The Personalist Project

Ever alert in my reading to items that highlight and clarify the meaning and implications of the master/slave dynamic, I pounced on one this morning, in St. Faustina's Diary. She is on retreat as she writes.

The great majesty of God which pervaded me today and still pervades me awoke in me a great fear, but a fear filled with respect, and not the fear of a slave, which is quite different from the fear of respect. This fear animated by respect arose in my heart today because of love and the knowledge of the greatness of God, and that is a great joy to the soul. The soul trembles before the smallest offense against God; but that does not trouble or darken its happiness. There, where love is in charge, all is well.

"The fear of the slave" is the fear of power and punishment and abandonment. "Please don't hurt me." It's a groveling fear, unworthy of mature human persons. But most of us are afflicted with it to one degree or another. Some of us cope with it by becoming the one feared, the "master," who makes others afraid.

Love is the opposite. The one who has it most induces others not to grovel, but to stand up.

"I no longer call you slaves, but friends."

I've been listening to the audio version of Witness to Hope, and was reminded recently of the first precedent-breaking incident of John Paul II's papacy. Traditionally, the new Pope sits on a "throne," while all the Cardinals successively kiss his ring in a gesture of reverence and obedience. John Paul II declined the throne. "I receive my brothers standing."

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Comments (4)

Rhett Segall

#1, May 28, 2016 10:17am

Katie;

The capital sin of pride is sometimes looked at from these angles- pride of authority (loves to be in charge); pride of timidity(doesn't stand up for principles for fear of ridicule). I wonder if these don't fit into your "master-slave" exploration.

Also, there is the phenomena of the torturer-tortured experience where the relationship between the two moves into a kind of attachment, indeed affection. I haven't explored this but I notice it comes up sometimes in stories and I was wondering if it might be part of the master-slave experience.

Rhett

Katie van Schaijik

#2, May 28, 2016 11:29am

 

Rhett Segall wrote:

Katie;

The capital sin of pride is sometimes looked at from these angles- pride of authority (loves to be in charge); pride of timidity(doesn't stand up for principles for fear of ridicule). I wonder if these don't fit into your "master-slave" exploration.

I've definitely been thinking about the classical conception of pride in relation to the master/slave dynamic. As I'm seeing it, the latter captures something vital that the former misses (at least as I've understood it.) It captures the interpersonal dimension of evil. It also draws more attention to the "slave side". 

I get the idea that pride can cause timidity in some cases, like the one you mention. But it seems to me the "slave's" problem isn't well-described as one of pride, but something more like its opposite.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, May 28, 2016 11:32am

 

Rhett Segall wrote:

Also, there is the phenomena of the torturer-tortured experience where the relationship between the two moves into a kind of attachment, indeed affection. I haven't explored this but I notice it comes up sometimes in stories and I was wondering if it might be part of the master-slave experience.

 I'm not totally sure I'm getting what you mean here, but it puts me in mind of the "Stockholm Syndrome". Also certain relationships that look enthrallment or addiction. W. Somerset Maugham's book, Of Human Bondage, has a vivid example.

In those cases, I think the master/slave dynamic is really clear and prominent.

Rhett Segall

#4, May 28, 2016 10:11pm

Yes the Stockholm syndrome is what I was thinking about, although I didn't know the term. Thanks.

Yes, pride of timidity is a weak if not erroneous explanation of why a person permits him/her self to be completely dominated by another. Cultural factors must play a dominate part.

Shalom,

Rhett

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