Retriever ponders her longstanding ambivalence toward Thoreau while Blue to Blue (Novalis) offers some excellent insights in a post of his own. His observations immediately reminded me of something Mardi Horowitz wrote about narcissistic defenses in Stress Response Syndromes. I wondered:
If you read my entire comment you can see that I did not mean this pejoratively. But when does Moses become Jim Jones? Is it only when he breaks out the Kool-Aid?
But that isn't the question that really interests me; this is:
[I]f I take a step back from the prophets and squint a little, I can see them as cultural... contraptions serving the vital function of refining ideals apart from the everyday encumbrance of normal human needs and tensions.
[M]any--albeit often glibly and smirkingly--refer to politicians as "successful" narcissists (although recent governors' antics make one wonder).
Presumably this may apply to leaders of literary and spiritual persuasions as well. But you're right in hinting that society may need stark examples of uncompromising, black-or-white points of view as contrast with the infinite shades of gray ambiguity many of us swim in.
I've long believed that "personality disorders" can serve social functions -- acting as specializations beneficial to the group.
We need leaders, but not everyone is psychically built for leadership. We also need counters, hoarders, builders, demolition experts, artists, story-tellers and healers. I don't imagine that there is one personality that could embrace all of those roles with equal capability and enthusiasm.
A Few Weeks Ago at a Meeting
A person that all of the attendees know had recently been in the news. This person is widely hated across America. Once again, he did something extremely provocative--something likely to make national news. It did.
I'd expected one wizened, conservative elder in our group to express his disapproval. I was startled when he stated resolutely: He's a prophet.
I thought to myself: I guess you're right. Yes, this man gives his critics plenty of ammunition, but it is with a purpose. Most of his critics have absolutely no idea of the astonishing good work this man has done. And this is a man who has eschewed wealth, along with the normal comforts and perks that powerful men usually take for granted. Still, is he a narcissist? He might be. Perhaps it is only a narcissist that would take on his mission and do what most people would think impossible, all in an effort to fulfill benevolent ideals.
I've heard quite a bit about another Chicago prophet from someone who worked for him. This prophet has enriched himself, sexually exploited the women around him and generally been abusive to others in his use of power and fame. Was he headed in that direction from the very beginning? Did Moses have the potential to become Jim Jones?
The narcissistic psychic space is full of possibilities, because it's a space in which limits are denied. That can be good and that can be very bad. Perhaps those who are engaged in the monomaniacal pursuit of the good always stand on the precipice of megalomania.