The Charisma Project



Why would we put Gandhi and Hitler in the same category? Mahatma Gandhi is officially honored in India as the father of the Nation, and his birthday is celebrated worldwide as the International Day of Non-Violence. In Winston Churchill’s words, Adolf Hitler was a “grim figure who has performed these superb toils and loosed these frightful evils.” While both were said to be charismatic, why not have another word to describe a leader who used his charisma for ill? How about charismal? And wouldn’t it serve society if we could find a way to measure appeal and charismal to warn potential followers of the dangers of falling under its spell?

The word “charisma” was first used by Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul. It was used in letters to the early church and could be translated as a gift of grace or through grace, explicitly talking about the advantages of the spirit that we are given by—or through—the grace of God.

While Paul’s version of the word “charismatic” can still be found in specific Pentecostal congregations, it wasn’t until Max Weber came along in the late 1800s and reintroduced the assertion that it took on its current meaning. The son of a bourgeois politician—a member of the Reichstag (Parliament) for the National Liberal Party—and a devout Protestant mother with humanitarian concerns, Weber rescued Paul’s version of charisma and redefined it as the almost superhuman characteristics of an individual that were not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as divine in origin or as exemplary. Based on them, the individual concerned is treated as a leader.

While he never delineated between the positive and negative aspects of charisma, it is fair to say that Weber lived in a household where charisma (through his mother) and charismal (through his father) were right under his nose. He made one of the most profound discoveries of all time—even if it went virtually unnoticed and undefined—charismal©.

On October 8, 2009, what started as a spiritual retreat in the Angel Valley Retreat Center near Sedona, Arizona—led by a self-help guru, James Arthur Ray—ended in the Sweat Lodge Deaths plastered across the evening news.

While only two participants died during the exercise, eighteen others were hospitalized after suffering burns, dehydration, breathing problems, kidney failure, or elevated body temperature. Survivors of the activity reported fellow participants as “flailing in seizures; others vomited violently or foamed at the mouth. Bodies were lined up unconscious; some were blue from lack of oxygen, but it was too late for some. They were already dead. Survivors who could barely stand struggled to help the others, but they had almost no food for nearly three days, even longer without sleep.” Another attendee died on October 17 after being unconscious for a week.

But even before the deadly Arizona incident—during Ray’s Create Absolute Wealth seminar—a participant, Colleen Conaway, jumped to her death from the third floor of a mall in San Diego, with little or no fanfare on July 25, 2009.

How did James Arthur Ray—the only common denominator in these horrific tragedies—escape with few, if any, consequences?

The Charisma Project

His followers had paid as much as $10,000 to sit at the feet of one of the most charismatic figures in the self-help movement. Promising fulfillment in every area of their life, this dark-haired, well-built, tanned figure with a sparkling white smile emitted the power of influence to such a degree that his followers would blindly follow him without regard—or at least an unconscious disregard—for their physical well being and ended up paying the ultimate price.

Whether you call it the X-factor or the It-factor, the elusive set of gifts—commonly associated with political figures, religious leaders, and certain celebrities—known as charisma/charismal is a virtually unstoppable force.

The Visionary – Someone with an internal compass that allows them to perceive the truth independently of any reasoning process and uses this gift to lead or influence a large group of people. Charisma example: Steve Jobs, the primary force behind the success of Apple Computers and one of the most innovative technology entrepreneurs. Charismal example: Bernie Madoff, former stockbroker, investment adviser, non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, and the admitted operator of what has been described as the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

THE CHARISMA PROJECTThe Messenger – Someone who can adapt and communicate a message so that the majority can relate and is stirred to action. Charisma example: Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. Charismal example: Adolf Hitler, who rose to power in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s and is recognized as one of the evilest figures the world has ever known.

The Monk – Someone who has the power of self-sacrifice and is willing to renounce personal comfort and luxury to serve others. Charisma example: Mahatma Gandhi, the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader who led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom worldwide. Charismal example: Osama bin Laden, a member of the prominent Saudi bin Laden family and the founding leader of the terrorist organization al-Qaeda, best known for the September 11 attacks on the United States of America.

(For a complete description  of the remaining gifts, please get in touch with 3Frogs Productions.)

The Expert – The Comforter – The Detective – The Giver – The Sidekick – The Magician – The Dreamer – The Spotlight

The Charisma Project is devised as a two-hour documentary that will precede a reality/game show similar to American Idol, where celebrities, politicians, and entertainers of all kinds go through a series of tests and performances to evaluate their charismark (their ranking on our Charisma/Charismal Scale) in all eleven categories, shedding light on this elusive and enigmatic phenomenon.

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