|Laj: ďThat the cultish elements of Objectivism have survived Rand's death implies to me that the foundation of Objectivism's tendency towards dogmatism must have been at least as much a function of Rand's doctrine as of her personality.Ē |
I agree. But Iíd say that for the majority of Objectivists, the novels are the single most powerful factor in their conversion, and itís in the novels where you meet Rand at her most charismatic.
But itís not a case of either/or. At the very least, a cult needs a charismatic leader, a body of doctrine and a following. Each aspect reinforces the others. I also think the cult phenomenon is much more complex than the popular stereotype of the mindless conformist.
So when you say that the cultist is driven by a ďdesire to maintain conformityĒ, I would say that conformity is a secondary Ė although very important -- factor. I think the primary drive is a desire for whatever the doctrine promises, whether itís personal salvation, self-realisation or a life more extraordinary.
These are reasonable goals, but where the cultist differs from the mainstream is that he believes his adopted doctrine is the only way to achieve his end, and that this applies not just to himself, but to everyone. Thatís where I think the conformity comes in Ė deviation by a fellow believer threatens oneís goal, so one must persuade or force the other to conform.
In a different way, outsiders also threaten the goal. Their unbelieving lives imply a corrosive skepticism about the doctrine, hence the desire to proselytise -- in converting others, the believer is helping to turn the tide against this implied skepticism.
But I donít think the conformity of the cultist is necessarily mindless. No cult could exist were all its members mindless robots. In fact, the members who are of most value to the cult are the ones who readily apply their minds to understand the doctrine, and are prepared to work willingly and tirelessly for the cause. And these are just the attributes that also make for success in the outside world.
But Iím sure you know all this. Whatever the case, I donít think weíre very far apart. Weíre just interpreting the same phenomenon from different perspectives.