Article by Upendranath Dasa
Authoritarian Dynamics in Religion, How Corruption Begins to Take Hold and Spread
The Authoritarian/Masochistic Character
The closed atmosphere of an authoritarian society can never ultimately lead to the ability to distinguish matter from spirit. In discussing the adverse effect on the psychology of the person lacking the benefit of an open social order and caught up in authoritarian religion; we compared it to clinical discoveries made in the study of masochism:
We can study the difference between the realistic recognition of our limitations, and the indulgence in the experience of submission and powerlessness, in the clinical examination of masochistic character traits. We find people who have a tendency to incur sickness, accident, humiliating situations, who belittle and weaken themselves. They believe that they get into such situations against their will and intention, however, a study of their unconscious motives, shows that actually they are driven by one of the most irrational tendencies to be found in man, namely, by an unconscious desire to be weak and powerless; they tend to shift the center of their life to powers over which they feel no control, thus escaping from freedom and from personal responsibility. This escape from freedom is usually accompanied by another interesting phenomenon.
We find furthermore that this masochistic tendency, is usually accompanied by its very opposite; the tendency to rule and to dominate others, and that the masochistic and the dominating tendencies form the two sides of the authoritarian character structure.
This phenomenon is confusing to the uninformed. Frequently, the masochistic authoritarian type is a humble, submissive boot-licker to those above him, never mind how ruthlessly they dominates those beneath.
Unfortunately, on the surface, our philosophy appears to legitimize the masochistic authoritarian type.
Actually, our Gaudiya Vaisnavas philosophy endorses humility, not self-humiliation, and it is important for us to make this distinction.
Bhakti marga is not meant to engender alienation from oneself. Submission to authority is not meant to turn us against ourselves in the guise of worshiping Krishna. Submission to authority is meant to bring out the very best in us.