Charismatic Qualities & Their Regeneration

“Once charismatic qualification has become an impersonal quality, which can be transmitted through various and at first purely magic means, it has begun its transformation from a personal gift that can be tested and proven but not transmitted and acquired, into a capacity that, in principle, can be taught and learned.


Thus charismatic qualification can become an object of education, even though at first not in the form of rational or empirical instruction, since heroic and magical capacities, are regarded as inborn; only if they are latent can they be activated through a regeneration of the whole personality. Therefore, the real purpose of charismatic education is regeneration, hence the development of the charismatic quality, and the testing, confirmation and selection of the qualified person.

The elements of charismatic education are: Isolation from the familiar environment and from all family ties (among primitive tribes the novices-epheboi-move into the forests); invariably entrance into an exclusive educational community; complete transformation of personal conduct; asceticism; physical and psychic exercises of the most diverse forms to awaken the capacity for ecstasy and regeneration; continuous testing of the level of charismatic perfection through shock, torture and mutilation (circumcision may have originated primarily as a part of such ascetic practices); finally, graduated ceremonious reception into the circle of those who have proven their charisma.

Within certain limits the transition between charismatic and rational specialized training is of course fluid. Every charismatic education includes some specialized training, depending on whether the novices are trained to be warriors, medicine men, rainmakers, exorcisers, priests or legal sages. This empirical and professional component, which is often treated as secret know-how for the sake of prestige and monopolization, increases quantitatively and in rational quality with professional differentiation and the accumulation of specialized knowledge; finally, in a world of predominantly specialized training and drill only the familiar juvenile phenomena of barrack and student life remain as residues of the ancient ascetic means for awakening and testing charismatic capacities. However, genuine charismatic education is the radical opposite of specialized professional training as it is espoused by bureaucracy.

Between these two forms of education we find all those kinds that are concerned with “cultivation” (in the meaning defined above: the change of basic attitudes and of personal conduct) and retain only remnants of the original irrational means of charismatic education. The most important instance has been the training of warriors and priests, which once was primarily a selection of the charismatically qualified. He who does not pass the heroic trials of the warrior’s training remains a “woman,” just as he who cannot be awakened to the supernatural remains a “layman.” In the familiar pattern, the standards of qualification are energetically defended and raised because of the material interests of the following, which forces the master to share the prestige and material opportunities of his rulership only with those who have passed the same trials.

In the course of these transformations charismatic education may become a state or ecclesiastic institution, or it may be left to the formally free initiative of organized interest groups. The actual developments depend upon the most diverse circumstances, in particular upon the distribution of power between the various competing kinds of charisma. This is especially true of the extent to which either military-knightly training or ecclesiastic instruction predominates in a community. In contrast to knightly training, the very spiritualism of ecclesiastic education facilitates its development toward rational instruction. The training of the priest, rainmaker, medicine man, shaman, dervish, monk, sacred, singer and dancer, scribe and jurist as well as the training of.the knight and warrior assumes many forms, but remains ultimately similar.

Different is merely the relative impact of the various educational groups. This depends not only upon the power distribution between imperium and sacerdotium, but first of all upon the extent to which military service is a matter of social honor, the duty of a stratum that is thereby specifically qualified. Only where such a duty exists does militarism establish its own educational system; conversely, the development of ecclesiastic education is usually a function of the bureaucratization of rulership, at first of sacred domination.

The basic Hellenic institution of the epheboi, a component of the individual’s athletic-artistic perfection, is only a special case of a universal kind of military training. which includes in particular the preparations for the initiation rites, that is, for the rebirth as a hero, and the reception into the male fraternity (Mannerbund) and the communal house of the warriors, which is a kind of primitive barracks. (This is the origin of the “men’s house” which Schurtz traced everywhere with such loving care.). These are instances of lay education: the warrior clans dominate education. The institution disintegrates whenever the member of the political community is no longer primarily a warrior and war is no longer chronic.

An example for the far-reaching “clericalization” of education is provided by the control of the Egyptian priests over the training of officials and scribes in this typically bureaucratic state. In numerous other Oriental cases, too, the priesthood controlled the training of officials, and that means education in general, because it alone developed a rational educational system and provided the state with scribes and officials trained in rational thinking. In the Occidental Middle Ages the education offered by the church and the monasteries -as the agents of every kind of rational instruction-was also of paramount importance. There clerical-rational and knightly education coexisted, competed and cooperated with one another, owing to the feudal and status character of the ruling stratum, and imparted to Occidental medieval man and the Occidental universities their specific character. In contrast, there was no counterweight to the clericalization of education in the purely bureaucratic Egyptian state; the other patrimonial states of the Orient also failed to develop a specifically knightly education, since they lacked the requisite Estate structure; and finally, the completely depoliticized Jews, whose cohesion depended upon the synagogue and the rabbinate, developed a major type of strictly clerical education.

In the Hellenic polis and in Rome there was no state bureaucracy or priestly bureaucracy that might have created a clerical educational system. It was only in part a fateful historical accident that Homer, the literary product of a secular aristocracy which was most irreverent toward the gods, remained. the major vehicle of literary education which explains Plato’s deep hatred against him-and prevented any theological rationalization of the religious powers. The decisive fact was the complete absence of a clerical system of education.

In China, finally, the character of Confucian rationalism, its conventionalism and its reception as the basis of education was conditioned by the bureaucratic rationalization of the secular patrimonial officialdom and the absence of feudal powers.”

Max Weber. Economy & Society, pp.1143-1145

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