CONFRONTING CROWDS AND POWER: 1. The Crowd (Domestication of Crowds in the World Religions, and Panic)

9 September 2012

The intent of this series is ambitiously to address, section by section over the course of a year Canetti’s  Crowds and Power [1]. This is the eighth entry in the series and the sixth addressing Part 1 (The Crowd), which Canetti breaks up into several sections.  Here I address section 8–9, “Domestication of Crowds in the World Religions, and Panic”.

Domestication of Crowds in the World Religions

What is not clear is if the description Canetti offers here is the one he has had in mind all along, although it still does not fit the mold he has set entirely. The domestication Canetti speaks of here arises because “religions whose claims to universality have been acknowledged very soon change the accent of their appeal” (24); this is, in essence, the transformation from the limitless growth of the open crowd to circumstance where—thanks to the institutionally unsustainable threat of unchecked growth, internal purges and heresies, and defections in general that respond to the general “treacherousness of the crowd” (24)—what churches want instead “is an obsequious flock. It is customary to regard the faithful as sheep and to praise them for their submissiveness” (25).A certain fiction of equality is maintained; the spiritual goal is placed (unattainably) distant; collective ritual unifies them; unity “is dispensed to them in doses” (25); people become addicted to either the regularity or the Soma (or both); and “any disturbance of their carefully balanced crowd-economy must ultimately lead to the eruption of an open crowd, and this will have all the elemental attributes which one knows. It will spread rapidly and bring about a real instead of a fictitious equality” (25).

It is difficult to take what Canetti means by “World Religion” as something more than Christianity. There is pastoral imagery in Judaism, particularly Psalm 23, but it tends far more on the side of the shepherd metaphor rather than specifically praising the quality of people as sheep (the obsequious flock). This metaphor of shepherd particularly informs the notion of the “father”:

He who loves his son will whip him often, in order that he may rejoice at the way he turns out. He who disciplines his son will profit by him … Discipline your son and take pains with him , that you may not be offended by him (qtd. In Myrick[2], 1996)

One can mentally make the equation of shepherd and father in further details Myrick (1996) provides:

The picture of fatherhood painted in the Old Testament is especially one of giving direction. As is the case with 2 Corinthians, direction in Old Testament material was often provided by a father through the function of correcting his children. The discipline or correction given by sapiential leaders as fictive fathers, for instance, is a prime example (Pr. 1:8; 4:1; 6:20; 15:5; 30:17).6 These father-like sages make frequent reference to the need to ‘correct with care’ (Pr. 13:24), to give ‘reproof’ (1:25; 10:17) and to ‘rebuke openly’ (27:5) their spiritual children with a ‘rod for discipline’ (22:15; cf. Pr. 10:13; 23:13, 14). This right to discipline is founded on the premise that fathers (whether fictive or otherwise) were to be obeyed. So, for instance, we read: ‘A wise son is obedient to his father, but a disobedient son will be chastised severely’ (Pr. 13:1; cf. 15:5; 29:15; 30:17).

Furthermore, the discipline of spiritual children by figurative fathers was seen to be a vital part of how the father figure, as pastoral leader, was to love members of their communities. Thus, Yahweh is compared to a caring father and said to ‘correct those he loves’ and ‘scourge every son whom he receives’ (Pr. 3:12). This analogy of Yahweh’s care as a father who rebukes in love becomes personalized in his relationship with King Solomon: ‘I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men’ (2 Sa. 7:14; cf. Dt. 8:5; 32:6, 19; Mal. 1:6; 2:1-3).

It will seem to some extent reasonable that a loving father would want to correct his sons, but let us not forget, “He who loves his son will whip him often”; nor is this an aberrant remark, since for Solomon himself YHVH promises him “the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men” In such a context, it is very easy to understand the image of “father” as the shepherd who uses his whip or his rod to keep the sheep (or goats) in line. The emphasis is wholly on the shepherd, not at all the sheep (to the point of not even mentioning daughters, at least in the examples Myrick chose). With Christianity, Frye[3] (1957) traces its inputs and history of the far more extensive tradition of pastoral imagery:

We think first of the pastoral’s descent from Theocritus, where the pastoral elegy first appears as a literary adaptation of the ritual of the Adonis lament, and through Theocritus to Virgil and the whole pastoral tradition to The Shepeardes Calendar and beyond to Lycidas itself. Then we think of the intricate pastoral symbolism of the bible and the Christian Church, of Abel and the twenty-third Psalm and Christ the Good Shepherd, of the ecclesiastical overtones of “pastor” and “flock,” and of the link between the Classical and Christian traditions in Virgil’s Messianic Eclogue. Then we think of the extensions of pastoral symbolism into Sidney’s Arcadia, The Faerie Queene, Shakespeare’s forest comedies, and the like (99-100)

As for obsequious flocks in Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American and aboriginal faiths (and other world religions), pastoral imagery tends not to figure in any significance. It would appear we should read “world religions” in Canetti’s use to mean “European Christianities”. This piece of cultural prejudice, especially when presuming to speak for “world religions,” is hard to take as anything but ideological and propaganda-driven. Like a proper Jewish father, Canetti is applying the scourge of his rod on ignorant sheeple; hence, “they think they still hold their old faith and convictions and their only intention is to keep them. But, in reality, they have suddenly become quite different people” (25). In point of fact, Canetti is using his road on the straw man he himself set up. By saying this, I’m not defending Christianity at all, but we’re living in an time when the Right-Wing political machine has taken up lying about its opponents as a deliberate strategic move, and I’m not about to compliment someone for doing that, even if 50 years ago and toward the cessation of a phenomenon I am not enthusiastic about.

Just to address one item in this farrago: “the faithful are gathered together at appointed places and times and, through performances which are always the same, they are transported into a mild state of crowd feeling sufficient to impress itself on them without becoming dangerous, and to which they grow accustomed” (25). If the lovers of Canetti praise him for dumping things in our lap and then leaving us to decide if it is true, here what goes off the rails is “through performances which are always the same”.

The point to be emphasized is not, of course, the realization that takes a tenth of a second to arrive at—that churchgoing is not adequately described as the re-performance of activities “which are always the same”—but that Canetti wants to construe them as such. The sense is that he wants to construe (Christians) as particularly ignorant, perhaps even particularly prone to the authoritarian personality. And since the authoritarian personality has been demonstrated as an insufficient, if not inaccurate, description in itself, this wreaks havoc on the general development of Canetti’s argument, if it is going to hang by this thread.

To speak personally for a moment, what I found most boring, most alienating, about (Episcopal) churchgoing growing up was exactly its repetition. I enjoyed Sunday school, less for its content, and more for its interactivity, etc. by contrast, the service itself was always the same old damn thing, punctuated by the welcome relief and variety of hymn-singing. I also noted (with all the disgust and sense of appalledness that a 10-year-old can) how my father was constantly surveying and remarking upon the shoddy example of other people around him—in particular, I remember him commenting on the lax parenting of a young man (older than myself) who had long hair. I was still naively of the opinion that church was about spirituality, not one-upping your neighbor; and while I recognized my father’s vanity, I didn’t quite yet notice that my own appearance was supposed to signal to everyone around us that I (plus my younger sister and brother) were symbols of my father’s high acculturation.

As Jung makes abundantly clear in Psychological Types, one always has at least two basic analytical moves one may deploy: to abstract disparate phenomena to identify (or assign) similarities, or to concretize generalities in the differences of specific instances. And just as all hyperbinaries propose shadow categories, we can encounter the abstract concretization and concretizing abstraction as well. Thus, here, instead of underscoring that repetition is an important element in institutional continuity (it’s rather a platitude to say so, but sometimes it is necessary to belabor the obvious), Canetti has concretized the abstract similarity of institutional repetition and turned it into the purpose of the institution in effect.

One does not “save” Canetti’s argument by saying something like, “well, of course, repetition and variation are inextricably linked” or “To say repetition is to imply variation, as precisely what repetition is striving again.” These would be more observant things to say, but it is not what Canetti is saying—at least it is not what his language is saying. History is full of examples where churchgoing was little different than the opera, which previously had nothing of the reverential hush that we now find in US concert halls. (Apparently the Italians still engage those on the stage.) My father’s inveterate people-gazing finds its historical (if not authentic) counterpart in (perhaps pre-Reformation in particular) churchgoing. It may be simply a matter of its visibility—it is rampant in many synagogues, Catholic, and Baptist churches, while Lutherans and Episcopalians are much more two-faced about it. Perhaps it boils down to the degree that gossip is already an important part of the culture where the church finds itself. There is a sense at least, if we go back far enough, that churchgoing is, in fact, something like a shadow of festival—a more sedate festival, theoretically better behaved, &c. And in particular, as also like opera-going or theater-going, where history shows that people would pay scant attention to anything on the stage until that moment when—this is why we came—the great singer finally delivers her famous aria, or an actor makes his famous soliloquy. So were churches often packed only to hear some fiery orator in the pulpit—so much so that a portable bedpan that women could resort to, so as not to miss a moment of a particularly longwinded priest’s famous sermons, was named after him.

In construing a group (even the limited example of a religious group) as a crowd, he sets himself the liability of talking about crowds as individuals because to talk about the individuals in crowds begs the question of the phenomenon he purports to describe. Thus, he will talk about the “inner life” of the crowd, which is probably “the individual” (viewed through the distorting lens that pretends individuals “disappear” in crowds). The issue with Canetti is not whether or not his observations are valid—they frequently cannot be since they are expressed in such totalizing generalizations; all that is at stake at that moment is whether you want to sign on to a straw man argument for the sake of gratifying yourself that you’re not one of the “sheeple”. In this section, the domestication of the crowd in “world religions” the issue must precisely be how is the loyalty of individuals subsumed to the collective.

I read somewhere that songbirds in captivity have a wider variety of songs that songbirds in the wild; the researchers explained this on the view that, being domesticated (i.e., with assured breeding), the evolutionary pressure on song specialization, as a strategy for successful breeding, had been lifted, and thus songbirds could now sing however they liked. (Pair that with Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.) The image is that domestication enabled a variety of activity hitherto excluded to songbird-kind. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to arrive at the thought: humans invented culture by self-domestication. Another fillip in this is how a vast quantity of “mechanical details” in our physical beingness is sunk in habitual (unconscious) automaticity. This is a great advantage, insofar as it frees up consciousness to do other things we find more interesting—I don’t have to think about how to move my fingers in order to type, which allows me to think up this sentence instead. The disadvantage, of course, is that (being unconscious) we cannot necessarily get to the “mechanism” except by retraining our habits, which of course can be extremely difficult. (Learning how to type on a Dvorak keyboard, for instance, makes this immediately clear.) I think where this becomes most troubling, though not necessarily dwelt on in a really forefronted way, is how speech generation, and so then also thought, originate (now) out of automated (unconscious) processes.

So, domestication enables culture, and not merely docility. Sheep don’t need a shepherd, except that they have been bred to be stupid, but even more so because men plan on exploiting their natural endowments and slaughtering them for food. The best a sheep an hope for is to die of old age, though one might well ask if a long life “in the flock” is something desirable in the first place; certainly some sheep would “argue” it might be better simply to run away and take one’s changes “in the wild”. But the metaphor of “sheep’ quickly loses traction, because the complex “inner life” of the individual within a religious institution balances the security (promised in the repetitiveness) but also growth (or entertainment, in the convecting social movements of the churchgoing crowd both now and over its history). What Canetti’s defaming of domestication misses the freedom domestication brings, and it is in that freedom that the individual finds dynamism and movement (perhaps sometimes to her or his chagrin). Canetti, like an angry shepherd denied a flock, sees only the pen (the building) and little of the actual crowd within. He is presenting crowds as static (as State-ic), either open or closed, with the moment of transition being only as “thick” and with as much duration as a doorway the closed crowd pours out of.


I have typically begun by summarizing Canetti’s point in each section. For reasons that will become clearer, this is not feasible here. The main image Canetti draws upon, however, is of the panic that ensues when there is a fire in a theater.

This odd little section of Canetti’s book is awkward to address briefly for how little attached to observation it is; that is, it proposes a poetic metaphor (a fire in a theater) and then runs with it. In the confused miasma of feeling—it is worth remembering that Canetti has already stated, “Of all means of destruction the most impressive is fire” (20, emphasis in original); and here, fire becomes “a symbol for the crowd” (27) itself; “fire in the form of a conflagration of forest or steppe actually is a hostile crowd” (27)—the metaphor overtakes usefulness.

It is evident that Canetti is creeped out by the “phenomenology” of a fire in a theater, and he does a good enough job of evoking that creepiness; who in any case would relish being trapped in a burning theater? Or even more aptly, if he’d taken the time to consider it, the Մեծ Եղեռն (the Meds Yeghern, or Great Crime) against the Armenian people (as well as Assyrians and Greeks), who were often burned alive in their churches by Turks following World War I—especially since Canetti’s last image offers the opposite:

Disintegration through panic can only be averted by prolonging the original state of united crowd fear. In a threatened church there is a way of achieving this: people pray in common fear to a common God in whose hand it lies to extinguish the fire by a miracle (27).

The unhelpful overextension of the (poetic) metaphor leads to evocative but misleading statements; hence, the “emphatic trampling on people, so often observed in panics and apparently so senseless, is nothing but the stamping out of fire” (27). It is particularly the “nothing but” here that is more problematic than the obviously evocative, obviously not-entirely-apt nature of the metaphor chosen. I can easily imagine myself in a burning building, trying to escape, and if in my blind panic I wound up trampling those who have fallen underfoot, it will not have anything to do with trampling out fire. Trampling out a fire requires a lot of attention on the fire underfoot in the first place—if me taking this image even seriously or at face value can get us anywhere. In trying to stamp out the fire, which may at that point be something like trying to stomp a poisonous snake to death (only because pure flight is otherwise ruled out), there is a great deal of attention to trying to not catch on fire in the process of trampling (just as there is a great deal of attention to not being struck by the venomous snake). The fear is present; one might make a stupid or bone-headed move or decision; but blindly running over a snake or fire is not any kind of method to extinguish it.

And so, what is at stake in those moments of trampling people underfoot, which is most certainly one of the most troubling parts (from a social policy standpoint as well as a human standpoint) of such stampede and panic, should not be left to this misleading and inaccurate description that some sort of “fire-fighting” is behind it. Panic isn’t often described as “blind panic” for nothing, and any kind of trampling (of snakes, or the snake of a fire) can’t proceed in any kind of effective way when blind.

The essential defect of this section is the disjunction between the more or less adequate description of a fire in a theater and the inaptness of the explanatory framework for it, less for the metaphorical dubiousness of the metaphor and more because the truth of the image (for Canetti) seems to trump the (sociological) point of the book as a whole.

To illustrate, he opens by stating, “Panic in a theater, as has often been noted, is a disintegration of the crowd. The more people were bound together by the performance and the more closed the form of the theatre which contained them, the more violent the disintegration” (26). With the arrival of the fire, however, the individuality of each person suddenly becomes thrown into stark, even terrifying, relief. Thus, “hitting and pushing, he evokes hitting and pushing; and the more blows he inflicts and the more he receives, the more himself he feels. The boundaries of his own person become clear to him again” (27).

In one sense, it will seem uncontroversial to say that, to whatever extent there was some sense of solidarity or at least unity, in a group of people gathered together in a theater (or a church), that solidarity or unity disintegrates into stark, atomized individuality when the survival (of each person) is suddenly thrown into the foreground. But the problem of this in the context of Canetti’s argument is that it contradicts earlier assertions. A closed crowd is simply one that is not “outside” or that is constrained by a building, and a crowd itself forms when there is a discharge, i.e., when everyone’s identities merge in some way—when one’s individuality disappears in the unity. Canetti is using the notion of disintegration to point back to the how that unity disappears—a sort of undischarge, perhaps—but in that case, where has the crowd gone? Or what was the crowd in a theater (or church) in the first place?

Canetti himself seems to realize he is writing himself into a corner when he resorts to the declaration, “Panic is a disintegration of the crowd within the crowd” (27). This is a rather poor sophistry, insofar as it asks the reader to accept that some crowds are less crowded than others and other “paradoxical” formulations. This locution points specifically, without meaning to, at the problem of boundaries (i.e., the boundary of a crowd) that underpins Canetti’s argument so far, which is also the problem of definitions in his work so far. Here, in the mesmerizing presence of fire (and “holocaust”—“burning whole”—is likely not far behind this), Canetti is auto-rioting against the limits of his own definitions—and in part thanks to the visceral horror of the setting (a burning theater—the burning theater of Europe in war and the holocaust more generally), the fascination and pathos of the illustration creates a rhetorical appeal that distracts from the intellectually sophistic moves going on underneath or in the background.

Thus, fire itself becomes the symbol for the crowd; that is, whatever crowd or group of individuals was in the theater (or church), it is the fire that suddenly comprises the actual crowd itself; it “assumes the character of fire” (27). Canetti refers to it as a symbol (i.e., not a literal reality); thus, “the people he pushes away are like burning objects to him; their touch is hostile, and on every part of his body; and it terrifies him” (27).  Fire is described in a similitude (not just a symbol): “the manner in which fire spreads and gradually works its way round a person until he is entirely surrounded by it is very similar to the crowd threatening him on all sides” (27). The crowd become effectively the same as fire: “the incalculable movements with it, the thrusting forth of an arm, a fist or a leg, are like the flames of a fire which may suddenly spring up on any side” (27).

It’s worth remembering, in passing, that not all panics arise due to fires, which further suggests that Canetti’s fascination with fire hypostatized it as a fascinating but inadequate metaphor for the panic of a crowd in the first place. What this section purports is the panic of individuals who take the crowd to be (like) a fire, leading to unpersuasive (but also misleading) assertions like the trampling of people is the trampling of flames.

Off the cuff, it would seem that a herd of wild animals (rather obviously) would be a more adequate metaphor for a crowd in a panic than fire. Fire really deserves not to be slandered as similar to “hitting” or “punching” or trampling. Unlike hitting, which is not necessarily inherently destructive or dangerous, fire—given sufficient time, and often very little of it—transforms one thing into another. A brief burn can leave a permanent scar. Neither does pushing and shoving “spread,” like fire can. If humans do have a fascinated or terrifying response to the numinosity of fire, it is not at all because it has the cozy semblance of a punch of (even panic-stricken) other human beings. It is precisely the transformative power (or threat) of fire (or, if we want to be more of a chemist, then the evidence of an already occurred transformation that the visible evidence of fire portends) that is missing from Canetti’s invocation of it here. Once again we see in this that it is not the fear of the unknown (that fire promises), but the fear of the altogether imaginable (insofar as we are well aware of the potential and PAINFUL transformations that fire is capable of affecting upon us).

But there is another direction Canetti’s example seems to miss. One could argue, perhaps more easily than Canetti has for the point he’d currently make, that a fire does exactly the opposite of what he imagines—that it does not atomize the crowd into individuals who are suddenly confronted with destruction, but actually (perhaps even for the first time) provides the conditions so that all differences in people do vanish at that moment and all become identified with all. Or, more precisely, if one is even going to try to toy with the notion that one’s individuality can disappear into a crowd in the first place, then precisely what we observe and/or experience as blind panic points (in the fact of the blindness) to the non-visibility (disappearance) of “self” in such moments. An similarly, if my self disappears (and so does yours) then it could no longer be a surprise that anyone who has the bad luck to fall to the ground in the crush of the panic (or the crowd) would be trampled, because at that moment (for those moments) they don’t exist—i.e., their individuality has disappeared.

Canetti’s description manages to include this when he notes that other people in the panic “stand there like chairs, balustrades, closed doors, but different from these in that they’re alive and hostile” (27). Here is apt observation yoked to inadequate explanation, because Canetti had just noted, “the more fiercely each man ‘fights for his life’, the clearer it becomes that he is fighting against all the others who hem him in” (27). Here, Canetti is still focusing on a phenomenology (a human experience) that still acknowledges the presence of other humans, but in full-on panic, they are no longer humans, but objects, obstacles; the presence of “humanness” is still (incorrectly) maintained in Canetti’s description insofar as he describes these objects or obstacles as “alive and hostile”. They are not “alive”—they are merely animate. In a blind panic, the two classes of things that get in one’s way are those that do not budge, and those that interpose themselves—it would seem to be a question more of inanimation and animation, not objects that are alive or not.

As a side note on this, so long as Canetti believes that in full-panic human beings register other human beings as “alive and hostile” human beings, this lays a groundwork for attributing conscious malice to human nature. If the truth of the matter is that, given dire enough circumstances, human beings can, have, or do “blank out” in some sense and thus trample other human beings, despites cries to the contrary, then this makes the human being merely dangerous rather than evil.

Legion are the reports of intoxicated individuals who report driving, even for long distances, with no memory of it. Performers have so merged with their performance that no conscious reflection of the performance remains. Sleepwalkers have done any number of adroit and strange things while their self is absent. If you have nothing of such an experience it may seem wholly unconvincing. When I was still a boy, during recess on a playground in southern California, under the withering heat I was not at all accustomed to (being from Washington State), I suddenly found myself holding one of those large red rubber balls before a girl classmate of mine. And she looked at me very seriously and told me, in an admonishing voice, “Never take the ball away from Xavier.” I still don’t know who Xavier is (or perhaps Javier), how I acquired the ball, or how, even, I wound up standing in front of my classmate, but I handed her the ball and walked off. Or on another occasion, my brother and I were in bad moods and disagreeing, such that at one point he caught me upside my head with a very nicely thrown left hook—and the next thing I knew, I heard him choking to death, because somehow I’d gotten behind him and had him in a stranglehold; I let go, shocked. Between the punch and letting my brother go, there was no passage of time. Many other people could share similar experiences.

We may take this as evidence that human beings can be dangerous, but it’s no sign of malicious intent, because there’s no locatable ‘self” to have the malicious intent in the first place. In the judicial system, we may be obliged to hold the body who committed the crime accountable for the crime, but the Law does recognize diminished capacities; the distinction between manslaughter and murder similarly recognizes a distinction between a punishable wrong and the far greater punishable wrong of deliberate homicide.

In one sense, we can thank Canetti for his generosity in refusing to allow “the human” to disappear completely in the kind of situation of panic he describes, but not only is it phenomenologically insufficient (i.e., as an explanation, it fails to address a sufficient variety of types of human reactions to panic), it also lays the groundwork, if not the very premiss itself, for ascribing malice to the “animal’ side of the human being—or, more generally, to a construction of human nature as vicious in an essential sense. As I pointed out from Eagleton (1989) in my last post, the rightness of Schopenhauerian cynicism about human beings is negated by dropping the pretense that “human nature” is eternal and unchanging for all time, in the recognition that the atrocities in the political domain are a product of the prevailing social conditions and not merely and forever the result of a faulty, dysfunctional, flawed human nature (that can be saved, if at all, by a hate-filled cosmic deity, who can do so only because He is more vicious than anything else going)[4].


[1] All quotations are from Canetti, E. (1981). Crowds and Power (trans. Carol Stewart), 6th printing. New York: NY: Noonday Press. (paperback).

[2] Myrick, A. M. (1996) Father imagery in 2 Corinthian 1–9 and Jewish paternal tradition. Tyndale Bulletin, 47(1), 163–171. Retrieved 9-3-2012 from here.

[3] Frye, N. (1990). Anatomy of criticism: four essays. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

[4] Or, if you are Sade (for instance), the ultimate viciousness may be credited to Dame Nature herself, though this only changes the details, not the valence, of the argument.


5 Responses to “CONFRONTING CROWDS AND POWER: 1. The Crowd (Domestication of Crowds in the World Religions, and Panic)”

  1. no ka oi monk seal said

    It’s long.

  2. no ka oi monk seal said

    The discussion of Paul’s orientation emerging out of the Old Testament persona of the disciplining father, is an interesting one. But I have another consideration. From Myrck’s conclusion:

    Three lessons may be deduced from this short study concerning Paul’s role as ‘father’ in his pastoral practice in Corinth. First, from the picture of pastoral care derived from 2 Corinthians 1-9, the paternal practice of giving direction in the form of confronting-love seems integral to a Biblical model of care. Second, despite Ernest Best’s view that ‘it is impossible… to determine from where Paul derived the image [of fatherhood] in relation to himself’,30 and despite the neglect of scholars to consider Jewish antecedents to Paul’s pastoral role as father, the evidence examined above reveals a close affinity between Paul’s fatherly correction in 2 Corinthians and that of his Jewish predecessors. Accordingly, Paul’s role as father, at least in 2 Corinthians, appears to be best understood along the lines of a Jewish paternal tradition of care. Third, the close affinity between Proverbs 3:12; Sirach 30:1; Wisdom of Solomon 11:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 2:4
    underscores the importance of both the Scriptures and the literature of Early Judaism for the study of the origins of Paul’s pastoral practice.

    (I think I have to save this or lose it.)

  3. no ka oi monk seal said

    Paul’s conversion from persecuting Jew of Christians to Apostle was a metanoia of the highest order. On the road to Damascus, he falls to the ground consumed by a blinding light out of which an (inner) voice directs the rest of his life. He is unable to “see” for the next three days. I’ve considered this to be a classic experience of shaktipat, the awaking of Kundalini by the power and force of grace. Paul in everyway turns from his old life, as informed by the Jewish Bible (of the pastoral father) and embraces the life of a desciple of Jesus.

    The discussion of descipline by rod and whip seems a good metaphor of the awakened Kundalini. A shaktipat experience travels the rod of the spine, and, like a snake, uncoils and whips around from the base of the spine. Most consider this to be rising from the base of the spine. It can also be an experience of the descent of shakti, or the entrance of shakti through, for example, the womb both igniting the sleeping Kundalini at the base of the spine. This second I consider to be the experience of Jesus’ mother in her being told of Jesus coming birth. Not physical impregnation, but her own opening to Shakti. (It just felt like being impregnated.) These occurrences needed to be retold in the languge of the day.

    For Paul, not in a archetypal way, but in an energetic and mystical way, he becomes alligned with his creative destiny. I would be interested in the root words of the translation. I suspect the self-loving discipline or the correction with love (I don’t remember exactly) has some aspect of feminine, or more androgynous (balanced), component to it that was not acceptable in the early Christian (patriarchial) church. The language which Paul uses in his letters speaks back to his experience, one of nurturing, correcting (guiding) and movement (rod and whip) (this is loose because it is late and this format is difficult on the computer. Paper. I need paper!). At the same time, Paul is completely aware of the possibility of destruction by the “light” and speaks sharply to the Corinthians of consequences of continued refusal of allignment. (Unedited, and not re-read. But compelling, don’t you think.) In conclusion, the experience of Shaktipat so awakened Paul to the choice he had, old or new life, he was compelled to spread the word. His orientation then became one of a person propelled by inner knowledge that comes with an awakening of this source.

    If I read Greek, and Roman, and Hebrew, and could translate the original, my discussion would be more supported. Pretty sure.

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