It does seem that as a fundamental fact, power
can cause people to act less well than they
should. And lack of feedback because you are
considered Godlike and infallible is imo very bad
People can change for the worse if cosseted for years at a time by an entourage.
Not pushing the book or it's author, but the concept of "Acquired Situational Narcissism"*. I am putting this out there as one possible explanation for the Chris Butler cult. At any rate, it answered some questions for me. Maybe it will help family members, other exers, newbies, and children who were born into ISKCON or the SOI (Science of Identity) group. In my opinion, it would be beneficial to seriously look at the illness of narcissism in their gurus.
The main idea is the possibility of acquiring a severe or "malignant" type of narcissism by setting oneself up as a self-appointed guru as Butler has (along with Mr. Dey and Ms. Hoshijo). The word malignant is used as an adjective and not a DSM IV category. The term "malignant narcissism" was coined by Eric Fromm, a social psychologist, psychoanalyst. The term malignant is added to the term narcissist to indicate that individuals with this disorder have a powerful form of narcissism that has made them ill in the forms of paranoid and anti-social traits, of which Butler has many (from the accounts of exers and critics posting on this forum).
Either a dormant or unexpressed narcissistic tendency comes out or is developed due to extraordinary circumstances such as celebrity or guruhood. In both cases people become quickly surrounded by an entourage that gives false feedback. "Acquired Situational Narcissism"* takes a unique form within a guru-centric society that has mixed with our celebrity-maddened western culture. (This would make for a great research project.)
Without exception, Butler's early followers described a definite change in their guru that began in the early 1970's. This change is what prompted some followers to leave the cult. They tell stories that illustrate Butler's personality changing from being "mellow" to tyrannical; from being open and accessible to being misanthropic and paranoid; from living like a humble sadhu (ascetic) to a petulant materialist screaming for his mangoes; from a tiny shack in the jungle without electricity to a mansion with aluminum foil lined walls and industrial air and water filtration systems. I have always wondered about this. What changed?
From his adolescence Chris became aware of his charismatic powers over others and developed a sort of 'guruphilia' (an addiction to being a guru). Butler began to see his own image magnified in the glances, tears, smiles, and genuflection of his followers. Later, he learned how easy it was to conceal his despotism behind senior devotees who pass out grace or punishment while he avoids taking responsibility for the lives he impairs. In a protective bubble of affluence and isolation, his inaccessibility hides the truth of his fallibility.
Some blame the changes in his personality on his meddling into Hawaiian politics or marrying Wai Lana. They say that his Chinese wife, characterized as another "Yoko Ono" broke up the essentially harmless and merry band of followers; surfers and vegetarians dedicated to a more humane, ecological, and spiritual lifestyle. With E.F. Schumacher's "Small is Beautiful" in one hand and the Krishna Book in the other, they sought a utopian culture whose motto was "Simple Living, High Thinking". This slogan is based on the Hindi expression (sada jivana ucca vicara). Seeking the ideals of the 1960’s counter culture without the pitfalls of drugs and promiscuity, how did it change, for many, into a harmful cult?
Some say that after so many acid trips young Chris developed delusions based on his interest in eastern philosophy. True, but he was not initially a punitive despot. In the early days, if anyone left the cult it was because they were tired of playing around or wanted to have a normal sex life, relax with a beer or a burger, go back to college on the mainland, start a business, or simply grow up. Later followers left because they were threatened with spiritual death, suffered extreme psychological abuse, lost a spouse due to full time devotion to Butler or an affair with another devotee, had extreme work/"service" loads, unhealthy living conditions, and excessive tithing.
What else was different? Original followers lived, hung out, surfed, and chanted with Butler. Currently, the majority of his followers have never met him in person. Instead they rely on 30 year old photos, books, videos and on the testimony and legends propagated by older devotees and their children who once had direct access to the guru. For a child growing up in a world where one man is venerated so completely with no alternative views, it is nearly impossible to distinguish truth from reality. The very people who perpetuate the cult are simultaneously victims of Mr Butler's narcissism.
Now here is the really scary part. The followers who suffered the abuses and stayed on are now the preservers and propagators of the cult. The ones with the most damaged critical thinking skills are now the leaders. They are "nice" people, look normal, know how to dress and talk, and know how to draw you into the cult by degrees. They may even hold down good jobs and benefit others with their work. Butler doesn't need to do a thing except produce a "fatwa" to his senior disciples when business is slow. All these nice people are doing a good job of hiding the layers and layers of deceptions without really being conscious of the harm done (least of which is losing one's time and money in the service of a fraud). Of course there are others who are very aware of what they are doing and laugh behind the sincere one's backs. But then a few narcissists have been recruited too.
Acquired situational narcissism
* Acquired situational narcissism (ASN) is a form of narcissism that develops in late adolescence or adulthood, brought on by wealth, fame and the other trappings of celebrity. It was coined by Robert B. Millman, professor of psychiatry at the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
ASN differs from conventional narcissism in that it develops after childhood and is triggered and supported by the celebrity-obsessed society. Fans, assistants and tabloid media all play into the idea that the person really is vastly more important than other people, triggering a narcissistic problem that might have been only a tendency, or latent, and helping it to become a full-blown personality disorder. "Millman says that what happens to celebrities is that they get so used to people looking at them that they stop looking back at other people."
In its presentation and symptoms, it is indistinguishable from narcissistic personality disorder, differing only in its late onset and its support by large numbers of others. "The lack of social norms, controls, and of people telling them how life really is, also makes these people believe they're invulnerable".
See also: NY Times _ Acquired Situational NarcissismUntil and unless proven otherwise, this is my opinion based on reports and writings from ex followers, newspaper articles, Willis Butler's book "Barbara", and transcripts of Butler's own speeches and writings.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 02/13/2014 02:53PM by Vera City.