Altered States of Consciousness and Charismatic Authority: The Case of Judith von Halle

Olav Hammer, Karen Swartz

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Charisma is an unstable basis upon which to build authority. Charismatic leaders need their followers to perceive them as being endowed with extraordinary, even supernatural, gifts. Detractors can in turn question whether the leader actually possesses these unique qualities. Using Judith von Halle and her conflicts with the Anthroposophical Society as a case study, we address the question of how charismatic authority can be constructed and deconstructed in polemical texts. At various points throughout her career, Von Halle has made extraordinary claims. She presents herself as being clairvoyant and as having received stigmata. Anthroposophists who believe these claims cite them as their reasons for regarding her doctrinal statements as being trustworthy. Skeptical Anthroposophists, on the other hand, question her experiences and motives. Using a theoretical framework inspired by Foucault and Bourdieu, we discuss how both camps discuss von Halle’s charismatic status in terms that are opaque to outsiders unfamiliar with Anthroposophical discourse.
Original languageEnglish
Book seriesAura: Tidskrift för akademiska studier av nyreligiositet
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)4-22
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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