The strongest stories are always about love and how it changes us when we let it. And, to me the weakest, not matter how good the performances may be, are ones in which much sound and fury, to borrow from the Bard, signifies nothing. As we walked out at the end of “the Master,” one of my two companions said, “That was random.”
Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman both will likely be nominated for best Oscar. Phoenix’s physical Freddy perfectly conveys the immense effort it takes the character to suppress his anger and racing thoughts. We get early on that this will always be for him an impossible task. Hoffman’s peak moment comes in a song he sings to Freddy, a crescendo of sexualized rage and projected self-loathing. In maybe 15 seconds he goes from light and lilting to fangs-out, full-tilt murderous crazy. In so doing, he shows in a single short arc the outer charm with which the Narcissist seduces his prey and reveals the inner hate which fuels his insatiable need for narcissistic supply.
The Narcissist seeks followers, lovers, intense relationships in which he seems to controls others, and because of this, he is a slave. Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd character is a prisoner of his own crazy, which though it appears better controlled than Freddy’s, is every bit as unconscious.
That it is not possible to attempt to harm “the other” without harming self is apparent at one level. Chunk up higher, and you realize that it’s impossible to harm or help Spirit. ll we can really do as teachers and mentors is to be channels of Divine Love and to use the creative gifts that flow through us from that Source to help trigger awakenings for those who wish it. We are the iPhone marimba sound the client sets for her/himself because s/he wants to wake up. There is ONLY ONE master and that is God and any integrous spiritual leader knows this.
Cult leaders, like narcisstics anywhere, are chronic plagiaristic distorters, spiritual dilettantes, and posers, because they have blocked themselves from the beauty at their inner core. They love to take bits and pieces of archetypal truth as expressed by others and, without digesting it, spit it out partially chewed. Like those who want to use Christianity to justify hatred, Dodd ‘s character used Eastern Philosophy and hypnotic theory (past life regression in partcular) both of which are about spiritual freedom and self-mastery to attempt to control and dominate. The utter opposite of what meditation and guided meditation, AKA hypnosis. Hypnosis is not mind control; it’s highly focused, concentrated, reverential, meditative prayer, with the belief and expectation that one’s Higher Power is working in the situation and trust in the highest good to emerge. It’s Affirmative Prayer on steroids.
What I would like viewers of this film to know is that hypnosis cannot be used for mind control. Research on adult subjects done for possible military applications has shown that we retain our moral and ethical boundaries regardless of suggestions given. If we are prone to wrongdoing, we will accept permissions for ruthless behavior. If our inner compass is set in the direction of moral and ethical behavior, it will stay so and the subject will simply come out of hypnosis.
So, what of the followers of the fictional Dodd, the actual Hubbard (whom many surmise to have been the inspiration for the character) and other seekers of narcissistic supply? We might deduce that they, like Freddy seek shelter from their internal sad realties, because they have not acquired the mastery of self necessary to go further within, where the only reality is Bliss!