Palm Desert Consciousness July 15, 2016

The Couch

Palm Desert Consciousness     July 15, 2016 

Issue 3

Palm Desert, Ca.

Authoritarianism vs. Real Authority

So, while out on a walk in palm desert one early morning here’s what came to me about the nature authority.

I remembered a tape that I listened to a long time ago. It was about discerning the difference between real authority and authoritarianism. The talk was given by a monk to a group of theology students. To illustrate the difference the monk told a story about a meeting between the great Danish Physicist Niels Bohr and a brilliant student physicist completing his doctorate.

Although the student had a reputation of being a genius in physics, he was thought by some of his professor’s to be too outspoken about his accomplishments. His ideas often met with a look of who-do-you think you are, even before he had a chance to explain.  A classmate once told him that some of his professors were probably jealous, as there were times when he really did seem to know more then they did.

As time went on however it became crystal clear his genius in physics would make him the best choice to meet with the Nobel Prize winner. His Professor’s   wasted no time in cautioning him not to appear arrogant, rude or too challenging while with Niels Bohr as such a man would surely be put off by that kind of behavior from a student.

He would do anything to make a good impression.

Upon reflection he felt genuinely valued and respected during the meeting not only for his work but also for who, he was as a person. Then, the most profound realization came over him.

He must have been sitting with an angel.

This great man kept challenging the student to assert his own ideas even if they were dissimilar to his own. This was contrary to his experience with his professor’s he left them feeling like a disobedient, know-it-all child.

The monk concluded that when we are in the company of real authority we feel tolerance, respect, positive regard and equality. We feel built up and good about, who, we are. Real authority is open to new ideas.

On the other hand, authoritarianism creates a feeling of being taken over, judged and ultimately divided. This type of authority leads to a system where there are different levels of importance or a hierarchy. The usual mode of operation here is control where one is up and dominant, and the other is down, and submissive. The opposite of equality is hierarchy for by its very nature it demands a level of idealizing and rewarding along with its codependent devaluing and punishment.

Kristine Kepp Ph.D.
Palm Desert, Ca