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May 1, 1996 -- Vol.1, no.1

Autocratic Power
by Alan Jacobs

Today, we are faced with a serious challenge to the continuation of what Jacob Bronowski called "The Ascent of Man".

'Knowledge is not a loose-leaf notebook of facts. Above all it is a responsibility for the integrity of what we are, primarily of what we are as ethical creatures. You cannot possibly maintain that informed integrity if you let other people run the world for you while you yourself continue to live out of a rag bag of morals that come from past beliefs. That is really crucial today' (1973, p. 436).

There exist in the world all manner of political, religious, and social movements which have as their main objective the imposition of their view of reality, their particular version of the truth. Often the object is control over an ever-increasing base of followers. They swallow large numbers of people, if their ambitions are realized, in proselytizing campaigns designed to play on the common fears of the masses. They observe that people are afraid, claim to know why they are afraid, and they offer a solution designed to allay these fears. They are certain they have the key to peace, salvation, safety, and contentment, what Lifton calls "sacred science" (1961/1989, p. VIII).

Although the glaring example of this kind of structure is Germany during the Nazi years, it is by no means the only one. Eastern Europe under the Soviets, Iran under Khomeini, or Kampuchia under Pol Pot are but a few others. It is possible to define nationless entities as well; for example the religio-politification of fundamentalist movements such as the Shiite extremists, the Jews for Jesus, the Black Muslims of Louis Farrakhan. Those that also bear close observation are Jerry Falwell and former Moral Majority (or Liberty Foundation), and Pat Robertson, the creator of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Christiam Coalition.

Some movement leaders, such as Farrakhan, Hitler, and Khomeini, define an enemy who must be destroyed, an enemy defined as the source of primordial evil (Lester, 1985, p. 11). Others, like Stalin, Falwell and Robertson, see the evil in ideas and life-styles and initially attempt conversion. In either case these movements begin out of moral imperative and change once they achieve power and control. Goodness is an early posture. Later goodness is transformed into destruction as amply demonstrated by the Jonestown example. The struggle for power is one thing, but its attainment and subsequent applications quite another. Initially the identification of both problems and their solutions is oversimplified, thus offering the follower a quick answer to the existential dilemma created by questions such as where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going. People are offered oversimplified answers that dispel fear created by doubt and uncertainty created by internal psychological conflict and external social forces. This has become particularly dangerous in the 20th century because of sophisticated communication technology and increasing expertise of the psycho-social sciences.

One way these forces operate is by discouraging critical thinking and moral speculation in favor of a prepackaged imagery and doctrine designed to create impressions rather than reveal substance, to capture people's hearts rather than stimulate their minds. Polarization and overzealous fundamentalism, whether derived from movements that are religious, social, or political, right or left, radical or reactionary, psychoanalytic or humanistic, Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, can grip us with a particular intensity. Perhaps it is not yet time for alarm, but surely we must learn to recognize leaders with autocratic tendencies before they attain power, before it is too late.

George Steiner asked what are "the internal relations between the structures of the inhuman and the surrounding, contemporary matrix of high civilization...?"(Steiner,1971, p. 29). What is our relationship as highly civilized people to autocratic structures we see springing forth like mushrooms through an asphalt road? And what is the attraction, the pull, to either lead or be led into these structures, indeed, to stand and watch them form without doing anything?

"Art, intellectual pursuits, the development of the natural sciences, many branches of scholarship flourished in close spatial, temporal proximity to massacre and the death camps. It is the structure and meaning of that proximity that must be looked at. Why did humanistic traditions and models of conduct prove so fragile a barrier against political bestiality?" (Steiner, 1971, p. 30)

Comparing extreme historical occurrences of this process with current examples might give us insight into similar tendencies and thus ward off further catastrophe. However, a word of caution about labeling others as Nazis or Fascists or Communists is in order; these terms have often been overused and applied incorrectly. The questions we need to consider include the following: How do leaders and followers form a "movement" that eventually oppresses others, and what is the relationship between them? What do the rest of the people, the bystanders and others, do about it? What happens when resisters emerge or when people are enslaved?

English (1979) addresses the relationship between Master and Slave (Follower), by describing a kind of psychological symbiosis formed from mutually complimentary "defensive existential positions".

"These are first experienced by the six-month-old child at the point of burgeoning individuation, away from the euphoric connection to mother. Such despair gets forgotten but tends to... re-surface... at certain critical stages... classically at the two to three year old period..." although "it threatens to surface at other times under conditions of stress (p. 90). During the two to three stage the basic existential position is formed and "There ensue numerous overt and covert power struggles between the child and her principal caretakers, following which she settles on one of the two existential positions. [I'm OK, You're Not OK, (+,-), or I'm not OK, You are OK, (-,+).] She chooses the one which seems the most effective to ward off despair" (p. 91-92).

These existential positions form the basis for substitute feelings and their corresponding behaviors, a construct known in transactional analysis as rackets. The Master, in English's construct, relates to the world using rackets underpinned by the defensive existential position (+,-) The Follower, relates from the defensive position,

(-,+). English's investigation focuses on this relationship between the person who leads and the one who joins and follows. Together they create a structure, a movement,than can have as its aim making the world over in its own image.

It seems all one needs in order to avoid being seduced by some movement is an ability to recognize the early moves in the symbiotic relationship, Master/Slave. To describe this relationship is task enough, to be sure, yet one wonders about the social medium in which this relationship is allowed to flourish. What of those individuals outside the core relationship such as the Bystanders? There are more of them than exist within the autocratic structure growing in their midst. As Lillian Hellman said (1939, Act III), 'There are people who eat the earth and eat all the people on it, like in the Bible with the locusts. And other people who stand around and watch them eat it.'

English described the Masters and their Slaves as types, involved in a series of third-degree transactional games where neither is capable of dealing with underlying emotions and therefore lacks a solid sense of self. A change in English's designation is would clear up confusion: Master/Slave to Master/Follower, this because a distinction between Followers and Slaves is imperative. (Actually, Master and Follower combine to enslave others.) In addition, there appears to be another type, Bystander, and three roles: Source of Evil, Slave, and Resister. The reason for this distinction is that types choose their positions while roles are force people into the drama as unwilling players or out of necessity. Type also implies, to varying degrees, a quantity of psychosocial pathology not extant in either Source, Slave, or Resister.


Masters cook the meal, eat at will, and are typically charismatic leaders, absolutist in nature, who claim insight into revealed truth, be it religious, political, or social. How they identify evil is a necessary part of their ideology and one which distinguishes between two subtypes: the Converting Master and the Enslaving Master. Converting Masters declare that evil manifests itself in what people believe and do. Enslaving Masters see evil as inherent in what people are, with no hope of change. Master types typically emerge from small groups we can call, after Canetti, identify as Crowd Crystals (1984, p. 73). They will be discussed below. Masters are typically sadistic, using Fromm's description as "aiming at unrestricted power over another person more or less mixed with destructiveness" (1976, p. 221).

Followers want to be eaten and need the master in order to feel protected and safe. The Master's identification of evil and the permission to destroy it allow Followers to give vent to aggressive and destructive impulses that, to some extent, exist in most people. Followers are usually recruited from the discontented and the frightened. Some love the Master to the point of sacrificing their lives to protect and deify him or her. Others are pragmatic and follow not from love or belief, but from fear of scarcity, exclusion, or death. Both are quite prone to crowd formation and are, according to Fromm, typically masochistic in character, aiming "at dissolving themselves in an overwhelmingly strong power in order to participate in its strength and glory" (1976, p. 221).

Bystanders watch others eat and are initially outside the development of Master/Follower. Only some Bystanders allow themselves to be aware of the development of Master/Follower systems, and even fewer recognize the ultimate significance of what they are witnessing. Often Bystanders are converted and become followers, others feign conversion in order to avoid persecution.


Source of Evil: People so-identified by the Master are seen as poison for which there may, or may not be, an antidote. This function can be either primordial or surrogate. A distinction is made between people who are evil and people who are under the evil's influence. A group of people seen as a manifestation of primordial evil are dehumanized, that is, made into beasts or insects, and marked for destruction e.g., the Jews and the Gypsies during WW II, the Armenians during WW I. If political, religious, or social beliefs are identified as evil then the people who believe in them are seen as a surrogate evil and can save themselves by converting. For example, Communists in Germany could save themselves by joining the Nazi Party or, in the Soviet Union,Communists could be redeemed by believing in Marx and Lenin and renouncing their bourgeois lives. Sometimes surrogate evil status is a transitional. For if people in this category persist in resisting conversion, their status can be reduced to that primordial evil.

Slaves seen as an inferior breed, subhuman e.g. are dehumanized, reduced to sub-human status and ultimately reduced to refuse, e.g. the Poles and Slavs during WW II. or. They are used by the Master as food, to do his or her bidding against their will. They are used in the form of forced labor, and are trapped, concentrated, and automatized by psychological and physical brutality. Slaves often fail to foresee the final outcome until it is too late, denial in the face of subhumanization being so human a mechanism.

To summarize, the distinction between Slaves and Source of Evil can be illustrated in the Nazi example: Jews and Gypsies were dehumanized and marked for extinction, Poles, Russians, and others were subhumanized, and marked for slave labor.

Resisters choose to blow up the restaurant. They fight to remove the Master from power, and failing that, destroy him or her, if possible. Occasionally they see the Master as the Source of Evil and therefore poisonous. Often Master personalities pose as Resisters who, after they attain power, emerge as Masters themselves. However, authentic Resisters act in order to establish a version of justice.


The Crowd Crystal (Canetti, 1984, p. 73) is formed by Master personalities, and an occasional Follower. A Crystal consists of probably no more than a hundred people in national systems and often considerably less in social and religious ones; they can be as small as three or four people. From within the Crystal the most talented and charismatic individual emerges as the Master of Masters. This small entity forms the basic structure of the Crowd, writes the organizational script, and has similar properties to actual crystals. "The environment of a particular atom in a crystal has a certain arrangement, and if you look at the same kind of an atom at another place farther along, you will find one whose surroundings are exactly the same... the pattern is repeated over and over again..."(Feynman, 1960, p. 30-1). Within the Crystal each individual becomes, as much as possible, a replication of the Chosen One. These lieutenants also love the Master because he or she allows them to bask in reflected glory. With a resulting burst of energy they, in turn, enhance the Master's power, thus creating the reciprocal attachment so necessary for the formation of this particular kind of psycho-political symbiosis. They appear and reappear before the masses in some kind of consistent way, continually garnering more followers who are symbiotically attached to them personally and, simultaneously, to the Master.

The Crystal itself remains small and creates a rigid hierarchy extending beyond itself in order to duplicate the posture, psychology, and ideological stance of the Master. For example almost everyone within Hitler's private army, the SS, was a replica and extension of Der FŸ hrer. Mini-fŸ hrers existed in a carefully arranged hierarchy from the top to close to the very bottom. The head of the SS was ReichsfŸ hrer Himmler. Under him were the equivalents of four-star generals, the OberstgruppenfŸ hrers, below were colonels or StandartenfŸ hrers, captains or HaupsturmfŸ hrers, sergeants or OberscharfŸ hrers; the operations officer in a concentration camp was called the LagerfŸ hrer... By contrast, the regular Germany Army, the Wehrmacht, had no such designations; a four star general was traditionally Generaloberst, a captain, Hauptmann, a sergeant, Feldwebel.

Crowd crystals must maintain constancy in order to beget crowds, and it is important that they project an image that can be taken in at a glance. Images of Hitler with Gš ering, Goebbels, Himmler, and Hess, administering blood oaths in the forest, or the familiar sight of the Soviet Premier and Politburo members on the May Day Kremlin wall come to mind. Crystals of lesser degree in the U.S.A. include Farrakhan on stage, complete with bodyguards and lieutenants, or some version of large group awareness training or LGAT like est or one of its offshoots, such as Transformation Technologies, the Forum (Singer, 1995 p. 42), with their Boards strategizing how to take his word to the world. Crystal unity is more important than size.


Perls' metaphor for all "growth disorders" is the "Blue Baby" (1969, p. 22). Such infants cannot oxygenate their own blood properly and additional temporary, outside support is necessary. Similarly in the Master-Follower symbiosis individuation is not possible, even though it is implicitly promised because help is a threat to permanent dependence. Tragedy appears inevitable.

The Master, oversimplifies complex existential questions without epistemological consideration. That is, the nature of knowledge remains unquestioned. How the Master knows what he or she knows is not at issue; observations and conclusions about life are presented, more or less, as a fait accompli, with the attitude and demeanor of an absolutely certain person. He is by English's definition, oversure(1979, p. 90), that is, positive that his or her view of reality is accurate and brooks no rebuttal. Persons of this type:

"relate everything to a single, central vision, one system, more or less articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal organizing principle in terms of which alone, all that they are and say has significance" (Berlin, 1984, p. 22).

Since fear forms the basis for the Master's relationship with Followers and fear also neutralizes many Bystanders, Masters present themselves to the world as having the answer, the way, the solution to all the people's fears. This process is highlighted in Col. Dorf's speech from the film "Man In The Glass Booth" (Film, Shaw/Anhalt, 1974)

"Let me speak to you of our FŸ hrer... [...] He, who answered our German need, he who rescued us from our most terrible fears, he who made us believe in ourselves.[...] To whom did he appeal? To the people. [...] Why? Why did we love him? Because we were afraid, and we knew he was afraid. We did not know what he feared, but he did, and he told us, and because we loved him, we believed him. The Jews! [...] It was marvelous to know, finally, what frightened us; to have it all go away so easily. And therefore to end his fear and our fear, we had to destroy them. That was the need he satisfied in us. That is why he became our good and wise Father. That is why we loved him. [...] While he lived, Germany lived, and the people demanded it. We never denied him [...] This marvelous Father, to tell us what we are afraid of and to tell us how to get rid of our fears forever, for anytime, anywhere, anyplace. That is whom we will love. That is for whom we will kill and in killing we would live and be cleansed of fear!"

Initially the Master seems to be a caring, nurturing, and encouraging parent to his or her Followers, a magical helper with an answer to all problems, a source of safety and protection. During the early and intermediate stages of the relationship Followers do indeed feel safe and even self-sufficient. However, it is an illusion based on false premises. Ultimately the result is not self sufficiency, but a relationship in which nothing is done to encourage the independence of the "child", who is instead, kept in a needy state. To use English's description, the relationship is "like eating devitaminzed food. This only exacerbates the hunger all the more, like drug addiction which falsely seems to energize while inducing starvation." (1979. p. 92)

The Master induces dependency in the Followers by reinforcing frustration, by heightening fears and insecurities, by generalizing them to include a large target population and then by inviting Followers to become immersed in a glorious and powerful force greater than themselves. Hitler wrote:

"What they want is the victory of the stronger and the annihilation or the unconditional surrender of the weaker."(1940, p. 469)

He also said:

"Like a woman... who will submit to the strong man rather than dominate the weakling, thus the masses love the ruler rather than the suppliant, and inwardly they are far more satisfied by a doctrine that tolerates no rival than by the grant of liberal freedom.; they often feel at a loss what to do with it, and even easily feel themselves deserted. They neither realize the impudence with which they are spiritually terrorized, nor the outrageous curtailment of their human liberties for in no way does the delusion of this doctrine dawn on them." (1940, p. 56)

Without Followers there is no power and without power there is no change and therefore no hope, a feeling always directed towards a utopian or demi-utopian, future either of this earth or in eternity. As children are afraid, so too, are adults, and they are, therefore, malleable and easily manipulated into service for the cause. Usually Masters, reactionary or radical, vilify the present and rail against the moderates and conservatives who would preserve it, or against the liberals who would change it. They attempt to either convert these outsiders or, failing that, define them as contributing to the problems.

Types of Masters and the Identification of Evil

A major factor in allaying people's fears is the identification of an enemy, either human or ideological, although not just any one will do. A source that is somehow related to the idea of evil must be found that helps create the special feeling necessary for the formation of a closed crowd of Followers. Canetti said:

"The closed crowd renounces growth and puts the stress on permanence. The first thing to be noticed about it is that it has a boundary... The boundary prevents disorderly increase, but it also makes it more difficult for the crowd to disperse and so postpones its dissolution." (1984, p. 17)

Enslaving Master

The Enslaving Master [Fig. 1] defines a specific group of people as the source of primordial evil. This causes rapid formation of the "Baiting Crowd" which:

"...forms with reference to a quickly attainable goal. The goal is known and clearly marked, and is also near. This crowd is out for killing and it knows whom it wants to kill... One important reason for the rapid growth... is that there is no risk involved... because the crowd have immense superiority on their side... A murder shared with many others, which is not only safe and permitted, but indeed recommended, is irresistible to the great majority of men. (Canetti, 1984, p. 49)

Black Muslim Minister Louis Farrakhan's October 1985 rally in Madison Square Garden serves as a particularly salient example of how the Ideological Enslaving Master accomplishes identification of a human source of evil. He presented himself as the voice of holy truth whom the Jews are determined to silence.

'Somebody has to come to separate God from Satan, master and slave, oppressor and oppressed, so they can see each other and then go to war to see who is going to rule...' Who are those who support me? The righteous! You have been deprived of justice, and if God sends a deliverer, will the oppressor love him?' "he asked his audience."
'No!' "the crowd thundered."

'Are the Jews who are angry with me righteous people?'


'Jesus had controversy with the Jews. Farrakhan has a controversy with the Jews. Jesus was hated by Jews. Farrakhan is hated by Jews. Jesus was scourged by Jews in their temple. Farrakhan is scourged by Jews in their synagogues. Did Jesus care for the oppressed?'


(...and later he shouted)

'Who were the enemies of Jesus?'

'Jews, Jews, Jews' "the crowd roared." (Lester, 1985, p. 12)

For Kahane in Israel, this identified evil was Arabs; for Khomeini it was Western civilization; for Hitler and Louis Farrakhan, the Jews. Identifying the evil group or object is necessary for the Enslaving Master because it cements his or her relationship the Followers. In the beginning it even helps to neutralize Bystanders by creating the belief that it is others who are in danger. This was described poignantly in a statement attributed to Martin Niemoeller, a German theologian who wound up in a concentration camp:

"In Germany they came first for the communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up." (Bartlett's, 1980, p. 824)

Ideological Converting Masters need a source of evil as well, but in a different sense. They don't necessarily focus on a particular group, but on an idea or concept, such as a political philosophy or a historical tradition. For Falwell, Robertson, and other ministers of the Christian right wing, it is secular humanism (Lester, 1985, p. 11); for the Communists, it is bourgeois Capitalism and Fascism. A Converting Master attempts to change the minds of those who do not agree with his or her view of the world. Robertson and Lenin, in this sense, are much different than Farrakhan and Hitler. The latter never accept into their midst, nor forgive, the source of evil because they see it as primordial, i.e., fundamental, primitive and irrevocable, thus requiring annihilation. The former seek merely a commonplace evil, one that is changeable. If one gives up evil ways and believes as they do, one can be accepted into the fold. The evil is temporal rather than permanent, convertible rather than irrevocable, surrogate rather than primordial.

In either case a marriage is made between Masters and Followers and before looking more closely at them, additional criteria are needed to distinguish between various autocratic systems, between the dictatorship of Ideological Masters and certain others. One could postulate a principle of the required scapegoat, in order to identify various forms, such as between systems like Somoza and Ortega in Nicaragua, between Czar Nicholas and Lenin, or Batista and Castro.

Dictators like Somoza, the Czar, and Batista are despots perpetuating the interests of a small, privileged few. They possess no vision of the world as a better place. They do not believe in History with a capital H. In contrast, those like Ortega, Lenin, Castro, also Hitler, The Rev James Jones and Khomeini, create or adhere to a rigidly defined ideology, either complete and comprehensive as with Marxist-Leninism or incomplete like Hitler's or Farrakhan's. These ideologies are utopian in nature, promising heavenly or earthly salvation through, among other things, the elimination of the source of evil. It is the quick and easy identification of this evil, ideologically, if only incompletely, justified, and the offering of a solution which engenders the love between Master and Follower, so needed by both to create and sustain symbiosis. Unlike Ideological Masters, despotic rulers do not need love from their followers, just fear, loyalty, and obedience. These differences are necessary for differentiating Despotic dictators and Ideological Masters, regardless of whether the latter are Enslaving or Converting.

Although both despots and ideologues use autocratic dictatorship as the basis of their power, Ideological Masters must have a special mission. For example Hitler fashioned himself the genius sent to the German people and Farrakhan believes he is the only one who can save Black America, indeed his ritual and rhetorical allusions even imply a holy status. Likewise fundamentalist Christianity or Islam, and revolutionary Communism are seen by Masters and Followers as the only right paths. Erik Hoffer named this process deification (1951, p. 138) and it can apparently be either secular or religious. For example, from the same Farrakhan Madison Square Garden speech:

"They called him the Devil. They call me the devil. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and fed the 5000 [the miracle of loaves and fishes], it was then that the authorities began to attack him. I am resurrecting the minds of black people from the dead, and they attack Farrakhan." (Lester, p. 12)

Existential positions ,Complementary roles, and Crowd formation

Returning for a closer look at the marriage between Masters and Followers, the Master has to maintain the status of a powerful deity who can produce what both perceive as utopia or, if not that, at least have the vision to enhance the quality of Followers' lives. As I said before, neither really grows within the marriage. They each say, "I'm OK, You're OK", but there are hidden conditions: that the Followers continue to see the Master as more OK, and that the Followers obey the Masters every command. Neither really change their original life positions. Rather, they repress and act them out, symbolically at first and later more overtly. This is accomplished by extruding the not OK elements and projecting them onto the source of evil [Fig. 1]. The ostensibly new positions now appear as "I'm OK, You're OK, THEY Are Not OK". Before this the crowd do not exist as such, but now they achieve the illusion of true equality through, the "crowd discharge" and through "true conversion": "The only way for equality within the group to continue, thus insuring its life, is through a true `conversion' where men give up their old associations and form new ones. These crowds are usually limited in number and are rigidly controlled by an arbitrary set of rules."(Canetti, 1984, p. 17, p. 18).

The effort then, is to forcibly repress the "Not OK" feelings while simultaneously creating the illusion of being rid of them. It is at this moment that the crowd forms; when I and You become WE. "It is for the sake of this blessed moment, when no-one is greater or better than another, that people become a crowd." (Canetti, 1984, p. 18)

And that this moment requires extrusion of unwanted feelings, a meaningful object is found which typifies the inner, hidden sense of self, preferably one with historical antecedents. The more the crowd oppress the scapegoat by making him a reflection of its own sense of weakness, the stronger it feels. In this respect, Farrakhan's remarks at the Garden rally are particularly illustrative.

"I am your last chance, too, Jews. (The audience laughed loudly and long). The scriptures charge your people with killing the prophets of God. (Farrakhan contended that God had not made the Jewish people pay for such deeds. However if something happens to him, then God will make the Jews pay for all the prophets killed from biblical times to the present.) You cannot say `never again' to God because when God puts you in the oven "never again" don't mean a thing. If you fool with me, you court death itself. I will not run from you; I will run to you." (Lester, 1985, p. 12)

Another important aspect of Master/Follower complementarity is that the Master is helpful/bossy in juxtaposition to the Follower's helpless/rebellious (English, 1979, p. 92). In the beginning the Master presents an image of wanting good for the people and knowing how to perform acts which will make their lives better. Initially the Master makes good on the promise to rescue the people from what has become a mass helpless hysteria, thus gaining their unabashed loyalty. The Berlin journalist Sebastian Haffner describes this phenomenon in Hitler's Germany:

"During the first six years of his twelve-year reign Hitler astonished friends and enemies alike with a series of achievements which hardly anyone would have thought him capable... It is these achievements which at the time confused and inwardly disarmed his opponents [who were] in 1933 still a majority of Germans - and which to this day gives him a certain secret prestige among sections of the older generation." (1979, p. 25)

By 1938 (WW II started in Sept. 1939) the majority of the German people had been won over by his achievements. They were either Followers or neutralized Bystanders. He had come through on the promises he bragged about in his April 28, 1939 speech:

"I overcame chaos in Germany, restored order, enormously raised production in all fields of our national economy... I succeeded in completely resettling in useful production those seven million unemployed who so touched our hearts... I have accomplished all of this... as one who 21 years ago was still an unknown worker and soldier of my people, by my own efforts." (Haffner, 1979, p. 32-33)

Haffner speculates: "Had he created everything by his own efforts? Of course he had had helpers and collaborators, but could one seriously maintain that everything would have turned out the same without him? Could one therefore still reject Hitler without rejecting all that he had accomplished, and, set against those achievements, were not his unpleasant traits and misdeeds merely blemishes?" (p. 33)

This description of rescuing and its seductive effects bestows special status on a person who eventually reduces everyone but a select few to the status of children. How else could Hitler be the only one to achieve such marvels? It assumes an inherent magical or devine power to make all the bad go away, to make everything alright. For this to occur, helpless Followers must exhibit complementary passive behaviors. A false sense of success is created, and the underlying implications of actions such as the relinquishing of individual freedoms are ignored. Only later will the toll be realized. The message is in the medium, and yet it is ignored in favor of more immediate safety.

Eventually the Master becomes riddled with hubris, arrogance fed by initial successes, and underlying hostility and need to control emerge. One might recall Hitler's famous rages, those fits of pique and pouting, storming and screaming at his subordinates that so typified later years of his regime. This behavior is complemented by either conscious or unconscious rebellion by the Followers manifested in either covert or overt behavior, in failed plans and even assassination attempts.

Additional complementarity

Followers are unsure to the Master's oversure, and therefore initially manifest a depressed "what's the use" attitude sprinkled with anxiety; this in contrast to the Master's oversure position of false hope. They seek quick answers and simple solutions, thus complementing the Master's magical helper stance. They are necessarily, Adapted Child to the Master's Controlling Parent, and social-level Victim/ psychological-level Rebel to his complementary Rescuer/Persecutor. They also exhibit a gullibility in contrast to the Master's exploitative perception and, craving acceptance and belonging, are admiring, even adoring, in complement to the Master's exhibitionism.

The Master manifests a sense of mission, demanding absolute obedience through ideological indoctrination, and the Follower compliments with devotion. The Master devours and feeds while the Follower craves belonging and incorporation into a larger whole, in order to erase completely the experience of individual separateness. (Hoffer, 1951, p. 62) The Master demands self sacrifice, and the Followers will endure many hardships in order to maintain a safe and secure symbiosis. (English, 1979, p. 93) The Master creates drama through ritual and the astute application of ceremony, thus inducing the Followers' willingness to die. Often this is accomplished by creating a theater of conflict in which the Followers accept a specific role on stage, thereby enhancing identification with the whole.

In this process the Master promotes an esthetic ideal, no matter how mundane, that denies the reality of present and past values for the promise of the future. Followers are all too ready to accept any ideal that reinforces their contempt for the present and creates hope for the future. By corrupting the reality of the present moment for his or her own ends, the Master invokes a kind of historical myth and proposes a view that reveals the true nature of history, when in fact this is an impossible claim. Since we are all interacting in the moment and influencing each other in countless ways, it is impossible for anyone to claim absolute knowledge of reality, much less to claim the power to control it (Chiaromonte, 1985, p. 25): in transactional terms, History as Controlling Parent. Even if the voyage progresses, and temporary gains are achieved, the goal is illusory, impossible to achieve within the context of a third degree behaviors based on symbiotic dependency.

Under an Ideological Dictatorship, Followers become victims of the structure of power and are turned into obedient instruments of the Master just above in the pecking order. All have a tendency to relate to those above from (-,+) and to those below from (+,-). The picture of the world is reduced to the blind execution of orders. Good is only that which agrees with the authority-enforced structure. Successful ideological indoctrination automatizes the total apparatus of power, top to bottom, and anything that opposes it must be destroyed.(Kepinski, 1972, p. 246)


The largest group in the entire system is the Bystanders. Many of them become Followers for pragmatic reasons, manifesting no "true belief". Some of them opportunistically join the movement for personal advancement; they are often in the (+,-) life position, although they do not qualify as Masters. Others succumb to the pressure of being outside the current successful trend and join the Followers from an (-,+) position. They are afraid and allow themselves to be seduced by the illusion of safety. They join the movement and experience it as love.

The largest group of Bystanders are passive and tacitly give their permission by saying and doing nothing. It seems the only thing to do at the time. They continue to remain outside, do not become Followers because of their of terror, and are reactive. They tailor their actions to avoid being noticed. Curiously, when despotic rulers are overthrown, many people still crave this anonymity, thereby facilitating the rise of still another Master. For this reason, many despotic dictators are replaced by other dictators, even though of a different ideology. Passive Bystanders allow themselves to be defined as part of the Crowd, for example the "Aryan Peoples". Their life positions seem to vary considerably, but when they relate to the Master and his or her Followers it is from either (+,-) or (-,+). Their contribution to crowd motion is considerable, and their participation passive and directed by fear of survival. Actually they have more power than they realize. For example, public protest was so strong in Germany in 1939 that Hitler was forced to close the "Euthanasia" program, a secret project to gas German citizens such as the mentally retarded, homosexuals, and the incurably insane, who were labeled "defective".

An important aspect of keeping silent Bystanders passive is the selective use of terror, either physical and psychological as with Hitler, Khomeini, and Stalin, or exclusively psychological (threatening exclusion and alienation) as with some fundamentalist religionists. This has the effect of neutralizing most Bystanders who begin to feel like Mahmud Azari in Ryszard Kapuscinski's Shah:

"From then on I felt the fear. It would hit me at the most unexpected moments. I was ashamed, but I couldn't deal with it. It began to disturb me profoundly. I thought with horror that by carrying that fear inside me I'd voluntarily become part of a system founded on fear. A terrible, yet indissoluble, relationship, a sort of pathological symbiosis, had established itself between me and the dictator." (1982, p. 94-95)


Resisters refuse to accept the symbiosis. Some are in a (+,+) life position but are forced through circumstance to take a temporary (+,-) position and to fight to overthrow the Master out of a sense of justice and freedom. Other resisters may be (+,-) in their basic position and seek revenge and power. Often it is not possible to distinguish between these two groups until after they have overthrown the ruler, after which time it is quite clear who seeks justice and who wants revenge and power. Resisters can come from any level, even from the Crowd Crystal.


Slaves are sought by the Master as a work force and as a symbol of strength (the more slaves he has, the stronger he feels). When people are forced into servitude they manifest (-,-). They are usually caught up in events beyond their immediate control and cannot improve their condition. Usually the slave, if previously free, experiences bondage as a nightmare.

"The basic features of a nightmare may be defined as: weirdness, helplessness, mortal danger and automatization. These were also the four features predominant in concentration camps." (Kepinski, 1972, p. 246)

One must rise above the subhumanizing effects of forced labor and retain a semblance of moral dignity or there is little hope of survival. As Sterkowicz wrote, "It is easy to be noble in favorable conditions, but much more difficult in articulo mortis."( in Kepinski, 1972, p. 251) What become important are food and staying alive or, as the Polish psychiatrist Kepinski noted, "eating and death." (1972, p. 251)

He went on to say:

"...if one was to survive it was necessary, to some extent at least, to be able to get away from the overpowering law of survival at all costs. Those who completely succumbed to this law lost their human dignity and often with that, all chances to survive. In order to survive in camp the most essential human features were an ability to internally oppose everything that was going on...with the help and friendship of fellow prisoners." (Kepinski, 1972, p. 251)

The ever present fight for survival, our most primary biological urge, creates a paradoxical situation which turns slaves into automatons, and it is precisely this automatization that is responsible for their annihilation. Life is reduced to the first biological law - "win or be defeated' and this contributes to the brutalization of slave life, turning it into nothing more than a fight for survival. Curiously, persecuted and persecutor are drawn into the devilish machine of destruction: the Master and Followers, or surrogate Masters, because of their ideological grandiosity, and the Slaves because they become crushed by the process. Both adopt "win or be defeated" as their principal motto. The position is forced by the existing biological danger on one side and a fictitious ideological one on the other. One side cannot be human because automation of their life reduces everything to a biological fight for survival, and the other because the automatism of enforced and accepted ideology renders it impossible (Kepinski, 1972, p. 255-256). Many slaves eventually decide to give up life rather than become what is required for survival. Still others are able to maintain the inner strength necessary to prevail.

Additional differentiation between the types and roles can be made by combining the transactional analysis concept of relative "OK'ness" with the action of choice and then by relating these to who is seen as a Source of Salvation and who as a Source of Misfortune. Masters and Followers choose their positions actively and are seen as relatively OK, with the Master always more OK than the OK followers. Bystanders are OK because they present no real or imagined threat. Slaves are forced into the Not OK position by the Followers and the Master, and are necessarily regarded as subhuman; they do not choose this position. The most heavily attributed position, The Source of Evil, are regarded as not even human and are therefore the most Not OK. The Master sees himself or herself as a source of salvation, and the Followers agree. Both Master and Followers see the Slaves and the Source of Evil as the reason for their misfortune. Because they need at least someone below them, the potential Slaves also often attribute their misfortune to the Source of Evil.

In conclusion, any disciplined explanation of these forces must rely on past examples which reveal but a few frozen moments in time. The actual methods and systems used to comprehend past events, what is seen in them, and what is made of that, are subtle devices, superficial and desperate, as Isaiah Berlin said, which I employ in order to conceal the chaos from myself.

We are incapable of grasping the enormous totality of even one event. The difficulty of historical analysis contradicts our commonly held view that we are in control of our destiny, that we can change ourselves and that given this transformation we can then go out and change the world. Forces abound that change the fate of nations as well as people: rain preventing Napoleon from using his mobile artillery at Waterloo; the arrival of winter earlier than in a hundred years before Hitler's forces at Moscow; a natural disaster; an economic depression; a match carelessly thrown in a haystack; a shift in the wind; a baby's cry. Many varied is chance, the fickle mover of people and nations. So it might be that fate, in this sense, brings out the best and the worst. Given frightful circumstances, are we capable of horrendous acts? Could Hitler have come to power without the Great Depression of 1929? Could Khomeini have risen without the the Shah and his terrible secret police, Savac? Would Louis Farrakhan continue to have voice in a racially equal America?

Third degree Masters like these, emerge from the circumstances in which they live. Given terrible conditions, terrible Masters can seize the moment, seduce a desperate and frightened people, and commit terrible acts. In milder times Masters are milder, and the need for a human source of evil is less likely to surface. Masters and their Followers turn instead to more abstract evil and to those who simply do not agree with them. In either case, the need to understand these men and women is great, and our philosophies, faith, unifying theories and science, meager. Nevertheless, it is important, whether thinking about nations or our own organization, to understand that the only thing worse than not thinking about these issues is not thinking about them enough.


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Copyright © 1996, Alan Jacobs