In all societies deference is accorded to authoritative roles, their incumbents, and the norms they promulgate in consideration of their capacity to create, maintain, and change the order of society. In all societies there is a propensity in most human beings, on occasion, to perceive, beyond immediate and particular events, the forces, principles, and powers which govern the immediate and the particular and which impose and necessitate an order which embraces them. Particularly serious attention and respect are given to what are thought to be those transcendent powers which are manifested in the orders of nature and society and in patterns of norms which intend the ordering of human action. Where institutions, roles, persons, norms, or symbols are perceived or believed to be connected or infused with these transcendent powers, we say that they are perceived as charismatic.
Charisma, then, is the quality which is imputed to persons, actions, roles, institutions, symbols, and material objects because of their presumed connection with “ultimate,” “fundamental,” “vital,” order-determining powers. This presumed connection with the ultimately “serious” elements in the universe and in human life is seen as a quality or a state of being, manifested in the bearing or demeanor and in the actions of individual persons; it is also seen as inhering in certain roles and collectivities. It can be perceived as existing in intense and concentrated form in particular institutions, roles, and individuals (or strata of individuals). It can also be perceived as existing in attenuated and dispersed form.
The propensity to seek contact with transcendent powers and to impute charismatic qualities varies in any society; it is extremely strong in some persons, feeble in others. It also varies during the life span of individuals and in the history of particular societies. Some societies are characterized by a greater frequency of intense and concentrated charisma; others, by a greater frequency of attenuated and dispersed charisma. Both types exist in varying admixtures in all societies.
The propensity to impute charisma is a potentiality of the moral, cognitive, and expressive orientations of human beings. The propensity to seek contact with transcendent powers and to impute charisma is rooted in the neural constitution of the human organism. The intensity with which it is experienced and the strength of its motivation are also influenced by situational exigencies and by the prevailing culture. It can be deliberately cultivated by isolation from the routine environment, by instruction and self-discipline. It can be so prized that individuals are encouraged to allow it to come forward in their sensitivity. A culture can foster the discernment of charismatic signs and properties by focusing attention, providing canons of interpretation, and recommending the appreciation of the possession of these signs and properties.
Whatever the sources of the propensity to impute charisma—neural, situational, cultural, or any combination of these—when this propensity is intense enough to seek to penetrate beyond the immediate present, beyond the particular and the concrete to the more general categories and patterns which underlie and generate the vicissitudes of human existence, it results in a subjective experience of possession of charismatic quality or in a sensitivity and responsiveness to the subjectively experienced charisma manifested in the bearing, words, and actions of other individuals and institutions. Those persons who possess an intense subjective feeling of their own charismatic quality, and who have it imputed to them by others, we will call charismatic persons. In the charismatic persons it is “directly” experienced; in the others it is experienced only in “mediated” form through intensely and concentratedly charismatic persons or institutions. The authority exercised by these individuals who “experience” charisma directly, over all others in the society who experience it only in mediated form, we will call charismatic authority.
The concept of charisma derives from the reference in II Corinthians which describes the forms in which the gifts of divine grace appear. It was taken up by Rudolf Sohm in his analysis of the transformation of the primitive Christian community into the Roman Catholic church (Sohm 1892–1923); the emphasis there was on a “charismatic institution.” The conception of charisma underwent its most important extension and formulation in the writings of Max Weber (1922a; 1922b). He treated charisma as a property attributed to great innovating personalities who disrupt traditionally and rational-legally legitimated systems of authority and who establish or aspire to establish a system of authority claiming to be legitimated by the direct experience of divine grace. Weber also applied the concept to creative, expansive, innovating personalities who are regarded as “extraordinary” even though they neither claim to possess divine grace nor have it imputed to them.
According to Weber’s usage, charismatic quality may be attributed to religious prophets and reformers, to dominating political leaders, to daring military heroes, and to sages who by example and command indicate a way of life to their disciples. In such personalities, the charismatic quality is believed to be manifested in extremes of passionate and intense action or of willed passivity, in extremes of exultant or serene possession. Charismatic quality is attributed to expansive personalities who establish ascendancy over other human beings by their commanding forcefulness or by an exemplary inner state which is expressed in a bearing of serenity.
The “extraordinariness” (Ausseralltäglichkeit) of these charismatic persons is not simply statistical infrequency; rather, it is the intense and concentrated form in which they possess or are thought to possess qualities which are only slightly present in routine actions. Routine actions are those which are governed mainly by motives of moderate, personal attachment, by considerations of convenience and advantage, and by anxiety to avoid failure in conforming to the immediate expectations and demands of peers and superiors. Routine actions are not simply repetitive actions; they are uninspired actions in which immediately prospective gratifications and the demands of immediate situations and of obligations to those who are close at hand play a greater part than does the link with transcendent things. If any charismatic attribution is present in the pattern of routine action, it is not dominant and certainly is not vividly perceived.
Such uninspired actions maintain social structures, and they also change them through numerous minor adjustments. They do not impel drastic changes. Charismatic persons, and those who are responsive to charismatic persons, aspire to larger transformations. They seek to break the structures of routine actions and to replace them with structures of inspired actions which are “infused” with those qualities or states of mind generated by iemdiate and intensive contact with the “ultimate” —with the powers which guide and determine human life.
The charismatic person is a creator of a new order as well as the breaker of routine order. Since charisma is constituted by the belief that its bearer is effectively in contact with what is most vital, most powerful, and most authoritative in the universe or in society, those to whom charisma is attributed are, by virtue of that fact, authoritative. Charismatic authority is antipathetic to those forms of authority which invoke recently and currently acknowledged criteria of legitimacy and which call forth the performance of the previously performed. Even where such authorities command or recommend new actions, they legitimate the commands or recommendations by subsuming them under existing norms recently and currently accepted as valid. The bearer and the adherents of charismatic authority, in contrast, tend to think of their norms as legitimated by a source remote in time or timeless, remote in space or spaceless. The legitimacy of the norms enunciated by charismatic authority lies outside the norms practiced in the existing society. Although it is contained in the culture of the existing society, the source or the criterion of the legitimacy of charismatic authority occupies a position within that culture which, under the dominance of routine, is incompatible with the expansive aspirations of any charismatically asserted authority. Since it asserts the value of action which derives its impetus immediately, intensively, and unalloyedly from direct contact with “ultimate” sources of legitimacy, charismatic authority is of necessity revolutionary.
Charismatic authority denies the value of action which is motivated by the desire for proximate ends sufficient unto themselves, by the wish to gratify personal affections, or by the hope of pecuniary advantage. Charismatically generated order is order which acknowledges and is generated by the creativity which seeks something new, by discovery which discerns something new, by inspiration from transcendent powers.
The actions of men in all ongoing societies are impelled by a variety of considerations. Personal affections, primordial attachments, anticipations of advantage and fears of loss, destructiveness, responsiveness to obligations or expectations of role performance in corporate bodies, unimaginative acceptance of given norms where no alternative seems visible or practicable, respect for concrete, already-functioning authority—these, together with an intermittent flickering of charismatic responsiveness, form the complex of impulsions from which any society reproduces itself and moves onward. Such charismatic elements as ordinary societies contain exist either in a highly segregated form or in a diffuse half life. Concentrated and intense charismatic authority transfigures the half life into incandescence. It involves a tremendous heightening of charismatic sensitivity. That is why charismatic authority, really intensely imputed and experienced charisma, is disruptive of any routine social order.
All societies seek to make some provision for those persons whose actions are impelled by the possession of charismatic legitimacy. Within religious systems, the cenobitic or anchoritic monastic orders are institutional frameworks for the segregation and control of the charismatically endowed, i.e., those who are prone to experience a sense of direct contact with transcendent powers. This removes them from the scene of the routine and at the same time preserves and disciplines their charismatic quality within the legitimate order of the religious collectivity, in which a certain measure of attenuation and dispersal of charisma has been stabilized.
Universities, which must reproduce many established patterns of thought and evaluation and carry on traditions, face similar problems in dealing with young persons of highly charismatic intellectual and moral propensities. Through training and research, they attempt to discipline these charismatic propensities and to bring them to bear, at least at first, on the accepted problems and the accepted vision of the order of nature. The discovery of utterly new truths through intuition, unbridled by the accepted techniques of observation and interpretation, is rejected. Those who persist in practicing their intuition are either excluded or are constrained to submit to the prevailing discipline. This discipline involves learning and affirming what is already known and accepting the prevailing canons of assessment. Once this process of discipline has been accomplished, the acolyte is then freed to discern and create a new order through research.
In party politics, there is often apprehension among the party bosses about persons who are thought to be charismatic and who arouse the charismatic sensitivity of the mass of the party, because of the dangers which they represent to established interests within the party. But because of their wider appeal outside the party machine itself, which is concerned with routine practices, they will be tolerated and even sought in order to win the support of the charismatically sensitive for the party.
In armies, the charismatically heroic officers find a tolerated place among shock troopers and special units using unconventional methods of warfare in situations in which the routine procedures of military organization are thought to be inadequate. The military bureaucracy at higher staff levels does not find it easy to accommodate within its own circles the charismatically inclined soldier who tries to attain to new principles of warfare or who, as a hero, arouses the devotion of ordinary soldiers whose charismatic sensitivity is aroused by the danger of battle.
In bohemias, and in the circles of artists and literary men, aesthetically charismatic persons find a segregated environment congenial to the disregard for the rules of routine social life and for the creative transcendence of the traditional modes of artistic and literary expression. The authorities of the routine sectors of society are more inclined to tolerate these manifestations of aesthetic charisma as long as they do not intrude into the routine sectors. Nonetheless, because of the vagueness of the boundaries, friction is frequent.
By segregation, the custodians of the routine spheres of social life show both their apprehension of the disruptive nature of intense and concentrated charisma and their appreciation of a virtue requiring acknowledgment. Nonetheless, despite these efforts to contain those with intense charismatic propensities within situations where they can operate charismatically and to subject them to the discipline of institutionalization, the boundaries are sometimes infringed. A continuous reinforcement of the barriers against a free movement of charismatic persons is carried on by the custodians of routine order. They do not always succeed. Churches have been broken from within by charismatic prophets and have often suffered defeat, at least for a time, by a sectarian rival under charismatic leadership. States have been destroyed by charismatic revolutionaries, parties swept away from their traditional pattern by charismatic demagogues, constitutional orders supplanted by charismatic statesmen. Sciences have been revolutionized by unsuppressible charismatic intelligences; artistic genres have been transformed, against the resistance of orthodoxy, by the bearers of an original (charismatic) sensitivity.
Crises which discredit routine institutions and the authorities who govern them arouse in the more charismatically disposed persons a more acute awareness of the insufficiency of an organization of life in which contact with the ultimate powers and standards of right and wrong has become attenuated by mediation and segregation and by absorption into routine. Their demand for the right order of things is intensified; their sensibility to the divergence between this right order and the actually existing state of affairs is heightened.
These crises, which reveal to the afflicted members of the society in which they occur the inadequacy of the inherited and prevailing institutional systems and discredit the elites which have hitherto dominated them, operate on charismatic propensities in a twofold manner. Those in whom the charismatic propensity is strongest—out of intelligence, moral sensibility, metaphysical inclination, etc.—will be the promulgators of the new vision of a better order; those in whom the charismatic propensities, although not strong enough to permit charismatic originality, are strong enough to respond to such a vision when concretely embodied (and mediated) in a charismatic person, are the most likely followers.
Crises which are failures of the inherited order enhance the need of the potential followers for protective contact with the ultimately right and powerful. The incapacity of the hitherto prevailing institutions to afford moral and metaphysical nurture and succor to those who feel the need for it, and to afford it under morally and cosmically right auspices, generates in these defenseless persons a state of mind which is fertile for the seed of the more intensely creative charismatic persons. The result is a collective effort to establish a charismatically legitimate society—or church, or party, etc.—which will possess a greater authenticity.
Often these efforts are unsuccessful. Most of the movements are broken, after a brief period of excitation, into dispirited fragments which sometimes survive in segregation. Less often, the movement is successful, and the result is a charismatic order or at least an order in which a charismatic overlay covers the more tenacious routines of the older institutional system. The routine relations between superiors and subordinates in families, armies, workshops, and farms tend to reassert themselves after an initial adaptation to the pressures of charismatic visions and convictions. Once the crisis which generated the more intense charismatic sensibility is somehow resolved—often as a result of the intervention of the charismatic inspiration— routine actions return to the forefront of social life.
With the increased effectiveness and consequent stability of institutions, the need for protective charisma which puts their members into direct, or in any case less mediated, contact with the sources of inspiration and purification is reduced. The selection of prospective leaders is again institutionalized, reducing the likelihood that intensely charismatic persons will be chosen. Thus, the process of the imputation of charisma is restored to its normal state.
The intensely charismatic element of the new order never evaporates entirely. It can exist in a state of attenuation and dispersion. The very effort of a charismatic elite to stabilize its position and to impose a charismatic order on the society or institution it controls entails deliberate dispersion. It entails spreading the particular charismatic sensitivity to persons who did not share it previously. This means a considerable extension of the circle of charisma: more persons have to become charismatic; existing institutions have to have charisma infused into them; new institutions have to be created. All this brings with it not only a deliberate dispersion from a smaller to a larger number of persons but also produces an attenuation which is less intentional but more unavoidable.
The inevitability of death and the need to provide for succession call for dispersion of charisma from a few persons and institutions to institutional offices, lineages, governing bodies, electoral procedures, and groups of people. The last of these, although not absolutely or proportionately numerous in their societies, are considerably larger than the original bearers of the imputed charisma, and their charismatic sensibility is, of course, much less intense.
Then there is the tenacity of routine to be considered. Life cannot go on without routine, which is constantly reasserting itself. Thus, the charismatic founders of a new society might have elevated a particular norm of conduct—e.g., equality or saintliness—to a dominant position, to the practical exclusion of all others. As time passes, personal and primordial attachments, considerations of expediency, and loyalties within particularistic corporate bodies become more prominent again. The norms of equality or of saintliness might still be respected, but not exclusively respected. This is what is meant by attenuation.
Not all dispersions are the result of the changes in the situation of a new elite in which charisma was both concentrated and intense. One of the greatest dispersions in history is that which has taken place in modern states, in which an attenuated charisma, more dispersed than in traditional aristocracies (where it was already more dispersed than in primitive tribes or absolute monarchies), is shared by the total adult citizenry.
The extraordinary charisma of which Max Weber spoke was the intense and concentrated form. Its normal form, however—attenuated and dispersed charisma—exists in all societies. In this form it is attributed in a context of routine actions to the rules, norms, offices, institutions, and strata of any society. Though normal charisma plays a reduced part in the ordinary life of society, it is nonetheless a real and effective force. Quite apart from its manifestations in the routines of life which are loosely governed by religious attachments, it enters into obedience to law and respect for corporate authority. Furthermore, it provides the chief criterion for granting deference in the system of stratification and pervades the main themes of the cultural inheritance and practice of every society. Thus, normal charisma is an active and effective phenomenon, essential to the maintenance of the routine order of society.
[See alsoAuthority; Ideology; Leadership; Legitimacy; Social control, article onOrganizational aspects. Further relevant material will be found underReligion; and in the biographies ofBuberandWeber, Max.]
Dogan, MattÉi 1965 Le personnel politique et la personalité charismatiqué. Revue française de sociologie 6:305–324.
Marcus, John T. 1961 Transcendence and Charisma. Western Political Quarterly 14, part 1:236–241.
Otto, Rudolph (1917) 1950 The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry Into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and Its Relation to the Rational 2d ed. Oxford Univ. Press. → First published as Das Heilige.
Ratman, K. J. 1964 Charisma and Political Leadership. Political Studies 12:341–354.
Runciman, W. G. 1963 Charismatic Legitimacy and One-party Rule in Ghana. Archives européennes de sociologie 4, no. 1:148–165.
Shils, Edward 1958 The Concentration and Dispersion of Charisma: Their Bearing on Economic Policy in Underdeveloped Countries. World Politics 11:1–19.
Shils, Edward 1965 Charisma, Order and Status. American Sociological Review 30:199–213.
Sohm, Rudolf 1892–1923 Kirchenrecht. 2 vols. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot.
Weber, Max (1922a) 1956 Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft: Grundriss der verstehenden Soziologie. 2 vols., 4th ed. Tübingen (Germany): Mohr. → See especially Volume 2, pages 832–873, “Die charismatische Herrschaft und ihre Umbildung.”
Weber, Max (1922b) 1957 The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Edited by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, III.: Free Press. → First published as Part 1 of Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. See especially pages 358–363, “Charismatic Authority”; pages 363–373, “The Routinization of Charisma”; and pages 386–392, “The Transformation of Charisma in an Anti Authoritarian Direction.”
"Charisma." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/charisma
"Charisma." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/charisma
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. Archetypical charismatic figures include Jesus Christ and Adolf Hitler. In Weber's view, most previous societies were characterized by traditional authority structures, periodically punctured by outbursts of charisma. Although the concept is intended to highlight certain aspects of the relationship between leader and followers, it does tend to point also to an irrational element in the behaviour of the latter, and on that basis has been subject to some criticism (see R. Bendix , Max Weber, 1960
Charisma is therefore unusual (outside of the routine and everyday), spontaneous (by contrast with established social forms), and creative of new movements and new structures. Weber saw the charismatic demagogue as the main counterweight to bureaucratic rigidity in mass democracies. Being a source of instability and innovation charisma is a force for social change. Although vested in actual persons, charismatic leadership conveys to beholders qualities of the sacred, and followers respond by recognizing that it is their duty to serve the leader. Charisma is alien to the established institutions of society. As Weber puts it, ‘from a substantive point of view, every charismatic authority would have to subscribe to the proposition, “It is written … but I say unto you …”’.
Charismatic phenomena are temporary and unstable. In the short term, the leader may change his or her mind, possibly in response to being ‘moved by the Spirit’. In the longer term he or she will die. For that reason, charismatic authority is often ‘routinized’ during the lifetime of the new leader, so that he or she will be succeeded either by a bureaucracy vested with rational-legal authority or by a return to the institutionalized structures of tradition to which the charismatic impetus has now been incorporated.
"charisma." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma
"charisma." A Dictionary of Sociology. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma
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cha·ris·ma / kəˈrizmə/ • n. 1. compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others. 2. (pl. -ma·ta / -ˌmətə/ ) (also char·ism / ˈkarˌizəm/ ) a divinely conferred power or talent.
"charisma." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma-0
"charisma." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma-0
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So charismatic XIX.
"charisma." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma-1
"charisma." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma-1
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"charisma." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma
"charisma." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved January 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/charisma
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CHARISMA . The word charisma [plural charismata ], originally used by St. Paul in the New Testament—to describe "spiritual gift[s]," has expanded its definition in the past hundred years. Academics, journalists, and the general public now use the term and its adjective, charismatic, to refer to any extraordinary leadership or authority. German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920) deliberately began using the term this way in his scientific articles that were published in the early twentieth century. Weber did not foresee, however, the subsequent broad application of the word; charisma has since been attributed to religious and political leaders, dictators, cult leaders, CEOs, salespeople, popular entertainers, athletes—even race horses. Weber laments that the "attempt to explain charisma is clearly hampered by variation in the range of meaning attached to the term."
The following entry discusses the sociological applications of charisma, reviews charisma and analogous concepts that express spiritual virtuosity in world religions, and identifies the specific meanings of charisma and charismata in the New Testament and in subsequent Christian theology and ecclesiology.
Charisma as a Sociological Concept
Max Weber, the German social thinker perhaps best known for his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904–5), introduced the term charisma as a descriptive concept throughout his writings. He seems to assume that the reader already understands the idea; therefore, rather than defining it or explaining it, he devotes his energies to analyzing the consequences and outcomes of charismatic authority. His most frequently quoted passage comes from the posthumously published compilation Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, translated by Roth and Wittich as Economy and Society :
The term charisma will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned is treated as a "leader."
Some critics have felt that Weber's definition essentially perpetuates the "great man" approach to history as developed by his predecessors, Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) and German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900). Yet Weber also noted, "What is alone important is how the individual is actually regarded by those subject to charismatic authority, by his 'followers' or 'disciples'." With this caveat, he emphasizes the influence, or perhaps the susceptibility, of the great person's followers.
Weber introduces charisma as one of the three basic sources of legitimate societal authority; the other two are tradition and rationalized or codified law. Weber believes charisma is the most vital, but is also inherently unstable; consequently, he places special emphasis on the question of how a charismatically-based authority can preserve continuity, especially during modern times, an era of rationalization, or an age of disenchantment (Entzauberung ). Weber proposed Veralltäglichung as the mechanism to maintain charismatic authority. The term is usually translated as "routinization," although that conveys a more bureaucratic tenor than Weber intended. One type of routinization would be a direct transfer of charisma from one person to a successor, the sort of lineage charisma used to determine the succession of Dalai Lamas. The method also applies to the general idea of "sacral kingship," found in peoples of the ancient Near East, ancient China, and medieval Europe. The other, more modern form of routinization, according to Weber, took the form of depersonalization (Versachlichung ), producing the charisma of office. In this instance, charismatic authority is more or less independent of the personal qualities of the person holding the office.
Charisma, according to Weber, tends by its very nature to be non-rationalized and upsetting to an established order. One example of this instability would be the violence inspired by the French revolutionary Maximilian-François Marie-Isidore de Robespierre (1758–1794). Yet a charismatic challenge can also be made in the name of restoring an older or more traditional order, as in the recent case of the Muslim fundamentalist and Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902–1989).
Weber's analysis, while secular, grew from his fundamentally Protestant perspective; according to this outlook, personal charisma would always hold more vitality and authenticity than a routinized charisma of office, such as that claimed by priests and bishops in the Catholic Church. In fact, Weber's immediate source for his studies of charisma was the German Protestant theologian Rudolph Sohm (1841–1917). German sociologist Werner Stark published a four-volume critique of Weber's theories; he argues that Weber, because of this Protestant orientation, was unable to appreciate the dynamics of vitally charismatic communities, whether they were composed of Catholics, Asians, or indigenous people.
A few commentators have argued that, for the sake of clarity, the concept of charisma should remain in the context of religious discourse. Most, however, have followed Weber's lead into extended usage. Most notably, Edward Shils connects the concept of charisma to a seemingly inherent responsiveness in human nature to the idea of order, whether cosmological or social. Shils argues:
The generator or author of order arouses the charismatic responsiveness. Whether it be God's law or natural law or scientific law or positive law or the society as a whole, or even a particular corporate body or institution like an army, whatever embodies, expresses or symbolizes the essence of an ordered cosmos or any significant sector thereof awakens the disposition of awe and reverence, the charismatic disposition.
In a careful critique, his colleagues Bensman and Givant argue that Shils's analysis is so broad and all-encompassing (especially because he applies charisma both to reverence for order and to challenge to order) that the concept becomes too diffuse to be useful. On the other hand, scholars such as Tambiah have extended the concept even more broadly applying it to fetish objects such as the amulets of Theravādan Buddhist saints in Thailand and Burma.
Another approach, carefully articulated by Bryan Wilson and widely accepted, corrects the implication that charisma is something that resides in a person; rather, it emphasizes that charisma is something inherently relational or, as Downton puts it, "transactional." Someone who has no followers cannot be called charismatic. As Constantin has put it, the ecology of charisma involves the social production of sainthood. Other scholars, including Downton, Jacobs, and Post, have developed a psychoanalytic reading of the charismatic relationship, building upon the Freudian concepts of the idealized self, identity diffusion, and narcissism. These researchers see the weak ego boundaries of the charismatic leader and his or her submissive followers as perfect and dangerous complements to each other.
Considering this relationship between leader and followers caused Wilson to analyze the social construction of charisma. He hypothesized that certain types of communitarian cultures were peculiarly susceptible to charismatic relationships. In his provocatively titled monograph The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma, he refers to these cultures as tribal, or "primitive." Many other scholars, however, have investigated charisma in modern political contexts, developing case studies of leaders such Cuba's Fidel Castro, Germany's Adolf Hitler, Italy's Benito Mussolini, the United States' Franklin Roosevelt, and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. As these studies show, the motif of charismatic political leadership tends to be invoked as a value-neutral concept, although some writers selectively invoke such terms as pseudo-charisma or manufactured charisma.
Beyond politics, the use of the term charisma has become quite entrenched in organizational and leadership research. Some scholars in the New Leadership movement view charisma as a component of a specific leadership style. Rather than management-focused or transactional, this mode is described as transformational and visionary. Other researchers, however, question whether a vision that encompasses company and personnel management, bottom-line profits, and market strategies—no matter how creative it may be—can relate to charisma. Nevertheless, from the first appearance of the word "charismatic" in American journalism (in a 1949 Fortune magazine reference to John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers), through references to CEOs such as Lee Iacocca of Chrysler and Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, the term has become entrenched in discourse about the corporate world.
Charisma and its Analogues in World Religions
Weber drew his use of charisma as a sociological concept from its preexisting use in biblical studies. In the Bible, the Greek term charisma (spiritual gift), and the root word from which it is derived, charis (grace or favor), are confined to the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) and to the New Testament. The idea of charismatic leadership, however, is archetypal in the Old Testament. This idea is generally signaled in the Hebrew text by the use of the noun hen (favor) or the verb hanan (to show favor). Thus, the paradigmatic image of the charismatic hero is the unlikely, apparently unqualified, figure who has received God's favor. Hebrew scripture contains many charismatic figures, such as Moses, Samson, Saul, David, Elijah, and Elisha. These chosen ones experience the visitation of ruah, the divine spirit; they may also become, as did Saul and David, "the anointed of the Lord." These charismatic figures overcome all odds and obstacles and achieve spectacular triumphs in the name of the Lord, as did Moses over Pharaoh (Exod. 14), David over Goliath (1 Sam. 17) or Elijah over the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18). David's many triumphs over Saul exemplify the dynamics of the transfer of charisma from one personage to another. The medieval and Renaissance city-state of Florence adopted David as its charismatic icon par excellence, immortalizing his image in sculptures by Donatello, Verocchio, and, of course, Michelangelo.
In terms of religious rather than political leadership, the prototypical charismatic hero in Hebrew scripture is Moses, called by God despite his own infirmities to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt (Exod. 1–4). After Moses returned from his theophanies on Mount Sinai (Exod. 19 and 32–33), so numinous was his presence and so transfigured was his face by glory that he had to wear a veil among the people (Exod. 34:33–35). Extraordinary as is the scriptural account of Moses, Jewish legend and folklore magnify it even further, enhancing his miraculous birth story, the signs and wonders of his commission, the events of the Exodus, and the mystery of his death.
The New Testament contains direct typological parallels to the charismatic initiations of the Hebrew scripture, in the gospel accounts of the Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3) and his transfiguration, in which Peter, James, and John see Jesus as radiant with light, appearing together with Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1–8). On both occasions, a voice from heaven proclaims that Jesus is "my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Another parallel to the Old Testament messages indicating that someone has found great favor with the Lord is found in the angel Gabriel's well-known greeting to Mary as "full of grace" (kecharitomene, or exceedingly favored; Luke 1:28). This term marks her as a charismatic figure in her own right. It should also be noted, however, that the word charis, "grace," also became part of a standard early Christian salutation of "grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be unto you," throughout New Testament epistolary literature (Rom. 1:7 and I Thess. 5:28). The descent of the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking in tongues at Pentecost, as described in Acts 2:1–4, is the paradigm for all subsequent Christian discourse on charismata, or spiritual gifts.
Charisma, in the general sense of inspired religious leadership or virtuosity, is a lens through which any and all religious traditions can be viewed. In biblical tradition, the chain of charismatic leaders continues in the Hebrew scripture with the prophets, followed later by such religio-nationalistic figures as Judas Maccabaeus and Simeon bar Kokba. Bar Kokba illustrated the dark side of ultra-nationalistic and messianic charismatic leadership, since his leadership resulted in the final devastation of Jerusalem and Israel by the Roman emperor Hadrian's legions. Charismatic Judaism is a modern term given to that putative type of Second Temple Judaism, which has been led by latter-day prophets, such as Honi the Circle Maker and Hanina ben Dosa, who claim to emulate Elijah and Elisha. As Neusner describes, they "were known for miracles, primarily healing and control over the weather. … [This] Charismatic Judaism is judged to stand in contrast to the halakhic Judaism of the Pharisees and other levitical [sic] groups and to derive from Galilee." Some scholars have proposed including Jesus of Nazareth in this circle, but Neusner notes, "Though still in use, the category charismatic Judaism has lost most of its analytic force."
For the most part, rabbinic Judaism has been wary of charismatic religious leadership, especially given outbreaks of messianism such as in the unfortunate case of the Jewish mystic Shabbetai Tsevi (1626–1676), who claimed to be the savior of his people. An exception to the general rabbinic avoidance, however, is the Hasidic movement, a Jewish tradition which embraces charismatic expression. Hasidic Judaism offers a constructive response to world disenchantment, defends personal inner freedom, welcomes a collective, experiential, and experimental approach to religiosity, and accepts its tsaddiqim as charismatic leaders.
The nineteenth-century tsaddiq Menachem Mendl of Kotske, also called the Kotsker, lost his disciples when he violated Sabbath traditions, however. Although Hasidic followers are very loyal to their tsaddiq, they remain bound by strict orthodoxy. Hence, the tsaddiq is what Berger terms a "chained charismatic." Contemporary neo-Hasidim, as embodied in the rebbe Menachem Mendl Schneersonn, tsaddiq of the Lubavitch sect, combines a dedication to intense personal religious experience with "the most fervent and animated observ[ance] of Judaic rituals and halakhic standards."
Closer to mainstream Judaism is the elevation of scholarly study of Torah to a charisma of reason, exemplified by the maskil, or the religious scholar. In a Weberian analysis of the charismatic aspects of the religious kibbutz movement in modern Israel, Fishman illustrates what he calls the "charismatic power of Torah." Appropriating the idea that charisma is "anti-establishment," kibbutz leaders speak of "the holy rebellion" of following Torah, as "With a quiver of holiness, the tractor opened the new land." Fishman shows how the "primeval charisma" of the early Bund stage of the kibbutz movement was transformed under increasingly rationalized organization into an abated form of "routinized charisma" in the Commune stage.
Christian tradition, once it entered the multicultural gentile world, experienced a more common but equally conflicted tradition of charismatic religious leadership. Beginning with St. Paul's attempt to settle disputes over charismatic expression within the Christian community at Corinth, and continuing through the era of controversy between different strains of Christianity, or as some scholars would now prefer to put it between different or "alternative" Christianities, each led by competing charismatic figures, the story of Christianity can be seen as an ongoing cycle of conflicts between charismatic personages, variously labeled as heretics, prophets, mystics, reformers and cult leaders, on the one hand, and the institutional church (whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant) with its proclaimed magisterium or teaching authority on the other. Sainthood itself, from the age of the apostles through the era of martyrdom and the Catholic Church after the Roman emperor Constantine, continuing into the age of asceticism, monasticism, and other forms of extreme religious virtuosity, became a charismatic phenomenon.
Medieval Catholics believed that the shrines and relics of saints could transfer their charisma to pilgrims and devotees. Charismatic sainthood in the early modern and modern eras has been associated with founders and reformers of religious orders (Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Ávila), apocalyptic New Age visionaries (Joachim of Flora), spellbinding preachers (Savonarola), cult leaders (Jim Jones and David Koresh), prophetic ministers and witnesses for peace (Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, and Philip Berrigan), as well as the "official" or canonized saints who were honored for their piety, good works, and attributed miracles, and church leaders, such as Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II, who aptly exemplify what Weber called "charisma of office."
As with Judaism, Sunnī Islamic tradition is wary of charismatic religious leadership; in fact, the religion Sunnī recognizes no formal hierarchy. As Lindholm explains, Sunnī Islam, like Judaism, is an "emissary" rather than an "exemplary" religious tradition: the religious teacher is a conveyor of the word of God, not an awe-inspiring religious virtuoso. The closest analogue to the Greek charisma in Islamic Arabic is the term baraka, for "a benign force, of divine origin, which bestows physical superabundance and prosperity, and psychological happiness." In mainstream Sunnī tradition, charisma or baraka was concentrated in the Qurʾān itself, and in the person of the prophet Muḥammad. As Lindholm notes, a "felt charismatic bond with the Prophet drew Muslims into the community of believers and simultaneously gave them a sense of personal spiritual expansion that is the hallmark of charismatic discipleship. At the same time… the actual message carried by Muḥammad modestly downplayed and even denied his own charismatic role." Nevertheless, the Prophet's life became progressively mythologized over time: Padwick comments, "increasingly, he was portrayed as pure, infallible, capable of foreseeing the future, of cursing his enemies, of splitting the moon in the sky, of ascending to heaven while still alive, and, above all, of interceding for the frightened faithful on the terrible day of judgment." This mystical life of Muḥammad became rich source material for the flowering of Islamic schools of mysticism in the Middle Ages, including the Ṣūfī traditions discussed below.
In the meantime, the great competing sect of Islam, the Shīʿah, has always been much more open to charismatic religious expression. Emphasizing the religious lineage of the Prophet's family, through the martyrs Ali and Hussein, and many subsequent saints and martyrs (sheikhs, or pirs ), Shīʿahs venerate saints, travel on pilgrimages to their tombs, and participate in ecstatic "passion dramas" or commemorations. Moreover, unlike the Sunnī tradition, Shīʿahs exalt charismatic religious leaders, mullahs and ayatollahs, the most familiar of whom are the late Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran and the present Ayatollah al-Sistani of Iraq.
The other, ostensibly non-political or non-sectarian outlet for abundant expression of charismatic religious experience in Islam has been the Ṣūfī movement, originating in the late eighth century. These "friends of God," or walī, "did not just recite the traditions, but believed they could achieve spiritual transformation" through controlling the passions and emulating the Prophet. By the twelfth century, Ṣūfī saints (sheikhs, or pirs ) began to found lodges (tariqas, or pathways) for students. These wayfarers, or spiritual seekers, would follow the Ṣūfī quest of seeking to know God intuitively, the potential solipsism countered by a deep-seated and self-abnegating communalism. According to Ṣūfī mysticism, Muḥammad was not only the Prophet, but the perfect man, a cosmic pivot (qutb ) who serves to bring the world to perfection. Moreover, Lindholm notes that an invisible qutb "must exist for every generation, even though, as 'God's bride' he was veiled from ordinary men, and discerned only by the purified elite.… The only problem was that the members of the secret sanctified order could only be recognized by their charismatic aura, since they had no objective credentials."
While best known in the West through medieval poets such as Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (1207–1273) and New Age neo-Ṣūfī teachings, Sufism is virtually non-existent in the Middle East in the early twenty-first century. Ṣūfī lodges continue to be prominent, however, in South Asia and North Africa, in socio-cultural contexts that are more conducive to charismatic devotional practice. Werbner and Basu's 1998 anthology, Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality, and the Performance of Emotion in Sufi Cults contains essays on charismatic Ṣūfī religious practices in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, and elsewhere in South Asia, while the 1988 anthology edited by Donal Cruise O'Brien and Christian Coulon, Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam, contains case studies of charismatic Ṣūfī lodges in East and West Africa. As O'Brien and Coulon explain in their introduction, in African Ṣūfī lodges such as the Qadiriyya of Nigeria, baraka designates "a power relation of the charismatic type" in which piety, spirituality, moral fiber, and therapeutic powers can be transmitted or inherited from person to person. Moreover, in the context of colonialism, the Ṣūfī lodges sometimes used charisma as a political instrument. Ironically, European colonial involvement had the unintended effect of enhancing the role of charismatic Islam in Africa. Coulon's essay focuses on the case study of a Senegalese woman sheikh, Sokhna Magat Diop, who inherited her baraka from her parents and who, while she has no standing in and does not even attend the local mosque, exercises religious authority over both male and female disciples through the power she gains from her mystic religious retreats (khalwas ).
The association of Ṣūfī saints in Africa with medicine and healing naturally suggests the survival and incorporation of pre-Islamic African cultural traditions. Kramer's The Red Fez: Art and Spirit Possession in Africa discusses examples of charismatic spirit possession in North and Central Africa, and their occasional connection with anti-colonial movements, although it is also true that these possession cults caused "difficulties for the politically conscious because of their anarchic character." Other religio-political movements in Africa were led by figures who claimed an Afro-Christian charisma, such as Simon Kimbangu in the Belgian Congo and, in his wake, André Matswa in the French Congo.
Indigenous African cultural traditions contain analogues to charisma in the art and ceremonies of secret societies, as well as in the role of diviners, healers, and sorcerers. Among the spirit-possessed Nuer prophets of the Sudan, Ngundeng of the Lou tribe became widely famous for his healing, cursing, trickery, and extreme feats of asceticism by which he accessed the power of the bush, and who after his death in 1906 passed on his spirit power to his son. Evans-Pritchard's classic Nuer Religion (1956) remains a standard source, although Beidelman has countered his view that the tradition of charismatic Nuer prophecy is a recent development. The story of African spirit possession and charismatic religious authority can also be pursued through the African diaspora, in syncretistic traditions such as Shango in Brazil, vodou in Haiti, and Santeriá in Cuba.
Analogous traditions of trance, ecstasy, divination, and other aspects of charismatic religious authority can be documented from Australia and Oceania, such as the Aborigine karadji, wiri:nan, or bug:nja —different tribal names for a "clever man" or spirit-man—or the concept of mana in Melanesia, a very overworked term that encompasses aspects of what we could call charismatic power. Malinowski argued that the cosmological vision implied by the concept of mana had nothing to do with the manipulations of magic, because, quoting Codrington, mana "acts in all ways for good and evil… [and] shows itself in physical force or in any kind of power and excellence which a man possesses."
Power naturally includes social leadership, authority, and mobilization. In Polynesia, people approved their rulers by appealing to their mana, or 'spirit-authority'.… Mana accompanied the totality of power, victory, and continued security because a mandate of an individual's rule would be confirmed by the spirit-world.
An analogous concept in Native North American vocabulary would be the Dakota term wakan. Malinowski quotes, "all life is wakan. So also is everything which exhibits power, whether in action, as the winds and drifting clouds, or in passive endurance, as the boulder by the wayside.… It embraces all mystery, all secret power, all divinity." Wilson illustrates Native American charismatic leadership in essays on the Ottawa chief Pontiac, the Shawnee chiefs Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa. On the other hand, Wilson argues that military leaders such as the Lakota chief Sitting Bull "were not charismatic figures: their status did not depend on some claim to supernatural legitimation."
In the context of world religion, I. M. Lewis offers perhaps the most broadly framed and all-encompassing definition of charisma, in the preface to his Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma :
The beliefs and behavior conventionally distinguished as "witchcraft," "spirit-possession," "cannibalism," and "shamanism" seem at first sight to have little in common. Anthropologists and other students of comparative religion regularly treat these phenomena as totally unrelated and even mutually exclusive, objectified "things" characteristic of different cults and of distinct types and stages) of culture and society. This book takes a different view. It argues that, on the contrary, these are actually closely related expressions of mystical power, or "charisma."
This interpretation suggests a much broader use of the term than appears in most of the literature on the subject, but Carrasco has expanded it even further. He invokes charisma as a rubric for understanding and interpreting some of the most gruesome rituals of Aztec ceremonialism. Carrasco reads the bloodiest of all Aztec rituals, Tlacaxipeualiztli, the Feast of the Flaying of Men, as a ritual of the transfer and "redistribution of the charisma of the [ritually sacrificed] warrior throughout the ceremonial landscape of Aztec Mexico." During the ritual, the captive is slain within the ritually controlled environment of the gladiatorial stone (temalacatl ). The priests extract from the victim's chest his still-pulsating heart (the "precious-eagle-cactus-fruit"), place it in a ceremonial bowl (cuauhxicalli, or "eagle-vessel"), flay and dismember the victim, and distribute his body parts to be ritually eaten. A "deity impersonator" wears the flayed skin in the name of the captor. The progress, or "career," as Carrasco calls it, of the flayed skins as they are paraded through the center and peripheries of the Aztec capital "are motivated by the Aztec need for charisma–living, pulsating gifts of gods," and the transferences and exchanges of this charisma spread the "gifts" throughout the community in a "public accumulation of charisma. "
Carrasco's interpretation draws upon López Austin's analysis of the "body as charisma" in Aztec ideology, Johanna Broda's insights into Aztec ceremonial rites, and Stanley Tambiah's analysis of the transfer of charisma in Thai Buddhism through the medium of charismatic amulets, or sacra, which radiate and impart embodied charisma to their wearers. Similarly, "in Aztec society the charisma, or the objectification of power so that it can be perceived, was expressed in a fecund variety of sacred objects, one of the most powerful being the sacrificed human body and in particular the skin and body parts of the sacrificed warrior," while the ritual cannibalism amounts to "the eating of charisma," in "a ritual of complete absorption and incorporation."
In the early twenty-first century, applying the concept of charisma to the Aztec Feast of Flaying or to Melanesian head-hunting remains controversial. Most scholars agree, however, that charisma can be ascribed to any figure who is accepted by the community to have accessed supernatural power—whether through trance, vision quest, intense prayer, heroic asceticism, or any other means—and who manifests those powers to such a degree that followers accept his or her religious authority or leadership with submissive awe or unquestioning loyalty. Such a definition encompasses the whole array of traditions of "shamanism," as the term is now globally applied. Vast literature on shamanism has accumulated in recent decades, but the indispensable starting point for research (even though it has been roundly criticized by contemporary scholars for being a-historical) is Mircea Eliade's (1907–1986) magisterial volume Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. Grounding his survey in the cultural worlds of Central and North Asia—the presumed diffusion area for the global spread of shamanism to North and South America, Oceania, Tibet, Southeast Asia, and the Far East— Eliade discusses shamanic vocation and initiation, shamanic dream-visions, flights to the celestial worlds and underworlds, spirit combats, and healing rituals.
This virtually global context could attach charisma to a Tibetan or Navajo sand-painting ritual, or to an Inuit tunghalik (shaman), or to an ajk'ij (Quiché Maya daykeeper), or to the companion-spirits called wayob by the Maya and nahualli by the Aztec. Pre-Buddhist shamanistic traditions have survived in Korea and Japan (including miko, the female shamans of Japan who practice trance and spirit-possession), and have syncretically combined with popular forms of Buddhist devotion as enduring expressions of the "little tradition." Initially despised or treated as a curiosity in modern times by Japanese and Korean intellectuals, whether from the stance of modernism or Marxism, the shamanic traditions have come to be courted in Korea as vehicles of counter-hegemonic popular expression (as in madang kut, street protest performance), or as nationalist symbols of folk patriotism. The popular superstar Korean shaman Nami was even declared to be a national cultural treasure.
In addition to Asiatic shamanism, the so-called higher religions, or great traditions, of Asia, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, also have traditions of religious virtuosity and leadership that can be analyzed in terms of charisma. In fact, Max Weber himself devoted treatises specifically to these two great traditions, although his understanding of them has been greatly contested. The tradition of the guru in Hinduism, as a charismatic alternative to the entrenched Brahmanic priesthood, is the major case in point, beginning in the era of the Upaniṣads and continuing into the early twenty-first century. Many Hindu gurus relocated to Europe and America beginning in the nineteenth century.
The best starting point for research on charismatic religious leadership in India is the anthology Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent (2001). This work contains a theoretical essay by Heinrich von Stietencron, to whom the volume is dedicated, and case studies on medieval, premodern, and modern gurus and prophets. Among the latter are essays on such early figures as Sankara (c. 788–820), and on the transfer and institutionalization of charisma in medieval traditions derived from founding gurus, as well as case studies of more recent charismatic religious figures such as the Sikh guru Nanak, Mahatma Gandhi, and Sathya Sai Baba. Other, more theoretical essays include studies of the intersections of the charismas of texts, rituals, and performances, and the crossings between Hinduism, Ṣūfīsm, and other Islamic charismas on the Indian subcontinent.
A particularly interesting case of the failure to routinize the charisma of a guru is provided by Śrī Aurobindo. Aurobindo himself personally passed on his charisma to his associate Mirra Richard, whom he called the Spirit Mother. Not all of his followers recognized her authority, however; some of these dissidents founded an idealized anarchic community called Auroville, recognized by the Indian government. Auroville ultimately foundered in divisive legal quarrels between the Śrī Aurobindo Society and the Aurovillians over the matter of who had received the guru's charisma. In another well-known instance, that of Krishnamurti, the guru himself renounced the charisma attributed to him by his "handlers" and subsequently embarked on a "non-charismatic" career as a spiritual teacher. Other gurus who projected their charismatic leadership onto a global stage and often became embroiled in controversies and legal issues have included Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (b. 1911) and the Transcendental Meditation movement; Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931–1990) and the Rajneeshpuram community; and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon (b. 1920) and the Unification Church.
Buddhism presents a very different picture of charisma compared to Hinduism. In its origins, despite the obviously charismatic personality of Siddhārtha Gautama (c. 563–c. 483 bce), or the Buddha, the basic Theravādan teachings of the Pali canon emphasized the necessity of individual realization—as the Buddha urged in his farewell sermon, "be ye lamps unto yourselves!" The Mahāyāna and Vajrayana versions of Buddhism, however, as they spread to Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan, transformed the severe "agnostic" Theravādan teachings into the richly pietistic venerations of the buddhas and bodhisattvas as gods and god-like saints. In relics, statues, and tankas (painted Tibetan meditation cosmograms) these Mahāyāna spirit-beings freely offered access to their limitless charisma by virtue of their infinite compassion. Ironically, however, the Theravādan traditions of Southeast Asia developed the most powerful traditions of human charismatic spirituality, despite—indeed, because of—the severity of monastic dedication to the original four noble truths and noble eightfold path. Tambiah has shown that the spiritual virtuosity of the forest-dwelling monks of Thailand, Malaysia, and Myanmar (Burma), and their emblems and artifacts, became sought-after sources of charisma by the lay communities. The suggestive sociological com-parisons between Theravādan monasticism and medieval Catholic monasticism, especially with regard to charismatic leadership, have been fully explored in Silber's Virtuosity, Charisma, and Social Order: A Comparative Sociological Study of Monasticism in Theravāda Buddhism and Medieval Catholicism.
Charisma also appears in the traditional religions of China. The early biography of Confucius (Kongzi, 551–479 bce) by Szema Ch'ien, for example, describes the sage as having had a wondrous birth and an almost inexplicable impact on all those who met him. Confucius also attracted a dedicated band of followers in life who gathered at his grave after his death. Even more miraculous tales are told about the legendary Laozi (fl. sixth century bce), the reputed author of the Dao de jing ; his Daoist disciple Chuangzi composed fictional conversations in which Confucius lauded Laozi as a spiritual master. The two sages are frequently featured in Chinese landscape painting.
Scholars frequently emphasize the basically secular nature of Confucian tradition, although in practice, the Confucian shrine or temple has all the earmarks of a religious space. Interestingly, then, Feuchtwang and Mingming's recent study of four modern Chinese charismatic leaders—Wansheng, Wumu, Lin Qingbiao, and Gao Bineng—operating variously under colonial, nationalist and communist regimes, emphasizes the intersection of modern grassroots politics with traditional religious worldview. The editors point out that the word for "charisma" used on mainland China and in Taiwan is not the one in the official dictionaries; rather, it is a term that conveys "the religious aspect of being able to get things done.… It would be lingyan —said of the efficiency and responsiveness of gods who have been human, and also of the images in whom that efficacy and responsiveness has been injected by means of a ritual of initiation and insertion. If lingyan were transliterated back into secular English, it would be 'proven efficacy of an uncanny intelligence.'" An archaic Chinese analogue to the concept of charismatic leadership is the concept of the Mandate of Heaven: the manifest legitimation of authority, apparent to all, which passes inexorably from one leader to another.
C harisma and C harismata in Pauline and Christian Church Tradition
Earlier sections of this article have reviewed charisma and charismatic figures in the Bible using the generalized Weberian sense of the term. But the New Testament, and specifically the Pauline corpus, introduced a much more specific use of the Greek words charisma and charismata. These terms were employed as derivatives of the root word charis (grace), or "spiritual gift(s)" that were bestowed by the Holy Spirit upon individuals or groups. When used in this highly specific way, the two terms are not translated but merely transliterated into English (or other modern languages) as "charism" and "charismata."
Acts 2 contains the prototypical New Testament account of the bestowal of gifts by the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, amid a rushing sound as of a violent wind, tongues of fire come to rest upon the head of each apostle. After this event, when the apostles speak, each listener hears the words in his or her own language. Evidently, the idea that the Holy Spirit endows Christians with miraculous abilities took powerful hold among the early Christian congregations, and nowhere more so than at Corinth, where apparently there was a Christian congregation with Gnostic tendencies and also with a powerful antinomian sense of living out a new liberated Christian life. Among the hallmarks of this liberated Christian practice were women who chose to appear in church without their heads veiled and a congregation that was open to the spiritual leadership of individuals who had received that particular gift of the Holy Spirit (the gift of "speaking in tongues"). These roles would be filled spontaneously, by inspiration, rather than by the careful passing on of the charisma of office customary in the apostolic laying-on of hands or the selection of deacons.
The challenge this posed to the evolving organizational church would become evident. Paul addressed this challenge, as he had done in relation to the Judaic character of the early church. He entered decisively into the Corinthian controversy over what would be called in modern parlance a "charismatic community of worship." The key passage occurs in 1 Corinthians 12–14, in a passage concerning spiritual gifts. Paul, trying to bring order out of creative anarchy, acknowledges the variety of spiritual gifts (speaking wisdom and knowledge, healing, working miracles, prophesying, discerning spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues), but he emphasizes that the bestowing Spirit is one, and that such gifts are given "for the common good" (12:7) and for "edification and encouragement and consolation" of others (14:3). Paul interjects his famous hymn to love (agape ): "If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." (13:1). In this way, Paul answers those who might have exulted in their particular spiritual gift; he especially rebukes those who may have exulted in their ability to speak in tongues, now no longer meaning other languages, but rather glossolalia. He places that particular charism at the bottom of the list, as having the least benefit of edification of others, and follows it with the gift of interpretation of tongues in order to emphasize the priority of catechesis over ecstatic enthusiasm. Other passages addressing the same issue of spiritual gifts occur at Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.
The contentious subject of charismatic gifts continued to trouble the Catholic Church from the Patristic through the medieval periods. It also caused concern among the Protestant reformers, who were just as concerned as the Catholic hierarchy with maintaining faith and order in their churches. German Catholic theologian Karl Rahner (1904–1984), both looking back to Patristic and Scholastic sources and at modern Church documents, outlines a more harmonious history: in the earliest period, he says, "there was no sign of hostility between ecclesiastical authority and charisms," until the second century challenge of Montanism, named for Montanus, a claimant of independent charismatic authority. Thomas Aquinas' codification of Pauline teaching was that charisms, although bestowed as a God-given grace, do not partake of the fullness of perfection of "sanctifying grace." In a sense, the Catholic church co-opted charisma by recognizing, alongside the official charisms of the priesthood and sacraments, the independent charisms of martyrdom, virginity, asceticism, monasticism, and wonder-working sainthood, although, as Rahner notes, the comprehensive history of Christian charisma has yet to be written.
For contemporary Catholic teaching, Rahner and others cite Pope Pius XII's encyclical Mystici corporis, which develops the Pauline metaphor of the church as the body of Christ and the people of God as a "holy people" who contribute in an "orderly" way to the teaching magisterium of the Church. The role of the laity and their charisms was of course further enhanced by the documents of Vatican II, subsequently scaled back in practice by the relatively conservative mood of the Catholic Church from the 1980s through the early twenty-first century. Meanwhile, however, both the Catholic and Protestant churches witnessed a worldwide phenomenon of religious renewal in the form of the charismatic movement. Based on the ecstatic practices of earlier Pentecostal and "Holiness" religious sects in the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the neo-Pentecostal movement arose within the mainstream denominations of Protestantism and Catholicism in the 1960s. The movement, based on an emotional style of worship, sometimes including glossolalia (speaking in tongues), spread rapidly during the 1980s, when it peaked in the United States and Europe. It continued to expand in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, however, where it sometimes combined syncretically with indigenous religious traditions in independent congregations, some of whom identified themselves as Christian and others who did not. A vast scholarly literature on the charismatic church movement has accumulated, including individual case histories of sects and congregations. A particularly important theoretical contribution is Csordas's Language, Charisma, and Creativity, a sociological analysis of the Catholic charismatic movement.
When invoked as a global concept, charisma has many different meanings. Many scholars agree with Tambiah, who asserts that there is no identifiable original charisma; rather, there are social constructions and cultural traditions of charismas, each with their distinctive worldviews, psychologies, and sociopolitical implications.
The essential texts by Max Weber presenting his sociological concept of charisma can be found in reliable English translation in: Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, 2 vols., ed. and trans. by Guenther Ross and Claus Wittich (Berkeley, Calif., 1978); and On Charisma and Institution Building, ed. S. N. Eisenstadt (Chicago, 1968). Important studies and revisions of Weber's ideas on charisma can be found in the following: Wolfgang Schluchter, Rationalism, Religion, and Domination: A Weberian Perspective, tr. Neil Solomon (Berkeley, Calif., 1989); Werner Stark, The Sociology of Religion: A Study of Christendom, 4 vols. (London, 1966); Charles Lindholm, Charisma (Oxford, 1990); Edward Shils, Center and Periphery (Chicago, 1975), and "Charisma, Order and Status," American Sociological Review 30 (1965): 199–213; Stephen Turner and Regis Factor, Max Weber: The Lawyer as Social Thinker (London, 1994); Bryan R. Wilson, The Noble Savages: The Primitive Origins of Charisma and Its Contemporary Survival (Berkeley, Calif., 1975).
Important essays are found in the following four anthologies: Recent Research on Max Weber's Studies of Hinduism, ed. by Detlef Kantowsky (Munich, Germany, 1986); Charisma: Theorie/Religion/Politik, ed. by Winfried Gebhardt, Arnold Zingerle, and Michael Ebertz (Berlin, 1993); Secularization, Rationalism, and Sectarianism: Essays in Honour of Bryan R. Wilson, ed. by Eileen Barker, James Beckford, and Karel Dobbelaere (Oxford, 1993), including a key essay by Roy Willis, "Charisma and Explanation," pp.167–80; and Charisma, History and Social Structure, ed. by Ronald Glassman and William Swatos (New York, 1986), containing the following key essays: Joseph Bensman and Michael Givant, "Charisma and Modernity: the Use and Abuse of a Concept," pp. 27–56; William Swatos, "The Disenchantment of Charisma: On Revolution in a Rationalized World," pp. 129–46.
For discussions focusing on the topic of charismatic leadership in politics, business, and religious cults, see Ann Ruth Willner, The Spellbinders: Charismatic Political Leadership (New Haven, Conn., 1984); David Aberbach, Charisma in Politics, Religion and the Media: Private Trauma, Public Ideals (London, 1996); James Downton, Rebel Leadership: Commitment and Charisma in the Revolutionary Process (New York, 1973); Carl Friedrich, "Political Leadership and the Problem of Charismatic Power," Journal of Politics 23 (1961): 3–24; Gary Wills, Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders (New York, 1994); J. A. Conger and R. N. Kanungo, eds. Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness (San Francisco, 1988); Alan Bryman, Charisma and Leadership in Organizations (London, 1992); Benjamin Zablocki, Alienation and Charisma: A Study of Contemporary American Communes (New York, 1980); Janet Liebman Jacobs, Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions (Bloomington, Ind., 1989); Anthony Storr, Feet of Clay: A Study of Gurus (London, 1996); Hans-Georg Soeffner, The Order of Rituals: The Interpretation of Everyday Life (New Brunswick, Canada, 1997); Lewis Carter, Charisma and Control in Rajneeshpuram (Cambridge, U.K., 1990); Alan Berger, "Hasidism and Moonism: Charisma in the Counterculture," in Glassman and Swatos, pp. 83–100; Eileen Barker, "Charismatization: The Social Production of 'An Ethos Propitious to the Mobilisation [sic] of Sentiments,'" in Barker, Beckford, and Dobbelaere, pp. 181–202; and Jerrold Post, "Charisma," in Encyclopedia of Millenialism and Millenial Movements, ed. Richard Landes (New York, 2000): 65–69.
On the subject of sacred charismatic kingship, see James Frazer, The Golden Bough, abridged edition (New York, 1958); Fritz Taeger, Charisma: Studien zur Geschichte des Antiken Herrscherkultes, 2 vols. (Stuttgart, 1957); A. D. Nock, "Notes on Ruler Cult, I-IV," Journal of Hellenic Studies XLVIII (1928): 21–43; E. H. Kantorowicz, The King's Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theory (Princeton, N.J., 1957); and David Freidel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker, Maya Cosmos (New York, 1995).
On charismatic leadership in the Old Testament and in Judaism, see (in addition to the standard commentaries): Robert Alter, The David Story (New York, 1999); Theodor H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament, 2 vols. (New York, 1969); Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition (New York, 1970); Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 7 vols. (Philadelphia, 1909–38); Louis Finkelstein, Akiba: Scholar, Saint and Martyr (New York, 1970); Aryei Fishman, Judaism and Modernization on the Religious Kibbutz (Cambridge, UK, 1972); "Charisma," in Dictionary of Judaism in the Biblical Period: 450 bce to 600 ce, ed. Jacob Neusner and William Scott Green (New York, 1996): 117–18; and Berger, "Hasidism and Moonism," cited above.
On charisma and Christian sainthood, important sources include Peter Brown, Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity (Berkeley, Calif., 1981); Saints and Their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore and History, ed. Stephen Wilson (Cambridge, UK, 1983); Ilana Friedrich Silber, Virtuosity, Charisma, and Social Order: A Comparative Sociological Study Of Monasticism In Theravada Buddhism And Medieval Catholicism (Cambridge, UK, 1995); Donald Weinstein and Rudolph Bell, Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom, 1000–1700 (Chicago, 1982); Jean Séguy, "The Apocalyptic Theme in Religious Orders," in Barker, Beckford, and Dobbelaere, (203–22); and Leonardo Boff, Liberating Grace (Maryknoll, N.Y., 1981).
Two key anthologies address charisma in Islam. The more recent is Embodying Charisma: Modernity, Locality And The Performance Of Emotion In Sufi Cults, ed. by Pnina Werbner and Helene Basu (London, 1998), which includes the key essay by Charles Lindholm, "Prophets and pirs : Charismatic Islam in the Middle East and South Asia," 209–33. The other is Charisma and Brotherhood in African Islam, ed. by Donal Cruise O'Brien and Christian Coulon (Oxford, 1988), which includes the following cited essays: Louis Brenner, "Concepts of Tariqa in West Africa: the Case of the Qadiriyya," pp.33–52; François Constantin, "Charisma and the Crisis of Power in East Africa," pp. 67–90; and Christian Coulon, "Women, Islam and Baraka " pp. 113–34. An older ethnographic source is Edward Westermarck, Ritual and Belief in Morocco, 2 vols. (London, 1926); also see C. E. Padwick, Muslim Devotions (London, 1961); and the essay by Michael Kimmel and Rahmat Tavakol, "Against Satan: Charisma and Tradition in Iran," in Glassman and Swatos, pp. 101–14.
For charisma and spirit-possession in African society and religion, see Fritz Kramer, The Red Fez: Art and Spirit Possession in Africa (London, 1993); Dominique Zahan, The Religion, Spirituality, and Thought of Traditional Africa (Chicago, 1979); Benjamin Ray, African Religions (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1976); John Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion (Oxford, 1991); and Mary Nooter, Secrecy: African Art that Conceals and Reveals (Munich, Germany, 1993). A relevant classic African ethnography is E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Nuer Religion, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1956); also see T. O. Beidelman, "Nuer Priests and Prophets: Charisma, Authority, and Power Among the Nuer," in The Translation of Culture, ed. T. O. Beidelman (London, 1971). On Haitian vodou, see Alfred Metraux, Voodoo in Haiti (1959), tr. Hugo Charteris (New York, 1972); Milo Rigaud, Secrets of Voodoo (1953), tr. Robert Cross (San Francisco, 1985); and Pierre Pluchon, Vaudou: Sorciers Empoisonneurs (Paris, 1987).
With reference to Oceania and the analogous concept of mana as charisma, see Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion (New York, 1948); R. H. Codrington, The Melanesians: Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore (Oxford, 1891); Garry Trompf and Tony Swain, The Religions of Oceania (London, 1995); and Marshall Sahlins, How "Natives" Think: About Captain Cook, for Example (Chicago, 1995). For Aboriginal Australia, see James Cowan, The Aborigine Tradition (Rockport, Mass., 1992).
The subject of charisma in other indigenous traditions is discussed in I. M. Lewis, Religion in Context: Cults and Charisma (Cambridge, UK, 1986); and, for application to Aztec culture, Davíd Carrasco, City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilization (Boston, 1999). On the subject of shamanism, the indispensable starting point remains Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (Princeton, N.J., 1964). For shamanism among the Maya, see Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya (Albuquerque, N.M., 1982); and Freidel and Schele, Maya Cosmos, cited above. For shamanism in Japan, see Carmen Blacker, The Catalpa Bow (London, 1975); and H. Byron Earhart, Religion in the Japanese Experience: Sources and Interpretations (Encino, Calif., 1974); and for Korea, Shamanism: the Spirit World of Korea, edited by Richard Guisso and Chai-shin Yu (Berkeley, Calif, 1988); Laurel Kendall's Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits (Honolulu, Hawaii, 1985); and Daniel Kister's Korean Shamanist Ritual: Symbols and Dramas of Transformation (Budapest, Hungary, 1997).
The literature on charismatic religious leadership in India and Indian-derived traditions, Hindu and Buddhist, is vast. A key work that focuses specifically on charisma is Stanley Jeyaraja Tambiah's The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millenial Buddhism (Cambridge, UK, 1984). Also see Robert Minor, "Routinized Charisma: the Case of Aurobindo and Auroville," in Religion and Popular Culture: Encounters and Identities in Modern South India, ed. by Keith Yandell and John Paul (Richmond, Surrey, UK, 2000): 130–48. Popular accounts of Indian gurus appear in Peter Brent, Godmen of India (London, 1972).
An important recent anthology on the topic is Charisma and Canon: Essays on the Religious History of the Indian Subcontinent, edited by Vasudha Dalmia, Angelika Malinar, and Martin Christof (Oxford, 2001), which includes the following cited essays: Heinrich von Stietencron, "Charisma and Canon: The Dynamics of Legitimization and Innovation in Indian Religions," pp. 14–40; Peter Schreiner, "Institutionalization of Charisma: The Case of Sahajananda," pp.155–70; Monika Horstmann, "Charisma, Transfer of Charisma and Canon in North Indian Bhakti," pp. 171–82; Dennis Matringe; "The Re-enactment of Guru Nanak's Charisma in an Early-Twentieth Century Punjabi Narrative," pp. 205–22; Dieter Conrad, "Gandhi as Mahatma: Political Semantics in an Age of Cultural Ambiguity," pp. 223–49; Smriti Srinivas, "The Advent of the Avatar: The Urban Following of Sathya Sai Baba and its Construction of Tradition," pp. 293–312; Heidrun Brückner, "Fluid Canons and Shared Charisma: On Success and Failure of a Ritual Performance in a South Indian Oral Tradition," pp. 313–27; Gian Giuseppe Filippi and Thomas Dähnhardt, "Ananda Yoga: A Contemporary Crossing between Ṣūfīsm and Hinduism," pp. 350–59; and Jamal Malik, "Canons, Charismas and Identities in Modern Islam," pp. 376–87.
Other works that focus on charisma in the context of Buddhism are: J. L. Taylor, Forest Monks and the Nation-State (Singapore, 1993); and Raymond Lee, Sacred Tensions: Modernity and Religious Transformation in Malaysia (Columbia, S.C., 1997); and Silber's Virtuosity, Charisma and Social Order, cited above. For China, see Laurence Thompson's Chinese Religion (Belmont, Calif., 1979) and The Chinese Way in Religion (Belmont, Calif., 1973); and on Daoism, Holmes Welch, The Parting of the Way (London, 1957). For modern Chinese charismatic leadership, see Stephan Feuchtwang and Wang Mingming, Grassroots Charisma: Four Local Leaders in China (London, 2001).
On the highly specific use of the words charisma and charismata in the New Testament, the first work that should be consulted is the entry authored by Hans Conzelmann in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament [TDNT], ed. by Gerhard Friedrich, tr. by Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1974), vol. IX: 402–15; and the entries under "Charisma" authored by Carl Heinz Ratschow, Ludwig Schmidt, Nico Oswald, John Schütz, and Rudolf Landau in Theologische Realenzyclopädie (Berlin, 1981), bd. VII: 681–98; also Hans Gasper's article on "Charisma" in Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Handwörterbuch für Theologie und Religionswissenschaft, Bd. 2, ed. by Hans Dieter Betz, et al. (Tübingen, Germany, 1957): cols. 112–120; and "Grace," in John L. McKenzie, Dictionary of the Bible (Milwaukee, 1965), 324–326.
For commentary on the "spiritual gifts" passage in 1 Corinthians, see: Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians: A Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, tr. James Lietch (Philadelphia, 1975); John Coolidge Hurd, The Origin of 1 Corinthians (London, 1965); William Orr and James Arthur Walther, 1 Corinthians: A New Translation… and Commentary : The Anchor Bible (New York, 1976); David Horrell, The Social Ethos of the Corinthian Correspondence (Edinburgh, 1996); and Antoinette Clark Wire, The Corinthian Women Prophets: A Reconstruction through Paul's Rhetoric (Minneapolis, 1990).
Subsequent Catholic theological usage is covered in articles by Karl Rahner: "The Charismatic Element in the Church," in A Rahner Reader, ed. Gerald McCool (New York, 1985), pp. 293–6; and the entries "Charism," in Encyclopedia of Theology: The Concise Sacramentum Mundi, ed. Karl Rahner (New York, 1982), pp.184–6; and "Charisma," in Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg, Germany, 1958): Bd. 2, cols. 1025–30. Also see Henri Leclercq, "Charismes," in Dictionnaire D'Archéologie Chretienne et de Liturgie, ed. Fernand Cabrol and Henri Leclercq (Paris, 1913): vol. 3, cols. 579–98; and J.-V.-M. Pollett, "Charisme," in Catholicisme: Hier Aujourd'hui Demain: Encyclopédie en sept volumes, ed. G. Jacquemet (Paris, 1947), vol. 2, col. 956–9; and the following entries by R. J. Tapia: "Charism," in Encyclopedic Dictionary of Religion, ed. Paul Meagher, Thomas O'Brien and Sr. Consuelo Maria Aherne (Washington, D.C., 1979): 711–2; and "Charism—Given to Individual," in New Catholic Encyclopedia (San Francisco, 1967): vol. III, 460–2.
An important theoretical study of the charismatic movement is Thomas J. Csordas, Language, Charisma, and Creativity: The Ritual Life of a Religious Movement (Berkeley, Calif., 1997).
George L. Scheper (2005)
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