own creation, and they used their excellent memories to find their ways around within these myths. They tended to repeat themselves in stereotyped ways, to be constantly "in role" or "on stage," yet without any compelling sense of falsity.
These patterns of behavior may be related to a tendency by all the leaders to communicate in clichés--very effectively, but clichés nonetheless. All the leaders, when attempting to explain something, showed a penchant for homely simplifications in the manner of "if-this-beach-ball-were-the-sun-then-our-earth-would-be-a-grain-of-sand-at-the-north-pole" type of metaphors. But clearly they did not think in this way (an analysis of Hitler’s personality discussed this trait as "infantilism"; Hiden and Farquharson 1988, 15). It was as if, in needing to have an answer for everything in order to appear omniscient, the leaders had organized much of their personalities into bundles of memorized "response sets" (Chaplin 1968, 426) governed by automatic "if . . . then. . ." heuristics that left them free to work on other problems, and that gave them the reassuring illusion that they had answers. Yet often the knowledge contained within these prepared responses was impressive indeed (see Oakes 1992,149-150 for a fuller description).
In sum, charismatic personalities have excellent memories that they use in their strategies of impression formation. In doing this they seem to be able to influence the function of memory itself, sometimes improving, yet at other times lessening or distorting, its performance while themselves appearing vaguely unreal.
Replica Watches Replica Watches
In explaining this ability we may recall Stierlin’s statement that "the undifferentiated child has also capacities for obtaining and organising data that most adults have lost" (Stierlin 1959, 148). This comment links unusual cognitive performances with the undifferentiated state of primary narcissism, and may identify the source of the talents of charismatic leaders. It is as if, in retaining an archaic state of mind, if only partially or subconsciously, charismatic personalities also retain some of the cognitive abilities that go along with it, abilities that lie dormant in most of us. This happens with other unusual talents that are common in children but disappear or diminish with age. Examples include eidetic imagery and map reading. Eidetic imagery, popularly referred to as "photographic memory," has been extensively studied and found to be rare among adults, but about 8 percent of children possess it. The ability seems to peak shortly before puberty and to decline sharply thereafter, making it a trait restricted mostly to young children (Haber and Haber 1964). Map reading is a skill that has a relatively sudden onset at about age three, but, unless it is worked on, seems not to develop much beyond levels achieved fairly early in childhood. If children are given the opportunity to learn map reading, their abilities soon equal or excede those of most adults (Young 1989). The full potentials of these two skills are seldom realized in adults, and there may be many other abilities similarly underutilized. Michael Murphy of the Esalen Institute, who has made a study of such talents, lists twelve psychological functions that he believes have "metanormal" capabilities (Leonard 1992; Murphy 1992).
Hence the reported exceptional behaviors of charismatic leaders may be genuine, and explicable in realistic terms as the development to fantastic levels of otherwise normal abilities. That this is possible is shown by a study in which a student of average intelligence and memory became able, during the course of twenty months of practice, to improve his "memory digit span"--the number of digits he could recall after seeing them briefly--from seven to seventy-nine digits. His ability to remember them after the sessions also improved enormously (Ericsson, Chase, and Faloon 1980). It seems that we all have prodigious latent gifts.
How these talents arise and are developed is not known, but some suggestions have been made. George Klein (Klein 1966) relates memory functions to defense mechanisms, and a study by Ernest Schachtel presents a cornucopia of possibilities. According to Schachtel, an adult’s memory is qualitatively different from a child’s, and is not fit to preserve children’s experiences and enable their recall (Schachtel 1947, 4). During development there occurs a separation of "useful" from "autobiographical" memory, the former becoming increasingly specialized and the latter increasingly subjective. However, split-off parts of a child’s memory ability may continue to develop in isolation, becoming highly specialized while retaining their infantile character, and perhaps culminating in fantastic abilities. Chapter 9 will return to this point, but note here the eerie impression that all of this creates. These abilities can easily be mistaken for pathology, giving the impression that the prophet has sprung Rasputin-like with strange powers and dangerous impulses from some hellish realm. Hence the inevitable question arises concerning his mental health: in short, Is he mad?
Although the leader is mostly "normal," there are times when--with a crazed glint in his eye as he talks to God--he seems literally insane. His "glowing unblinking eyes which hold like forceps" (Ellwood 1973, 38), his eccentricities, and his wild countenance, impress others as deranged. Such classic descriptions as "sick-souled" (James 1902) and suffering the "disease of God" (La Barre 1980) catch this flavor of oddness. Conventional psychiatric categories are sometimes used to describe him, but there is much confusion on this. Kohut argues at one point that narcissism is the very opposite of psychopathology, yet elsewhere he asserts that the leader "risks psychosis by his all-or-nothing stance" (Kohut 1976). Charles Lindholm suggests that "the shaman goes out of his mind but is not crazy" (Lindholm 1990). Some charismatic leaders have had psychotic episodes, but the "madness" of most differs from psychiatric illness. It seems to have more to do with the uncanny impression created by the prophet’s intense presence, and such odd behaviors as George Fox’s bizarre preachings (James 1902), than with any clinical symptoms of paranoia, disorientation, or hallucination (although these latter are present often enough to give one pause).
The prophets apparent craziness may arise from two sources. First, an extremely narcissistic worldview is likely to strike others as strange at least. This is the oddness in the prophet’s sense of reality, of self and others. He sees things differently from others. At times he may be remote, at other moments powerfully present, and later still, just peculiar. Some people find this disturbing and others, inspiring, and the prophet may detect these reactions and accentuate his behaviors to enhance the impression he wishes to make. Second, there may be genuine psychopathology. It seems likely that prophets suffer the same mental aberrations that afflict us all to some degree. Kohut spoke of Hitler as having a "healed-over psychosis" (Kohut 1985), Jim Jones was obviously paranoid, and several Pentecostal leaders have had psychotic episodes (Harrell 1975). Max Weber, who cautioned against the overuse of psychiatric explanation (Weber 1968a, 499), nevertheless sometimes associated madness with charismatic leaders (Robins 1986, 17), while other scholars have developed entire theories of charisma around the so-called "borderline" personality type (Post 1986). The presence of pathology may also account for the altered states and visions reported by some prophet figures as occurring even as young as age three (Harrell 1975, 28).
Charisma may be related to manic depression (Jamison 1993). Now grandiose, then brooding, the prophet may flip-flop through periods of energized positivity and fatalistic negativity, giving to the followers with the one hand but taking away with the other. Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard were exemplars of this pattern. [Footnote omitted.] Manic depression, which is also thought to be related to creativity, has been found to have a significant genetic component. In addition, at least some personality traits are heritable, allowing for the possibility that the entire narcissism-charisma complex may be genetically related to manic depression (Horizon 1989; Hodgkinson et al. 1987; Loehlin 1982; Jamison 1993).
It is hard to say how abnormal behaviors develop in charismatic personalities. Whatever role they may play in the life of a particular prophet, and whatever is the balance of environmental versus biological influences, can only be inferred retrospectively and will vary in each case. But regardless of genetic factors, the prophet’s behaviors are primarily--though not solely--the result of his social context, for even major psychotic disorders require the right environmental conditions to emerge. He is neither inherently mad nor purely the mouthpiece of God, nor even especially mentally healthy. Rather, his behaviors arise from the interaction of his nature and his social milieu, and his mental aberrations may form an intrinsic part of his message. He is not insane, but he is highly creative, and this may better explain his eccentricities.
The vast literature on creativity will only be touched on here. . . . .
According to Carl Jung and others, creative persons are lopsided individuals (Jung 1954) who retain "the courage to experience the opposites in their nature and to attempt a reconciliation of them" (Whiteside 1981; MacKinnon, 1962a, 1962b). Creative women are often "masculinized" with traits of aggressiveness and independence, whereas creative men tend to be "feminized" by the traits of tenderness and sensitivity. Such individuals identify closely with all creation and tend to regard all forms of life with reverence. Their courage appears as a sense of destiny, of having been chosen to reveal some facet of the life force. It enables them to scale the barriers between conscious and unconscious thinking, and to risk madness and the loss of personal identity in the pursuit of an ultimate truth (Whiteside 1981).
The courage to perceive and experience the opposites of one’s nature, and the commitment to work at reconciling them, stem from certain paradoxical mental skills that seem closely related to both narcissism and charisma. These skills combine elements of infantile oneness--a sense of play, euphoria, openness to experience, and fearlessness--with adult traits such as discipline, endurance, and focused problem-solving, in such a way that each set of elements complements rather than cancels out the other. Some examples may illustrate this. The element of detached involvement is central to both charisma and creativity This is the stance of the creator--a cool head directing passion, emotions at a distance, "reason in the state of ecstasy?(May 1975)--in which two opposing tendencies fuse. Similarly, mindless perception involves a Tao-like openness to stimuli coupled with intellect and knowledge. This is the unconscious (mindless awareness) breaking into consciousness (mindful understanding) to create an awareness of the limits of knowledge and a mood that seeks to go beyond them (May 1975).
Another example of opposing tendencies coming together is delayed closure, in which the creative person delays closing his mind on problems yet works very hard to try to solve them. There is a feeling of driven play in his handling of problems. Converging divergence is a further example, wherein lateral thinking (De Bono 1970) is combined with ordinary logic, the interplay between these two thinking styles leading to novel solutions to problems.
But perhaps the most important ingredient is constructive discontent--the emotion-based need to oppose and improve. Faultfinders who challenge norms are often met, but this factor refers to a constructive yet radical and active response to tensions and conflicts, sometimes described in literature on child psychology as "creative destruction." In addition to these, a degree of selfishness, a quietly confident humility, relaxed attentiveness, and flexible persistence are aspects of creativity (Maslow 1968; McMullen 1976). These behaviors clearly parallel the fearlessness, perceptiveness, detachment, and confidence that characterize charisma.
The creative processes of charismatics have been studied, and the results are consistent with the descriptions above. In her doctoral research into charisma, Laura Hall (Hall 1983) administered tests measuring creativity to charismatic community leaders. She verified that they were highly creative people--the highest subscale score in her tests was for originality (recall Weber’s remark that in its pure form, charisma "may be said to exist only in the process of originating"; Weber 1964, 364). Alexander Labak, in a similar effort with charismatic university professors, verified traits such as flexibility and openness. His subjects also showed less than normal development of conscience and high self-actualization (Labak 1972). The studies in the volume by Jay Conger and Rabindra Kanungo also offer insights into the creative processes of charismatic individuals (Conger and Kanungo 1988). In sum, although these studies are too few to develop a comprehensive understanding of the charismatic’s creative processes, they nevertheless permit us to conclude, first, that charismatics are indeed highly creative individuals, and second, that the mental skills involved in creativity seem to be very closely associated with the complex, narcissistic mental states characteristic of charisma, and hence they may share a common origin. Perhaps the fundamental dilemma of narcissistic individuals--What is my relation to the world? (Little 1985, 6)--also provides the tension that drives creativity.
In discussing creativity, Kohut has argued that each person attempts, throughout his life, to follow an agenda laid down in the self during infancy. This is not a detailed life plan. Rather, it is felt more as a set of emotional pushes and pulls, inner tensions, patterns and cycles, that influence the decisions made at key turning points in life. This agenda is the inner context for one’s lifework, the basic creative drive of one’s life (Kohut 1977). For most people it is expressed in conventional ways of work and love, but for prophets it becomes a passionate striving that consumes all their energies. In the words of Wilhelm Reich (Sharaf 1983), it is a "life-affirming flame" that may even be perceived as another identity, a muse that drives one mad if not obeyed.
What might the agenda of an extremely narcissistic person such as a prophet be like? It should, in crucial ways, repeat the basic dynamic of the early fusion of mother and infant, either symbolically or substantively. Later, as the child grows, the agenda becomes obscured by learned concepts, values, and roles; it gets overlaid with culture, education, and tradition, and it is channeled and transformed by socializing influences to such a degree that when it finally emerges in adulthood, it may do so as a utopian ideology--a mission or a calling or a prophetic career--but at base the psychological meaning of paradise is mother love.
The transition from childish hopes to utopian vision occurs during incubation, when the youth translates infantile experiences into mature concepts and feelings. In so doing he creatively rearranges his mental world. The developing prophet-child’s creativity is spurred to extreme achievements by the tension between his egocentrism and the world’s indifference. Deep down he knows that things should be other than they are, and his fertile mind translates his early narcissism into a "memory or vision of paradise" (Heinberg 1991). The emerging prophetic vision, because it stems from an insoluble conflict between the prophet’s narcissism and the world (neither of which can be easily changed), exists as an immutable force that drives him forward to reinterpret social events and to claim special status for himself. If the prophet can get a handle on the world and make it reflect his egocentrism, he can be reassured. If he can share this reordered social reality with others, he may serve their needs and they, his. Hence he is inclined toward mastering the skills of social and personal manipulation, both by his own needs and by the needs of others. By influencing others in the way he once influenced his mother or primary caregiver, he realizes his, and their, hopes for salvation.
Now, to summarize what might be known of the earliest life experiences of prophets, clearly there has to be a base of extraordinary natural talent or intelligence to begin with; the ancients were right--the hero really is exceptionally endowed. However, there must also be a special relationship with a primary caregiver, commonly but not necessarily the mother, so that the growing child develops two conflicting unconscious fantasies, one of omnipotence and the other of vulnerability. These may be characterized as "Mommy and I are one" and "Mommy will not love me unless I am God." The effect of the first is to permanently retain some connection with the narcissistic phase of development and all that is associated with it, including powerful aspects of infantile memory and empathy. The effect of the second message is to drive the child ambitiously, and angrily, to recreate the mood of the first, stimulating to exceptional levels whatever talents and narcissistic traits the child possesses. Two faculties that are most likely to be stimulated to exceptional levels--because of their potential survival value--are memory and empathy; a modest increase in each may greatly enhance social mastery. In addition, narcissistic people seem to be naturally creative, perhaps because of some overlap between these traits. However, while the overall effect of all this may strike some observers as strange or even pathological, it is not a mental disease in any usual sense. Narcissistic development may be quite natural, given its context. With ongoing differentiation of the personality--creative fragmentation--the narcissistic stream becomes crystallized and refined, then transformed by socialization and matured until in time, if the child does not suffer a breakdown, he may outwardly appear little different from others. But beneath the surface there is a world of difference, for such a person experiences the self and the world in a fundamentally different way from others. This difference leads to an important discovery, that there is a "something wrong" with the world that he and only he can and must fix. This leads to the next stage--incubation.
This period of early narcissism is postulated as the first stage in the development of prophets. Because of the difficulty in obtaining data about it, it is also the most theoretically problematic of the life stages. The approach taken here has been to extend Heinz Kohut’s theory of narcissism to explain the genesis of adult charismatics. This is inevitably a speculative exercise, but an explanation of the motivation of the prophet is crucial. Why he does what he does determines his meaning for us. If it were shown that he was merely mad, or that he really was inspired by God, we would think of him differently. In suggesting that he may indeed be a little mad, and may also be inspired by his sense of God, but that his main impetus is his creative attempt to solve his own life problems, we embark on a creative and speculative enterprise ourselves.
The theory advanced here locates the need to lead and the buoyant confidence to do so in an early relationship with a primary caregiver. The source of the prophet’s unusual talents, especially his social insight and exceptional memory abilities, must also be explained. The theory proposes that these may be integral components of infantile narcissism, or likely developments from it. Early narcissism influences the whole of development in a systemic way, so that a developmental line is set in process that results in the emergence of a charismatic personality (given favorable conditions).
It is the nature of this inquiry that there is little direct evidence about all of this. Yet despite the theory’s lack of supporting data, it does not merely hang in a vacuum. Four lines of argument can be made for it. First, it is based on a prior and closely related theory that has gained considerable respect among social scientists (Kohut 1971, 1976, 1977). Second, it is consistent; that is, it contains no contradictions and does not conflict with any other body of psychological knowledge. It leads in a logical manner to a credible theory of charisma. Third, where the theory can be matched with observations, it fits; adult charismatics are extremely confident, are often hostile, possess powerful memories and acute social insight, and so on. Something like what the theory describes seems to have occurred in the early lives of prophets such as Werner Erhard, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and Swami Vivekananda. Last, it parallels other recent theories in social science, particularly Bowlby’s work on the attachment system, that credibly explain how such developmental processes might work. Of course, such theorizing will inevitably be wrong in some details. And there are great variations from case to case. There may also be other powerful influences not discussed herein, for example, biology (Horizon 1989; Jamison 1993). But generally the theory fits, and it leads logically to the next phase of development, incubation.
Prophetic Charisma: A Psychological Explanation for the 'Castaneda Phenomenon'
The Followers and Their Quest: Another Excerpt from Prophetic Charisma