Charismatic authority, as Max Weber originally conceived it, is predicated on followers’ perceptions that their leader possesses superhuman or extraordinary powers. This article points to a novel link between silence and charismatic authority by examining the new religious movement (NRM) led by John de Ruiter and showing the important role that interpersonal silence plays in the social construction of his superhuman status.
Specifically, de Ruiter's management of three distinct aspects or qualities of interpersonal silence allows him to perform seemingly miraculous feats for his devotees.
Firstly, the projection-eliciting aspect, of interpersonal silence fosters the belief within devotees that de Ruiter has the ability to speak to the specific personal needs of people whom he has never met.
Secondly, the punitive aspect of silence enables de Ruiter to perform superhuman displays of power over others at meetings.
Thirdly, de Ruiter's use of silence fosters the belief that he has a miraculous ability to form intimate bonds with complete strangers, simply by gazing at them. To familiarize readers with this NRM, the article begins with a description of the group's culture, belief system, form of worship, methods of generating revenue, and recruitment strategies.
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