May 9, 2022

Is Putin Dangerous Because he's Isolated? | A lesson from Cult Psychology

Scott Carney
May 9, 2022

"It's lonely at the top of any power structure, and Vladimir Putin has the classic psychotic symptoms of a cult leader. The old saying "absolute power corrupts absolutely" suggests that power is what makes despots go off the rails--but that doesn't quite capture why absolute power has that effect. It all comes down to isolation.

Once someone discovers they are "enlightened" or that they understand the ultimate nature of reality, or God--they no longer have anyone that they can look to as an equal. They have no peers, and no one to turn to for an objective opinion about what is happening around them. This is why cults go off the rails.

In this week's video I draw on the work of the psychologists Diana Alstad and Joel Kramer, who wrote the book "The Guru Papers," to explain how cult leaders go through different stages in their descent into madness--starting usually with a message of universal love, and ultimately towards violence. When I first read it six or seven years ago I knew that they were describing the exact phenomenon I was writing about when I was reporting the story of Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally at Diamond Mountain for what became my book "The Enlightenment Trap".

Well, the same cult-like isolation happens in government's too. Absolute power isolates a leader so that they have no peers and thus no way to make sense of the world outside of their own mind. Putin is so powerful that no person, general, book or authority can influence his decision making. As long as he holds the reins of power in Russia, we're all potentially victims of his madness."

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