Why are some gurus particularly dangerous? This thoughtful and engaging book provides answers and a host of interesting insights. Storr, a British psychologist who teaches at Oxford and has written a number of well-received books Solitude, ; Music and the Mind, , etc. As his title and his choice of subjects in the first category reveal, he views most gurus as being emotionally unbalanced and possessing many highly unappealing qualities: They tend to be loners, have experienced profound psychological crises sometimes involving psychosis , and generally relate poorly to others. Most are arrogantly self-certain and otherwise highly narcissistic, even grandiose; some tend to be paranoid while others, such as Rajneesh and Koresh, are materially or sexually exploitative of others.
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Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Feet of Clay by Anthony Storr. There are many reports of strange cults which enthral their followers and cut themselves off from the world.
Invariably led by gurus, or spiritual leaders, the fruit of these cults are mass suicides in the South American jungle or the self-immolation of hundreds in besieged fortresses. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published April 1st by HarperCollins Publishers first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions 9. Friend Reviews.
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Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Apr 09, Caroline rated it really liked it Shelves: psychology. This book is a fascinating study of gurus — the good, the bad and the ugly. Storr was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and writer of some excellent books.
Storr also mentions some politicians as having strong guru characteristics, e. Other examples of gurus that he mentio This book is a fascinating study of gurus — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Other examples of gurus that he mentions include Wagner a bad guru and Cardinal Hume a good guru. I found this book very interesting, certainly I have learnt a lot about what makes a guru, and what makes them attractive to people Yet this to me would seem a vitally important issue.
All in all a fascinating read. I shall definitely be picking my gurus with caution in the future. At least mine tend to live in books, which makes them a lot more manageable. In the book Storr details various aspects of gurus and their followers, which I roughly outline here A revelation that the guru says has transformed their lives. A deep belief that the revelation is true and right.
Character traits of many bad gurus. They are more interested in what goes on in their own minds than in personal relationships. They need disciples, not friends. Criticism is seen as hostility. This is closely linked to the intensity of their vision.
They KNOW their vision is right, and this assurance is a big building block towards having charisma. The ability to speak fluently in public and good looks are helpful additional assets. They often get pleasure from the exercise of power. Some enjoy inflicting cruel punishments upon transgressors. Character traits of many good gurus. They are altogether more modest, and accepting of the independence and personhood of their disciples.
They practise humility, and they support the growth of their disciples. Our desire for gurus We all have a propensity to put people on pedestals and make them gurus. Storr argues that people who do this are not immature or neurotic. It is a very basic human impulse. Freud for instance at first regarded transference with distaste.
He wanted psychoanalysis to be an impersonal quest for truth in which the relationship between patient and analyst was entirely professional and objective rather than personal.
The role he wanted to assume was that of a mountain guide. Instead he found that his patients made him into an idealized lover, a father figure, or a saviour. We have a strong impulse to put authority figures on pedestals, or alternatively, consider them in a preposterously negative light.
Gurus are people we choose to regard as saviours. Storr believes that we are hard-wired to respect good teachers. Unlike animals which depend largely on nature for their behaviour, we depend largely on nurture, and part of that process involves a respect for good teachers.
Our admiration for someone we see as our guru just takes this one step further. Gurus have much more likelihood of becoming powerful when times are hard and stressful. View all 28 comments. Aug 02, Cooper Cooper rated it really liked it. Anthony Storr is a British psychiatrist who has written extensively about Freud, Jung, creativity and violence.
In this book he takes on gurus: in particular, what do they have in common? What traits or life-experiences do they share? Should a guru with weird beliefs be considered mad? Storr discusses these issues abstractly and also illustrates them with case studies of some well-known people he considers gurus, including bad guys like Jim Jones and David Koresh, iffy guys like Bhagwan Shree R Anthony Storr is a British psychiatrist who has written extensively about Freud, Jung, creativity and violence.
Storr discusses these issues abstractly and also illustrates them with case studies of some well-known people he considers gurus, including bad guys like Jim Jones and David Koresh, iffy guys like Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and George Gurdjieff, and better guys like George Steiner, Loyola, Freud, Jung, Mother Meara of India and Jesus.
Agnostic skeptics do not always realize how deeply irrational normal people can be. It is the unchallengeable truth—objective verification is irrelevant. Those who remain narcissistic in adult life retain this need to be loved and to be the center of attention together with the grandiosity which accompanies it. This is characteristic of gurus. Then he finds the theology to justify the craving. When others buy into his doctrine, he starts believing it himself. For example, the tenets of Christianity: virgin birth—come on; resurrection—gimme a break.
If an unconnected private citizen espoused comparable beliefs—for example, that angels are birthed from armpits and that dead ants will rise again—he would be considered mad. The process is essentially the same as that employed by the highly creative in science and art; the difference is that many gurus think they know, and therefore do not have to subject their insights to objective verification as scientists do, or to aesthetic evaluation as artists do.
And many gurus, like some creative scientists and many artists, show symptoms of manic-depression bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Why do followers prostrate themselves at the feet of other human beings who claim to be gurus?
This meditative space was incomparably beautiful and worth anything to experience. Most people who have spent any time in a religious cult will have tasted this bliss, and it is what keeps them coming back for more. For these reasons, many disciples maintain their beliefs, delusive or not, with incredible tenacity.
And buried he rose again, which is certain because it is impossible. How do we distinguish between them? As epigraph for Feet of Clay, Storr chose a quote from the ancient Greek dramatist Euripides: The wisest men follow their own direction And listen to no prophet guiding them. None but the fools believe in oracles, Forsaking their own judgment.
Know that such men can only come to grief. This is a very good, straightforward book by a sane, insightful and humane man. Apparently a few of the chapters were written earlier as papers, which results in some repetition, especially late in the book. Otherwise, Feet of Clay is well and simply written and definitely worth reading.
Feet of Clay: The Power and Charisma of Gurus
The two were first cousins, which may have lead to his poor health and depression. At the age of eight, he attended public school at Winchester and was very unhappy. Snow who encouraged him to be moral and compassionate. Storr continued his medical studies at Westminster Hospital from to , and then became a house physician at various hospitals. He is best known for his books on Freud and Jung. After completing his education, Storr practiced psychotherapy privately, but combined his private practice with hospitals as a consultant. In , he retired from private practice to teach post graduate doctors at Oxford where he received dining rights at Wadham College and became a fellow at Green College.
Feet Of Clay