"great man" can be good — good enough even to aspire to unitive
knowledge of the divine Ground — provided that, while exercising power,
he fulfills two conditions:
First, he must deny himself all the personal advantages of power and
must practice the patience and recollectedness without which there
cannot be love either of man or God.
Second, he must realize that the accident of possessing temporal power
does not give him spiritual authority, which belongs only to those
seers, living or dead, who have achieved a direct insight into the
Nature of Things.
society, in which the boss is mad enough to believe himself a prophet,
is a society doomed to destruction. A viable society is one in which
those who have qualified themselves to see indicate
the goals to be aimed at, while those whose business it is to rule
authority and listen to
the advice of the seers.
theory, at least, all this was well understood in India and, until the
Reformation, in Europe, where "no position was so high but that it was
subject to a spiritual superior in what concerned the conscience and the
soul." Unfortunately the churches tried to make the best of both worlds
— to combine spiritual authority with temporal power, wielded either
directly or at one remove, from behind the throne.
But spiritual authority can be exercised only by those who are perfectly
disinterested and whose motives are therefore above suspicion.
ecclesiastical organization may call itself the Mystical Body of Christ;
but if its prelates are slave-holders and the rulers of states, as they
were in the past, or if the corporation is a large-scale capitalist, as
is the case today, no titles, however honorific, can conceal the fact
that, when it passes judgment, it does so as an interested party with
some political or economic axe to grind…
actual practice how many great men have ever fulfilled, or are ever
likely to fulfill, the conditions which alone render power innocuous to
the ruler as well as to the ruled? Obviously, very few. Except by
saints, the problem of power is finally insoluble.
But since genuine self-government is possible only in very small groups,
societies on a national or super-national scale will always be ruled by
oligarchical minorities, whose members come to power because they have a
lust for power.