Archive for March, 2011
This visit to the Temple of Zeus located in Athens was during July 2010. I stayed in a typical Greek pension in Plaka which is the best possible location in Athens, being the ancient neighborhood of Athens. I had wonderful views of the Acropolis and surrounding areas.
My first taste of ancient Athens was the Zeus Temple which was 5 minutes walk from my pension. Just south of Syntagma Square, I turned the corner and marvelled at the Arch of Hadrian with the Zeus Temple behind. Happily I saw that the street running alongside the temple site named Vasilissis Olgas. I think that translates to Olga’s street. From this small photo you can see the temple site surrounded by the city of Athens.
Here is Hadrian’s Arch which once held the entrance to the temple. Unfortunately, it is not possible to walk through the arch and look towards the temple. I suspect there would have been the experience of quite a space when walking through that entrance. This view is looking back from the temple.
Emperor Hadrian completed the temple of Olympian Zeus in the 2nd century AD, 700 years after it was commenced. The construction of the temple had a number of stops and starts, changes in leadership and demolitions. (1) At its peak, there were 104 Corinthian marble columns and among the largest in Europe. The temple was 354 x 135 feet. Only 16 columns remain, 13 of which stand together.
This was the first time I had experienced a serious Zeus temple. The Zeus temples in Turkey I had come across were consistently raised to the ground, or in the case of Pergamon, removed to Berlin. Here is the Gateway to the Olympian.
My experience of this temple was unique among ancient temples I visited. I was in no doubt of the majesty of the temple space. I walked around and around the temple soaking up the force of the Zeus Temple. I imagine that this is what the space of the greatest of Olympians should feel like. Here are the images from walking around the temple.
I sat quietly meditating beside the temple and of course I caught the attention of the security. They kept a close eye on me during my stay there which was probably around 3 hours.
Another much smaller site with temple and other building remains sits alongside and below the Zeus Temple. Here I could sit very quietly as few people ventured this far off the beaten track. After an hour or so I was visited by security with 2 big dogs who sniffed my back pack. I was simply too blissed to leave and stayed quietly sitting until closing time, with the security guard and his dogs waiting patiently at the entrance to the adjoining temple area.
Here is what remains of the Law Court of the Delphinion. The large wall at the top of the photo surrounds the Zeus Temple. I found generally that temple sites with only remains of the base did not have spaces that could be discerned beyond interesting or pleasant or not. This one was more pleasant than most.
Adjacent to the Lawcourt was the remains of the Temple of Apollo Delphinios. I sat there meditating for some time, probably 45 minutes. I love the spaces of Apollo Temples and especially Apollo Delphinios temples.
The Zeus Temple of Athens is the perfect location for Vangelis to perform Chariots of Fire. The notion of chariots on fire seems ideal for this location. You can see the Acropolis and Parthenon in the background at the top of the screen. Tuning into the temple space together with this performance makes me cry.
The performance of the Mythodea by Vangelia at the Zeus Temple must be the most inspiring of all that have taken place here. I think that the gods must have been pleased with this performance.
I have thought a lot about the cult of the personality. It is a fascinating topic that I find plays out in daily life. I had to ask myself why I was interested in writing about the topic when this blog is supposed to be fun and devotional.
One answer is that observing the complexities of human behavior is always fun. People do fascinating things even when they are annoying.
The more important answer is that personality cults can get in the way of our devotional paths simply because in my view, following a narcissist leader – be they the local community leader, or the social clique – is not compatible with a spiritual path.
Even the apparently most innocuous of personality cults can weave us into something that we didn’t consciously want but we may take on because we liked the way the leader of the cult dressed or spoke, or wanted the popularity that came with that particular association.
It seems that the term personality cult first arose to describe totalitarian regimes wanting to radically transform society. The single leader associated with what might have been revolutionary transformation was known as the benevolent guide for those who jumped on the transformation ride. Adolf Hitler was described in this way. (1)
Obviously not all dictatorships are personality cults and also not all personality cults are dictatorships. It seems to depend on the level of public adulation. Big cults require lots of public adulation.
I am interested only in the day-to-day influences of the personality cults that affect our lives in often unconscious and innocuous ways. I am also interested in the people that set themselves up as the personality cult leaders. Charismatic authority is a term sometimes used for leaders of cults. That definition seems more appropriate for the bigger cults.
For the ordinary personality cult – I find that the leaders are generally narcissist and typically benevolent narcissistic leaders who operate with a thin veneer of pleasantries, but beneath that can lurk something very different.
I see personality cults playing out in many potentially different, but I think ultimately similar ways. Especially within organisational memes (2). At times I find it amusing and sometimes annoying, depending on the level of narcissism and control expressed by the leaders of these personality cults. Strangely, the lower that the cult is on the social food chain – the more cult-like it seems to be.
For example – say there is a community group of people with similar interests. Someone with narcissistic tendencies, but usually fairly ordinary skills, will eventually become the leader of the group. Partly because those people with sought after skills are busy applying them usefully somewhere else and partly because narcissism is a very useful personality trait if you want to lead groups of people.
The office clique and the social clique has similar characteristics to those of the local community group of interested members. They are smallish groups of people who are either like minded or who are thrown together because of a particular link such as working at the same place or attending the same school.
What I have often seen is that the narcissist leader gathers around them a group of sheepy followers. In this scenario, I often see the leader as popular, and of course the sheep-like followers want to share some of that popularity. It may be that the only way for those who perceive themselves as lower down the social popularity chain get an opportunity for elevation by association with someone who seems to have the capacity to make them look or feel better than they otherwise would. Happiness by proxy I think.
The narcissist leader will usually weave a web of benevolence which when scratched is paper thin, offering bonuses to the most loyal. These bonuses act as incentives to those who seek to climb the ladder of popularity. And withdrawing bonuses from those who are not sufficiently supplicant is another important tactic of the benevolent narcissist leader.
Not everyone is a follower and this becomes apparent when the rules are not followed by some individuals. All personality cult-memes have rules. Usually unspoken or often passed onto the group in subtle ways. These rules include the notion that ‘you are either in or you are out’.
I am sure we can all find examples of this kind of cult in daily life.
Where you can hear people say “well xxx just doesn’t really fit in with us”.
Or “What is wrong with xxxx? He/she just doesn’t seem to gel with us”.
Or “I just can’t seem to relate to xxxx”.
Then of course the group must submit to the leaders position and opinion to resolve these internal conflicts.
Woe betide those who disagree with the leader of the personality cult. This can result in severe reprimand.
Narcissists are very often control freaks, even benevolent narcissists. He or she may seem very friendly and relaxed and pour favours upon those who support them, but only as long as the adoration flows.
You must not disobey and you definitely must not question the opinion of the narcissist leader, even if they say it is OK to do so. It is simply not in the nature of the narcissist personality cult leader to be open to differing opinion.
To offer a different opinion to that of the narcissist leader is typically seen as a criticism and thus to be disloyal not just to the leader, but to the cult as a whole.
Not following the leader’s will, ultimately results is some form of ostracism for the person who doesn’t wish to follow. The usual response to the person who voices a different opinion is vilification of some kind. There will be some basic personality flaws assigned to that individual that will constantly be dragged up as the foundation of their opinions in order to nullify what they are saying.
Take a look around you at your workplace, your school, your club. See for yourself if you have become unconsciously woven into a personality cult.
Where are the narcissist leaders? Are you a follower? Or perhaps even a leader with narcissist tendencies? What do you get from following or leading? What would happen if you chose not to follow or if others chose not to follow you?
Think about the negative and positive impacts this personality cult has on your life. It may be more limiting than you think at first glance.
Enough said. This song by Living Colour says a lot about the cult of personality, and I like how they do it.
A footnote – I like to use images in my posts and searched for some time to find something to lighten up this topic. There are plenty but I could not find one that did not link me in some way with the opinions underlying the image which seemed to contradict the topic itself. No other images – just music.
(2) A meme is a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation); “memes are the cultural counterpart of genes”