Cargo cults. In times of stress, look for the prophets of an earthly paradise. A sense of deprivation gives birth to the cult. Its driving force: religious fervor and the superhuman agency. Its end: the destruction of the cult or the evolution of a new social order…
Millenarian movements. F.C. Wallace found the movements “always originate in situations of social and cultural stress and are, in fact, an effort on the part of the stress laden to construct systems of dogma, myth, and ritual which…will serve as guides to efficient action.”…
–Period of Cultural Distortion. Alcoholism, dishonesty by public officials, breaches of sexual and kinship customs, gambling, and the search for scapegoats become widespread as people try either to escape from or to circumvent “the system” and “the Establishment.” Specal-interest groups may resort to violence to compel others to do their bidding. None of these steps though, is sufficient to restore the equilibrium, and in fact they precipitate the decline in the culture by greatly increasing the stress.
—Period of revitalization. Once the preceding stage has occurred, it is very difficult for the culture to return to a steady state without passing through a millenarian movement. Indeed, if such a movement fails to take place, the culture is apt to disintegrate into warring factions or to be absorbed by another, more stable culture. Any successful movement that arises inevitably goes through the following steps:
a) Formulation of a code. A prophet proposes a blueprint for an ideal society that contrasts sharply with the present, disintegrating society. But to convert the existing culture into an ideal one, the faithful must perform a series of duties. Often the mere formulation of the code relieves the stress in the prophet’s own personality and he appears to his followers to be a person miraculously reborn- most of the American Indian prophets, for example, suffered from strange sicknesses or acute alcoholism, from both of which they were liberated almost immediately.
b) Communication. The code is now preached to win converts. Those who refuse to accept the code are warned that they have put themselves in material and spiritual jeopardy.
c) Organization. The code attracts many converts who differentiate into the few disciples and themasses of followers. The disciples become the administrative organization for the code; they also protect the prophet and combat heresy. The prophet himself usually makes no claim to be a supernatural being- but his followers hold him up as one on whom a supernatural agency has bestowed superior authority that demands unquestioned belief and obedience. Witness in the past hundred years alone, Hitler,Lenin, Mao, Castro, Che Guevara, Elijah Muhammad and hundreds of lesser lights….. ( to be continued)