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The Power of Charisma-- It Can Actually Inhibit Higher Brain Function in "Believers"

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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.

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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

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""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.

From flickr.com/photos/31846825@N04/14444601996/: Speaker at a Pentecostal revival - Tallahassee
Speaker at a Pentecostal revival - Tallahassee
(Image by State Library and Archives of Florida)
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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.

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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.

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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