This article is an outgrowth of my continuing interest in the ties between psychopathy, authoritarianism, domination, hierarchy, patriarchy and top-down power
If a fundamentalist religious person even thinks another person is a charismatic leader or healer, he or she inhibits his pre-frontal cortex-- the executive, higher level thinking part of the brain.
That's what I take from a study titled The power of charisma--perceived charisma inhibits the frontal executive network of believers in intercessory prayer.
A religious person, anticipating a person who has a reputation as a charismatic-- a trait usually held by smarter, more successful psychopaths, psychopaths and narcissists-- literally shuts down his or her highest brain functions in the charismatic's presence. (Certainly not all charismatic people are pathological but it is a common trait of high functioning psychopaths and narcissists.)
That doesn't happen in the brains of non-believers.
Let's talk about the etymology and meanings of Charisma and Charismatics. The word charisma is derived from theGreek word charismata, which means "a gift of grace.
Wikipedia offers two definitions for charisma:
(1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, (2) a divinely conferred power or talent.
And informs us that
""Ancient Greeks applied personality charisma to their gods; for example, attributing charm, beauty, nature, human creativity or fertility to goddesses they called Charites".
Further, WIkipedia gives this background about "divinely conferred charisma":
" The Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible record the development of divinely conferred charisma. In the Hebrew text the idea of charismatic leadership is generally signaled by the use of the noun hen (favor) or the verb hanan (to show favor). The Greek term for charisma (grace or favor), and its root charis (grace) replaced the Hebrew terms in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible (the 3rd century BC Septuagint). Throughout, "the paradigmatic image of the charismatic hero is the figure who has received God's favor" In other words, divinely conferred charisma applied to highly revered figures.
Speaker at a Pentecostal revival - Tallahassee
(Image by State Library and Archives of Florida) Permission Details DMCA
In 2011 it was estimated there were an estimated 300 million plus charismatic Christians in the world-- 120 million of them being Catholic. There are also Orthodox Jews who attribute charismatic characteristics to leaders, such as Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, who has been characterized as the messiah.
The charismatic power of People's Temple and Jonestown leader Jim Jones gives you an idea of how powerful a role a charismatic leader can play in a person's life... and death.
Certainly there's a big difference between someone who has a non-religious charisma, compared to someone who is attributed with religious charismatic character. Still, like most characteristics attributed to psychopaths and narcissists, there is a continuum.
It seems that this brain response pattern could be a key element in understanding domination, subordination, respect for authority and victims of psychopaths and narcissists continued toleration of abuse.
I speculate that this kind of inhibition of higher brain functioning in the face of certain kinds of charismatic people is widespread, not just among the religious. Since some people exposed to the same people as stimuli do not experience brain inhibition, that suggests that it the inhibition is not involuntary and that it can be repressed-- repression of inhibition.
People can learn to continue to use the full functioning of their brain in the presence of intimidating, dominating, charismatically influential individuals, though it may be more of a challenge for individuals raised and marinated in a Pentecostal or Orthodox Jewish milieu where submission to charismatic dominants is a part of the culture.
I learned of this study because, after over 40 articles, interviews, transcripts etc., I realized that I had really ignored charisma as one of the common factors among psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists. Charisma can be a positive. Yet it is also a valuable weapon for the malignant or traumatizing psychopath or narcissist. it was astonishing for me, discovering that charisma could have an inhibiting effect upon brain function. This is the stuff science fiction movies about mind controlling aliens are made of.