Long before modern methods of narrative trance induction were invented, many people in different parts of the world devised ways to structure social gatherings to ensure fixed and focused attention.
Dim lighting, focused on the authority figure, one way communication, confusion, a state of arousal (eagerness to follow the rules, fear of making a mistake and being banished, using unplaceable accents and muttering, use of unconventional language--permissible for poets--all this combined could induce trance.
Here is a menu of late 19th century and early 20th century authority figures, some artists, one charlatan. It is hard to tell to what extent the artists knew they were creating trance inductive environments, but they did seek to evoke moods.
For a compare and contrast on how someone can change from a shy and talented young person into someone who runs a personality driven inner circle, get and readSecret Germany:Stefan George and His Circle
by Norton (the surname is pronounced “gay-org-uh
This book can feel painful to read. George discovered early that he had homosexual longings, and lived in a place and time where one faced the grave risk of criminal persecution and total loss of civil rights (Paragraph 175 of the Wilhelmine German code of law). This sensitive man was placed at war with his own true self and at odds with his surroundings.
This said, and allowances made, Stefan George's method of arranging his professional and social life has so very many similarities to personality cult process that his career is worth our attention. George's method of arranging interviews are worth comparing with how Gurdjieff stage managed meetings with potential recruits. Recruiters looked for like minded people, vetted them, aroused feelings of anticipation, and George making himself aloof and secretive added to the allure.
Early in his travels, George was in Paris and earned the trust of the young artists who were allowed to visit the poet Mallerme. In this section of Norton's book, one is given a description of how tightly organized the Mallerme gatherings were--very similar to a guru receiving disciples.
The 'Globe Room' George's meeting room was set up just so for his reception of aspirants. Its worth contrasting this with how Gurdjieff stage managed early meetings.
A meeting with Stefan George
]Secret Germany: Stefan George and his Circle-page 424 Back at the Globe Room, Steiner was asked to put on a camel-hair robe, while George and Gundolf, who was also present, both wore white.
More descriptions of how George lit his room
Contrast with Gurdjieff in his early recruiting days as Prince Ozay
] evening, rather late, he said: "There is someone I want you to meet. Come along with me."
He gave no explanation except to say that the person we were going to see was one "of whom there are but few in the world." He also enjoined strict secrecy regarding our visit, because the man concerned was "in hiding." Why, he didn't explain.
He led the way to a house at the bottom of a small street not far from the Nicolas station. Here at a door on a bare staircase suggesting modest bourgeois dwellings he rang a bell. We were admitted to a very plain apartment. Lev Lvovitch greeted the woman who let us in, but did not introduce me. He walked straight down the passage of the flat and opened a door at the end. This doorway appeared to have been knocked through the wall of the flat beyond, which was larger and more sumptuous. There was a marked oriental touch in its decorations. The walls of the hall were adorned with carpets, wrought-iron lamps with coloured glass hung from the ceiling. Evidently completely at home, the Lion peeped into one of the rooms, then signalled to me to follow.
The room, fairly large, was draped with curtains and other hangings, with lamps to match. In one corner was a large low divan piled with coloured cushions. On this divan two men sat cross-legged, playing chess with a set of ornamental pieces. On an octagonal table beside them were coffee and cups. From time to time the players reached out to take a sip. Judging from their looks neither of them was European. One, wearing a patterned silk dressing-gown and a turban, was thickset, dark, with a short, bushy black beard. The other, dressed in a slack lounge suit with a scarf in place of collar and tie, had tan-coloured leathery skin, high cheekbones, slanting eyes, and a little goatee beard. Except for a curt nod neither of them paid the slightest attention when we entered. They went on playing their game, exchanging comments in a language I couldn't understand.
"Coffee?" asked Lev Lvovitch, signalling me to a stool.
He poured it out and then looked on at the game. It was soon over, amid a discussion presumably as to what the loser ought to have done at a critical juncture. Apparently the man in the turban had won. He turned, and, seeing me, said, as if I had been there all the evening: "You play?" He spoke Russian with a marked accent.
"Not very well," I replied, "but I like it."
For answer he made a gesture inviting me to take the place of his late opponent, who got up to make way for me and started to talk volubly to Lev Lvovitch.
"Take your shoes off if you would be more comfortable," said my host.
I did so, and was ashamed to find I had a hole in my sock. I tried to hide it when I doubled my feet under me, but to my embarrassment he pointed at it, smiled, and said: "You believe in ventilation! Good thing—nothing like fresh air! ... Black or white?"—and he held out his closed hands with two pawns in them. When I had picked white I noticed that the other hand had held a white pawn too.
One factor that makes Stefan George's career worth studying and comparing with other, crasser gurus is that George had little interest in money. He chose to work through a small network of supporters, and preferred governance over a small group of initiates whom he could trust to adore him and over whom he could feel secure.
Stefan George was renowned as a poet. Until Norton published this biography, little on George was available in English and what little of it was shrouded in the mythologizing that originated with George himself.
Stefan George appeared to have had an emotionally impovrished upbringing.
He sustained himself by a feeling of destiny and specialness, but kept aloof, unable to have friends except on his own terms.
But when in Paris, he was able to meet the symbolist poet, Mallerme. Mallermet had exalted views of poetry and the true role of the poet and that art when real is only understandable to a small elite with sufficiently elevated understanding.
Mallerme held regular scheduled talks. He would hold forth, brilliantly. None dared question him. People were not even allowed to attend unless one of Mallerme's disciples vetted the person and decided the person had the right attitude.
Anyone who dared ask an insensitive question would be frowned on by the gathered disciples.
In short,, though Mallerme was an artist, a poet, with no pretensions to offer salvation or even a political programe, and was quite generous to new talent, he had arranged his own gathering to function much like a guru centered satsang
Young Stefan George was electrified by this and even if unconsciously, sensed this was how to live his own life and ensure emotional support, while keeping the friendships under his own control and on his own terms. He started his poetic career inspired by Verlaine and Mallerme and only later and rather painfully, decided to forge his campaign to arbitrate over the German poetic world.
Anyone who did not like George's poetry even if it was mild and tactful disagreement, was instantly rejected.
Gradually, over years, George did assemble a circle (known as the George-Kries) and published a magazine. He spent much time in Munich and Mt Veritas area. As the years passed and he lived in his safe controlled environment, in charge of it at all times, he became more and more ego driven, convinced that he was not merely a poet but an arbiter of destiny. One of his statements was that to write poetry was to reign. Meeting him was difficult, and one had to be subject to quizzing by his inner circle before being permitted to visit and submit to further questioning/interrogation by The Master himself.
In short, Stefan George was a small time dictator over a poetry circle he regarded as the true, secret Germany.
Yet, with all this, he became honored as a poet. Schoenberg set some of George's compositions to music.
Several of George's disciples tried to assassinate Hitler in 1945. But what may have given them fortitude was a view that they served the true Secret Germany, and that Hitler had proved himself unworthy.
In the German speaking areas, there were others who led charisma driven movements.
Frithjof Schuon. One area where he is strangely similar to George is that both were in love. From afar, Schuon adored a woman named Madeleine.
When both George and Schuon lost contact with their adored ones, they made their adored lost loves the focus of devotion.
A new focus for George's work emerged: the series of Maximin-Gedichte center on George's belief in the transcendence of Maximin's earthy life - his idealized figure becomes for George the Stern des Bundes, "one of the new awakened spirits who would one day form the new kingdom on earth--see below
Schuon required that his followers in the Alawiyya (Schuon's purportedly Sufi order.)join him in this “unhappy love.” “Whoever does not love Madeleine is not of the order!” Against the Modern World, page 119 Mark A Sedwick
Like Gurdjieff and George, Schuon took care with arranging lights and lamps.Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual history of the Twentieth Century
page 122 ...... with candles and incense being used during dhikr ceremonies, part of what a hostile source referred to as a general preoccupation with mise-en-scene.... ... Two Moroccan lamps of finely chiseled copper cast delicate lace patterns on the ceilings and walls... of truth. Schuon's preoccupation with ambience is visible even today in the houses of Schuons followers, which are, almost all beautifully decordated in a 'Traditional style." ..
(Sedwick, the author mentioned that the prayer rooms of Schuonians usually have a dagger. He has never been able to learn why the dagger is so often part of the decor. books.google.com/books?isbn=0195152972
Rudolf Steiner. One most remarkable similarity is that Steiner designed type fonts and Stefan George went so far as to design a type font of his own, as well.
Reading the way George arranged the social patterns and his dominence over his small circle can give clues on how larger guru centered cults operate.
George's belief that he was writing for, and indeed could only be appreciated by, an audience of the elite. To this end, he began to gather around him a circle of admirers, selecting at first amongst his peers and contemporaries, and only later restricting his attentions to the young disciples who sought him out. This group of friends and followers, known from its beginnings as the George-Kreis, gradually took on almost cult-like rituals and symbolism, emphasizing the renewal of culture through the power of youth and beauty.
The strength of George's belief in this cult of beauty is reflected not only in many of his later, quite monumental works, such as Der Stern des Bundes and the prophetically titled Das neue Reich, but in the decisive `Maximin-Erlebnis,' which provided the poet with inspiration and material for much of his later poetry: In 1903 George, during one of his frequent stays in Munich, became acquainted with the 15-year old Maximilian Kronberger. After encountering him on the street several times, George simply approached the young boy and introduced himself. Maximilian became George's close friend and companion over the next year, and was admired by many members of the George-Kreis not only for his youth and beauty, but for his poetic talent as well. Indeed, George saw in Maximilian such perfection that he considered the boy to be an incarnation of the godhead, and worthy of absolute devotion. In 1904, Maximilian died of meningitis at 16.
This shattered George's stability and after driving him to the brink of suicide brought a change in his poetry, which became increasingly transcendental, prophetic, and obscure. A new focus for George's work emerged: the series of Maximin-Gedichte center on George's belief in the transcendence of Maximin's earthy life - his idealized figure becomes for George the Stern des Bundes, "one of the new awakened spirits who would one day form the new kingdom on earth."
George's subsequently famous Kreis (Circle) of like-minded friends was beginning to rally about the same time. George considered his circle to be the embodiment and defender of the "real" but "secret" Germany, opposed to the false values of contemporary bourgeois society.
Some of his disciples, friends, and admirers were themselves historians, philosophers, and poets. Their works profoundly affected the intellectual and cultural attitudes of Germany's elite during the critical postwar years of the Weimar Republic. Essentially conservative in temperament and outlook, George and his circle occupy a central place in the cultural history of Germany with their political vision of a secret Germany, antagonistic to humanism, to democracy, and to progress.
The George-Kreis , his elite circle of friends and admirers, was in some ways a cultic group with hermetic mysticism and rituals.
At the surface, there were doubtless some similarities between George's programme of a hierarchic reformation based upon a new aristocracy of mind and spirit, and the ideologies of the fascist movements as they were beginning to flourish in several European countries during the nineteen-twenties. Though to him, for his attitude and sentiments, it was impossible to identify his cause with the Nazism that was to take over Germany, the ambiguity became clear in 1933, when some of his followers embraced the upheaval wholeheartedly, while others, like his oldest companion, the Jewish poet Karl Wolfskehl, were forced to emigrate. George himself, who was already fatally ill, declined all honours by which the new rulers tried to gain his support, and, silent but demonstrative, left Germany to end his life elsewhere. He died on the 4th of December 1933, in Locarno, Ticino, Switzerland, several months after the Nazi takeover.