Charisma and Seduction

Charisma is seduction on a mass level. Charismatics make crowds of people fall in love with them, then lead them along. The process of making them fall in love is simple and follows a path similar to that of a one-on-one seduction. Charismatics have certain qualities that are powerfully attractive and that make them stand out. This could be their self-belief, their boldness, their serenity. They keep the source of these qualities mysterious. They do not explain where their confidence or contentment comes from, but it can be felt by everyone; it radiates outward, without the appearance of conscious effort. The face of the Charismatic is usually animated, full of energy, desire, alertness—the look of a lover, one that is instantly appealing, even vaguely sexual. We happily follow Charismatics because we like to be led, particularly by people who promise adventure or prosperity. We lose ourselves in their cause, become emotionally attached to them, feel more alive by believing in them—we fall in love. Charisma plays on repressed sexuality, creates an erotic charge. Yet the origins of the word lie not in sexuality but in religion, and religion remains deeply embedded in modern charisma.

Thousands of years ago, people believed in gods and spirits, but few could ever say that they had witnessed a miracle, a physical demonstration of divine power. A man, however, who seemed possessed by a divine spirit—speaking in tongues, ecstatic raptures, the expression of intense visions—would stand out as one whom the gods had singled out. And this man, a priest or a prophet, gained great power over others. What made the Hebrews believe in Moses, follow him out of Egypt, and remain loyal to him despite their endless wandering in the desert? The look in his eye, his inspired and inspiring words, the face that literally glowed when he came down from Mount Sinai—all these things gave him the appearance of having direct communication with God, and were the source of his authority. And these were what was meant by "charisma," a Greek word referring to prophets and to Christ himself. In early Christianity, charisma was a gift or talent vouchsafed by God's grace and revealing His presence. Most of the great religions were founded by a Charismatic, a person who physically displayed the signs of God's favor.

Over the years, the world became more rational. Eventually people came to hold power not by divine right but because they won votes, or proved their competence. The great early-twentieth-century German soci-

"Charisma " shall be understood to refer to an extraordinary quality of a person, regardless of whether this quality is actual, alleged or presumed. "Charismatic authority," hence, shall refer to a rule over men, whether predominately extern al or predominately internal, to which the governed submit because of their belief in the extraordinary quality of the specific person.

—max weber, from max weber: essays in sociology, edited by hans gerth and c. wright mills

And the Lord said to ologist Max Weber, however, noticed that despite our supposed progress, M°ses, "Write these there were more Charismatics than ever. What characterized a modern words; in accordance with ,. , UM ,, r ,

,, . T, . Charismatic, according to Weber, was the appearance of an extraordinary these words I have made a ° rr J

covenant with you and quality in their character, the equivalent of a sign of God's favor. How else with israe¡." And he was to explain the power of a Robespierre or a Lenin? More than anything it there with the Lord forty was the force of their magnetic personalities that made these men stand out days andforty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank and was the source of their power. They did not speak of God but of a water. And he wrote upon great cause, visions of a future society. Their appeal was emotional; they the tab¡es the words of the seemed possessed. And their audiences reacted as euphorically as earlier au-

commandments When diences had to a prophet. When Lenin died, in 1924, a cult formed around

Moses came down from his memory, transforming the communist leader into a deity. Mount Smm, with the two Today, anyone who has presence, who attracts attention when he or she tables of the testimony in . i n i i i i his hand as he came down enters a room, is said to possess charisma. But even these less-exalted types from the mountain, Moses reveal a trace of the quality suggested by the word's original meaning.

did not know that the skin Their charisma is mysterious and inexplicable, never obvious. They have an of his face shone because he

, , , „ , unusual confidence. They have a gift—often a smoothness with language—

had been talking with cod. And when Aaron that makes them stand out from the crowd. They express a vision. We may and al1 the people of israel not realize it, but in their presence we have a kind of religious experience:

saw Moses, behold, the we believe in these people, without having any rational evidence for doing skin of his face shone, and they were sámii to come so. When trying to concoct an effect of charisma, never forget the religious near him. But Moses source of its power. You must radiate an inward quality that has a saintly or called to them; and Aaron spiritual edge to it. Your eyes must glow with the fire of a prophet. Your and all the leaders of the congregation returned to charisma must seem natural, as if it came from something mysteriously be-him, and Moses talked yond your control, a gift of the gods. In our rational, disenchanted world, with them. And afterward people crave a religious experience, particularly on a group level. Any sign all the people of israel came of charisma plays to this desire to believe in something. And there is noth-

near, and he gave them in commandment all that the ing more seductive than giving people something to believe in and follow.

Lord had spoken with him Charisma must seem mystical, but that does not mean you cannot learn in Mount Sinai. And certain tricks that will enhance the charisma you already possess, or will when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put give you the outward appearance of it. The following are basic qualities a veil on his face; but that will help create the illusion of charisma:

whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the veil off, until he came out; and Pur-pose. If people believe you have a plan, that you know where you are when he came out, and going, they will follow you instinctively. The direction does not matter:

told the people of israel pick a cause, an ideal, a vision and show that you will not sway from your what he was commanded, the people of israel saw the goal. People will imagine that your confidence comes from something face of Moses, that the skin real—just as the ancient Hebrews believed Moses was in communion with of Moses's face shone; and oj.ii 11 j^i ^ j.

God, simply because he showed the outward signs.

Moses would put the veil upon hishce again, unta Purposefulness is doubly charismatic in times of trouble. Since most he went in to speak people hesitate before taking bold action (even when action is what is required), single-minded self-assurance will make you the focus of attention. People will believe in you through the simple force of your character. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to power amidst the Depression, much of the public had little faith he could turn things around. But in his first few months in office he displayed such confidence, such decisiveness and clarity with him.

— exodus 34:27 old testament in dealing with the country's many problems, that the public began to see him as their savior, someone with intense charisma.

Mystery. Mystery lies at charisma's heart, but it is a particular kind of mystery—a mystery expressed by contradiction. The Charismatic may be both proletarian and aristocratic (Mao Zedong), both cruel and kind (Peter the Great), both excitable and icily detached (Charles de Gaulle), both intimate and distant (Sigmund Freud). Since most people are predictable, the effect of these contradictions is devastatingly charismatic. They make you hard to fathom, add richness to your character, make people talk about you. It is often better to reveal your contradictions slowly and subtly—if you throw them out one on top of the other, people may think you have an erratic personality. Show your mysteriousness gradually and word will spread. You must also keep people at arm's length, to keep them from figuring you out.

Another aspect of mystery is a hint of the uncanny. The appearance of prophetic or psychic gifts will add to your aura. Predict things authoritatively and people will often imagine that what you have said has come true.

Saintliness. Most of us must compromise constantly to survive; saints do not. They must live out their ideals without caring about the consequences. The saintly effect bestows charisma.

Saintliness goes far beyond religion: politicians as disparate as George Washington and Lenin won saintly reputations by living simply, despite their power—by matching their political values to their personal lives. Both men were virtually deified after they died. Albert Einstein too had a saintly aura—childlike, unwilling to compromise, lost in his own world. The key is that you must already have some deeply held values; that part cannot be faked, at least not without risking accusations of charlatanry that will destroy your charisma in the long run. The next step is to show, as simply and subtly as possible, that you live what you believe. Finally, the appearance of being mild and unassuming can eventually turn into charisma, as long as you seem completely comfortable with it. The source of Harry Truman's charisma, and even of Abraham Lincoln's, was to appear to be an Everyman.

That devil of a man exercises a fascination on me that I cannot explain even to myself, and in such a degree that, though I fear neither God nor devil, when I am in his presence I am ready to tremble like a child, and he could make me go through the eye of a needle to throw myself into the fire.

—general vandamme, on napoleon bonaparte

[The masses] have never thirsted after truth. They demand illusions, and cannot do without them. They constantly give what is unreal precedence over what is real; they are almost as strongly influenced by what is untrue as by what is true. They have an evident tendency not to distinguish between the two.

STANDARD COMPLETE WORKS OF volume i8

EDiTiON OFTHE PSYCHOLOGiCAL

Sigmund freud,

Eloquence. A Charismatic relies on the power of words. The reason is simple: words are the quickest way to create emotional disturbance. They can uplift, elevate, stir anger, without referring to anything real. During the Spanish Civil War, Dolores Gómez Ibarruri, known as La Pasionaria, gave pro-Communist speeches that were so emotionally powerful as to determine several key moments in the war. To bring off this kind of eloquence, it helps if the speaker is as emotional, as caught up in words, as the audience is. Yet eloquence can be learned: the devices La Pasionaria used—

catchwords, slogans, rhythmic repetitions, phrases for the audience to repeat—can easily be acquired. Roosevelt, a calm, patrician type, was able to make himself a dynamic speaker, both through his style of delivery, which was slow and hypnotic, and through his brilliant use of imagery, alliteration, and biblical rhetoric. The crowds at his rallies were often moved to tears. The slow, authoritative style is often more effective than passion in the long run, for it is more subtly spellbinding, and less tiring.

Theatricality. A Charismatic is larger than life, has extra presence. Actors have studied this kind of presence for centuries; they know how to stand on a crowded stage and command attention. Surprisingly, it is not the actor who screams the loudest or gestures the most wildly who works this magic best, but the actor who stays calm, radiating self-assurance. The effect is ruined by trying too hard. It is essential to be self-aware, to have the ability to see yourself as others see you. De Gaulle understood that self-awareness was key to his charisma; in the most turbulent circumstances—the Nazi occupation of France, the national reconstruction after World War II, an army rebellion in Algeria—he retained an Olympian composure that played beautifully against the hysteria of his colleagues. When he spoke, no one could take their eyes off him. Once you know how to command attention this way, heighten the effect by appearing in ceremonial and ritual events that are full of exciting imagery, making you look regal and godlike. Flamboyancy has nothing to do with charisma—it attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Uninhibitedness. Most people are repressed, and have little access to their unconscious—a problem that creates opportunities for the Charismatic, who can become a kind of screen on which others project their secret fantasies and longings. You will first have to show that you are less inhibited than your audience—that you radiate a dangerous sexuality, have no fear of death, are delightfully spontaneous. Even a hint of these qualities will make people think you more powerful than you are. In the 1850s a bohemian American actress, Adah Isaacs Menken, took the world by storm through her unbridled sexual energy, and her fearlessness. She would appear on stage half-naked, performing death-defying acts; few women could dare such things in the Victorian period, and a rather mediocre actress became a figure of cultlike adoration.

An extension of your being uninhibited is a dreamlike quality in your work and character that reveals your openness to your unconscious. It was the possession of this quality that transformed artists like Wagner and Picasso into charismatic idols. Its cousin is a fluidity of body and spirit; while the repressed are rigid, Charismatics have an ease and an adaptability that show their openness to experience.

Fervency. You need to believe in something, and to believe in it strongly enough for it to animate all your gestures and make your eyes light up. This cannot be faked. Politicians inevitably lie to the public; what distinguishes Charismatics is that they believe their own lies, which makes them that much more believable. A prerequisite for fiery belief is some great cause to rally around—a crusade. Become the rallying point for people's discontent, and show that you share none of the doubts that plague normal humans. In 1490, the Florentine Girolamo Savonarola railed at the immorality of the pope and the Catholic Church. Claiming to be divinely inspired, he became so animated during his sermons that hysteria would sweep the crowd. Savonarola developed such a following that he briefly took over the city, until the pope had him captured and burned at the stake. People believed in him because of the depth of his conviction. His example has more relevance today than ever: people are more and more isolated, and long for communal experience. Let your own fervent and contagious faith, in virtually anything, give them something to believe in.

Vulnerability. Charismatics display a need for love and affection. They are open to their audience, and in fact feed off its energy; the audience in turn is electrified by the Charismatic, the current increasing as it passes back and forth. This vulnerable side to charisma softens the self-confident side, which can seem fanatical and frightening.

Since charisma involves feelings akin to love, you in turn must reveal your love for your followers. This was a key component to the charisma that Marilyn Monroe radiated on camera. "I knew I belonged to the Public," she wrote in her diary, "and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else. The Public was the only family, the only Prince Charming and the only home I had ever dreamed of." In front of a camera, Monroe suddenly came to life, flirting with and exciting her unseen public. If the audience does not sense this quality in you they will turn away from you. On the other hand, you must never seem manipulative or needy. Imagine your public as a single person whom you are trying to seduce—nothing is more seductive to people than the feeling that they are desired.

Adventurousness. Charismatics are unconventional. They have an air of adventure and risk that attracts the bored. Be brazen and courageous in your actions—be seen taking risks for the good of others. Napoleon made sure his soldiers saw him at the cannons in battle. Lenin walked openly on the streets, despite the death threats he had received. Charismatics thrive in troubled waters; a crisis situation allows them to flaunt their daring, which enhances their aura. John F. Kennedy came to life in dealing with the Cuban missile crisis, Charles de Gaulle when he confronted rebellion in

In such conditions, where Algeria. They needed these problems to seem charismatic, and in fact some half the battle was hand- have even accused them of stirring up situations (Kennedy through his to-hand, concentrated into a small space the spirit brinkmanship style of diplomacy, for instance) that played to their love of and example of the leader adventure. Show heroism to give yourself a charisma that will last you a counted for much. When lifetime. Conversely, the slightest sign of cowardice or timidity will ruin we remember this, it whatever charisma you had.

becomes easier to understand the astonishing dfect of Joan s presence upon the French troops. Magnetism. If any physical attribute is crucial in seduction, it is the eyes. Her position as a leader was a unique one She was They reveal excitement, tension, detachment, without a word being spo-

not a professional soldier; ken. Indirect communication is critical in seduction, and also in charisma.

she was not really a soldier The demeanor of Charismatics may be poised and calm, but their eyes are at all; she was not even a .11 . 11.11. 1

magnetic; they have a piercing gaze that disturbs their targets' emotions, man. She was ignorant of war. She was a girl dressed exerting force without words or action. Fidel Castro's aggressive gaze can up. But she believed, and reduce his opponents to silence. When Benito Mussolini was challenged, had made others willing to he would roll his eyes, showing the whites in a way that frightened people.

believe, that she was the mouthpiece of God. • On President Kusnasosro Sukarno of Indonesia had a gaze that seemed as if it

Friday, April 29th, 1429, could have read thoughts. Roosevelt could dilate his pupils at will, making the news spread in Orleans his stare both hypnotizing and intimidating. The eyes of the Charismatic that a force, led by the

Puceiie of Domremy. was never show fear or nerves.

on its way to the relief of All of these skills are acquirable. Napoleon spent hours in front of a the city, a piece of news mirror, modeling his gaze on that of the great contemporary actor Talma. which, as the chronicler remarks, comforted them The key is self-control. The look does not necessarily have to be aggressive;

greatly. it can also show contentment. Remember: your eyes can emanate charisma,

_vita sackville-west, but they can also give you away as a faker. Do not leave such an important attribute to chance. Practice the effect you desire.

Genuine charisma thus means the ability to internally generate and externally express extreme excitement, an ability which makes one the object of intense attention and unre-flective imitation by others.

— liah greenfield

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