A Shared Revelation: Charismatic Communities and the Puritan Experiment in Early New England
Author(s)Taylor, Anne Elizabeth
Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies
Theory, Knowledge and Science
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AbstractThis article examines the ideal type of the charismatic community – a synthesis of Weber’s theory of charismatic authority and Shils’ conception of the charismatic propensity. A charismatic community is one which is united by emotional bonds forged out of “enthusiasm, or of despair and hope,” and which is considered extraordinary, with capacities to reach the divine or the exceptional, by members who are drawn in by affect and who are invested out of complete personal devotion to their shared revelatory experiences rather than to an individual leader. Devotion to shared revelatory experiences is what first and most clearly separates the concept of the charismatic community from the dimension of authority centered on an individual leader. In the community, the embodiment of charisma is sourced in each person by the dutiful recognition of the shared preternatural mission. Revelatory experiences are defined as personal events that impart or disclose some measure of previously unknown information about the state of the world or of the self, and which rouse feelings of devotion, based on this knowledge, to a divine or extraordinary cause. By examining the early years of the New England Puritan project, this paper reveals more about what factors sustain charismatic communities, and specifically sheds light on the importance of the audience in maintaining and routinizing the legitimate authority of the communal mission.