The Zen Master in America

Dressing the Donkey with Bells and Scarves

by Stuart Lachs

Presented 2006-2008, used by permission

Donkey

1. American Zen

Send comments about this essay to slachs@att.net

top of page

 

Text

"It is almost always instructive to look at the actual evidence for what are taken to be 'established facts.'" [1]

Modern day Zen masters/roshi, [2] while enjoying the decided advantage of being part of a tradition that imputes to them quasi-divine qualities, suffer the disadvantage of living in an age of widespread information. Thus, while the image of the Zen masters of the past bask in the unquestioned glow of hagiography, modern day Zen masters risk widespread exposure of their private and public behavior, particularly when that behavior is less than exemplary. [3]

The accessibility to the lives of modern masters allows us to examine them more accurately than their counterparts, the ancient masters of China, Japan and Korea. [4] Whereas in America, they have knowable lives, capable of being documented, in the ancient Far East, we know almost nothing about them, or if, in fact, they even existed. These masters in America are flesh and blood humans about whom we may discern some very specific facts: how they behave, how they use their power, how they understand their position, etc. In America, the actual person who fills the position of Zen master/roshi is frequently, if not always, substantially different from the idealized presentation. By analyzing the mechanisms of power and authority in Zen, I will show that the supposed all-wise, all-knowing Zen master is more fiction than fact.

Our fictional Zen master is defined by simplicity, innocence, and lack of self-interest or desire. The master is said to be a person whose actions flow solely out of compassion for other sentient beings. He [5] is imputed to possess a timeless and trans-cultural wisdom, the ability to see the truth behind appearances and to have the prerogative to speak expertly on all subjects. In fact, he is taken to be last in an unbroken chain of enlightened, unblemished masters reputedly going back 2500 years to the historical Sakyamuni Buddha. But, this portrait can only exist if we ignore the irritating complexity and contradictions of actual lives and real history.

This image of the perfected being in the person of the Zen master was originally popularized in the West by the Zen books of D.T. Suzuki and Alan Watts, and later, by the bestsellers The Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau and Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind [6] by Shunryu Suzuki, each of which sold over one million copies. For those joining a Zen center, this image is further repeated in the talks (Japanese: teisho) of the teacher, in the assurances of senior students, in readings in the vast Zen literature, in rituals, and, finally, for those practicing koans, [7] in the practice itself.

This is not to say that Zen practice under a Zen master is without merit. The well-trained Zen roshi may possess admirable personal qualities, a multitude of insights, and the ability to both correct his students' practice and inspire them to practice diligently. But, the image held up in the standard model of Zen more accurately describes Zen mythology and ideology than the way a real person can, and does, actually live. By the standard model of Zen I mean the mythology that Zen lineage is unbroken and began with the silent mind-to-mind transmission that occurred between Sakyamuni Buddha and Mahakasyapa when the Buddha supposedly held up a flower and Mahakasyapa smiled; [8] and continued in a unitary lineage through twenty-eight Indian Patriarchs and six Chinese Patriarchs before becoming multi-branched. It is, supposedly, always based on spiritual attainment and became institutionalized through the ritual of Dharma transmission. The Zen master, supposedly, is beyond the understanding of ordinary people because he always acts from the enlightened mind. [9]

Now that this myth of quasi-divine qualities and unbroken lineage back to the historical Buddha has landed in modern America, we must scrutinize a much more complex picture. In this picture, I will show that, while modern day masters are imputed to possess the above-mentioned qualities, there is, frequently, an unconscious collusion between the institution, the master and the students to make believe that these qualities actually do exist. Arguably, both teachers and students internalize the Zen rhetoric of enlightened Zen master, Dharma transmission, [10] and unbroken lineage [11] in direct connection to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni and perhaps beyond, to include the six mythical Buddhas. [12] The students expect the real teacher to be an ideal teacher and look forward to having such an ideal teacher lead and instruct them. [13] The student who enters the practice [14] having read a myth will expect to find the myth and will think they have found the myth. Unfortunately, they have found the myth without recognizing it for what it is. What they really have found, all too often, is another story of ordinary, flawed human behavior.

Students, for their part, develop a desire for the master's aura, recognition, and approval. They also learn to kow-tow to his authority and legitimacy. Further, they learn quickly that their advancement up the institutional ladder is completely dependent upon the master's good graces. Because the Dharma-transmitted Zen master acts not in his own name and authority, but rather as the only full delegate of the institution, with all the authority and power that entails, he also monopolizes the means to salvation. So, we can understand that there might be multiple motives for "not seeing" the master as he really is, whether there be an absence of compassion or wisdom or the presence of sexual improprieties or alcoholism. This is what psychiatrists call "negative hallucination," i.e., keeping unconscious something that we perceive.

It will also help in understanding Zen social functioning to keep in mind Pierre Bourdieu's basic model of religious authority. [15] "Bourdieu argues that the standard setup for religious authority requires three mutually reliant zones: (1) a deep origin of truth or perfection in the form of a past sage, saint, deity, or Being; (2) a means for bringing that truth-perfection forward in time; and (3) a contemporary spokesperson for that primordial truth-perfection who is sanctioned to represent it in the present, and distribute it to the believing public, which delegates to him just this power and legitimacy. Bourdieu sees religious authority always involved in a to-ing and fro-ing, shuttling back and forth between its deep origins and its application in the present. Put otherwise, in any moment of religious authority, there is always an audience focused on the singular priest-figure, who is expected to funnel the totality of truth and being from the past into the group." [16]

In Zen, the contemporary spokesperson for that primordial truth-perfection, the priest-figure, is the Zen Dharma-transmitted master/roshi. In light of Bourdieu's ideas, it is not surprising that around Zen centers the focus is on the ritual of Dharma transmission and who does and does not have it, rather than on what it actually means.

Hence, it is not just the quasi-divine nature of the modern Zen master that needs reexamining. We also need to look at the Zen institution, especially the ritual of Dharma transmission, to see whether it really means what it has traditionally been assumed to mean? [17]

According to Zen mythology, for the past 2500 years, starting with Sakyamuni Buddha giving mind-to-mind transmission to Mahakasyapa, the master recognizes that his student understands the wordless teaching which has been passed down from the Buddha. This has been institutionalized as Dharma transmission. In the traditional view, this bestows upon the new master the authority one would accord the Buddha. [18]

However, in practice, Dharma transmission is a much more ambiguous and flexible concept than the mythology would have us believe. Historically, it has been given for many reasons besides spiritual insight: for raising money to sustain a monastery, to establish and expand social connections, to spread a lineage and enhance the teacher's prestige by having more Dharma heirs, to maintain the continuity of the lineage, to enhance the authority of a missionary, to acknowledge managerial skill, and so on. We will show examples of this same ambiguousness down into modern times. What's more, though Zen, in general, makes superhuman claims for the master based on his spiritual attainment, in Sōtō Zen, the largest Zen sect in Japan, enlightenment is not at all a prerequisite for receiving Dharma transmission. Rather, only personal initiation between a master and disciple is required. Zen's mythology notwithstanding, Dharma transmission is only an institutional sanctioning of a teacher bestowing membership in a teaching lineage and may be no more than, as Buddhist scholar Holmes Welch said "like [getting] a Flash Gordon pin." [19] Dharma transmission tells us actually nothing of spiritual attainment or character, and it was designed that way from the beginning. [20]

For many people, knowing more about how Dharma transmission has been used historically will impact how they view modern masters. In addition, let us also look at one of the main tenets of the Zen master, i.e., his supposed lack of self interest. Will we also view the master differently if this main tenet of Zen ideology is shown to have flaws in its practical applications? Whether actually stated or merely implied, every student is made to understand that the master has no self-interest, only an interest in saving all sentient beings. That is to say, at a minimum, he is assumed to have only the best interest of the student at heart.

This claim of a lack of self interest is not unique to Zen. Pierre Bourdieu writes that to talk of interests has a "radically disruptive function: it destroys the ideology of disinterest, which is the ideology of clerics of every kind." [21] One can see that this ideology is instrumental in separating the cleric from the flock, creating an absolute divide, whereas, in reality, there are continuous shades of gray. The cleric who lacks self-interest is viewed as being more capable of judging what is best for his flock, and, so, is more readily obeyed. For example, it is common for Zen students to hear from their master "You have too much ego; you are too concerned about yourself." Is this always spoken in the best interest of the student? Or is it sometimes spoken, whether consciously or unconsciously, to keep the student off-guard, pliable, or non-questioning? By the master inducing a self-critique of the individual, it can act as a self-defense against questioning of the institution or his own position. [22]

Because of Zen's emphasis on no-self, we can argue that Zen places more importance than other religions on their clerics', in this case the Zen masters', lack of self interest. I will show, through multiple examples, that this doesn't mean there is, in fact, a lack of self-interest, only that the self-interests can more easily be disguised beneath the Zen ideals of enlightened mind, selflessness and purity. They are also, traditionally, concealed in interpersonal relations with the master, which are heightened during the intensive week or longer meditation retreats (J. sesshin) and, especially so, through private interviews (J. sanzen/dokusan) with the master during these retreats. [23] This type of relationship with its inherent quality of domination is referred to by Pierre Bourdieu, as being "concealed beneath the veil of an enchanted relation." [24]

As this mythology collides with Zen, as it is actually practiced in America, we will see how the mythology is taken at face value, though, of course, with consequences. Though Zen claims it cannot be looked at from the outside, Bourdieu's notion of the "habitus" [25] explains much of how the myth is translated into Zen life in America. Through Zen stories, writings, talks of the master, rituals, history (or, in my view, hagiography), and so on, a field is created where the Zen master is understood to be a selfless perfected being, beyond the understanding of normal mortals. All of this encourages a mindset where students and teacher act and react in particular ways. Throughout the paper I will give examples of how Bourdieu's idea of "habitus" manifests itself in Zen.

In the West, the idealized image of the Zen master is accepted by most westerners who become Zen practitioners. This belief in the ideal may serve the purpose of motivating someone to practice. However, imputing qualities and attainments to people that do not really possess them usually has consequences. These consequences, including psychological, financial and sexual exploitation, will likely be heightened when the context is one of extreme hierarchy, as is the case with Zen. [26] It also makes the master into a disingenuous role player, alienated in Peter L. Berger's sense. [27] In viewing how this Zen dynamic plays out in America, please keep in mind that no living Zen master need ever make claims for his own attainment. Rather, this is done by holding up the great attainment of his teacher and his teacher's hallowed line of ancestors. It is never necessary for any particular Zen master to make claims concerning his/her own level of perfection. The Zen institution does it for him by repeating the claim in the form of stories, koans, rituals,... An environment is created that predisposes both students and masters to act in certain ways. In the end, both fall prey to these fantasies.

It is good to keep in mind that the ritual of Dharma transmission produces dramatic effects. It really changes the transmitted person: first it transforms the understanding others have of him and importantly, the behavior they adopt towards him, not the least being addressed by a title of great respect, that is, roshi in Japanese groups; and second, because it simultaneously changes the understanding the transmitted person has of himself, and the behavior he feels obliged to adopt in order to conform to his new role. [28]

Before proceeding to discuss seven modern Zen masters that reflect this mythologizing, let me say clearly, my purpose is to look at the Zen system and how that system can enable, support and encourage problematic behavior. In so doing I hope to offer a measure of freedom to those manipulated by these mechanisms, whether they are students or Zen roshi themselves.

Through this examination, I will show that it is not just these seven teachers who exhibit some "bad apple" qualities. It is the system that makes this kind of behavior virtually inevitable. As to why students have a need to see their teacher as a perfected being is a question not examined here. [29] Nor is the impact of discovering that one's teacher is not all he is "cracked up to be." Of course, this phenomenon is not limited to Zen. All religions face the contradiction of idealization of their leadership with the fact of their actual lives.

The modern day Zen master is caught in a clash of cultures where order and hierarchy, treasured Eastern values, run headlong into individual freedom, openness, and equality, treasured Western values. As I discuss these seven roshi, I ask the reader to consider the following: Is the Zen master, presented as a perfected being, extraordinary? Or is he just a man, an ordinary one at that?



top of page

 

Notes, part 1

[1] Schopen, Gregory, "Monks and the Relic Cult in the Mahaparinibbasutta: An Old Misunderstanding in Regard to Monastic Buddhism," in From Benares to Beijing: Essays on Buddhism and Chinese Religion, ed. by Koichi Shinohara and Gregory Schopen, Mosaic Press, 1991, p.187.

[2] The terms Zen master and roshi while technically may have different meanings, for the purposes of this paper they will be used interchangeably. Most American Zen students use the terms interchangeably.

[3] Specific examples of this less than exemplary behavior will be given later in the paper.

[4] See Downing, Michael, Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center, Counterpoint, 2001, and Butler, Katy, "Events are the Teacher," The CoEvolution Quarterly, winter 1983, pp. 112-123 [who] discuss the sexual scandals and other problems associated with Richard Baker roshi of the San Francisco Zen Center; while Boucher, Sandy, Turning the Wheel: American Women Creating the New Buddhism, Harper and Row, 1988, pp. 225-235 discusses sexual improprieties associated with Soen Sa Nim, leader and founder of the Kwan Um Zen School in Providence, R.I. [Wikipedia] These are but three examples discussing improprieties with post WWII Zen masters in America. See Victoria, Brian, Zen At War, Weatherhill, 1997 for extending back to the late nineteenth century this closer look at Zen masters in Japan. Importantly, many of the Zen masters Victoria examines were influential in bringing Zen to America. See also papers by the author available on the internet. [See "Timeline of Zen Buddhism in the United States" at Religion.Wiki.Org ]

[5] Since traditionally most roshi have been male, and since all the roshi I refer to are male, I have kept the pronoun "he" through out this paper. This in no way means women cannot be roshi; in fact, the number of female Zen teachers in western countries has increased dramatically in the last twenty years.

[6] Suzuki, D., T., Essays in Zen Buddhism, First Series, Rider & Company, 1949. [pdf at Archive.Org] Kapleau, Philip roshi, The Three Pillars of Zen, Weatherhill, 1965. [pdf at Terebes.Hu] Suzuki, Shunryu, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Weatherhill, 1970. [pdf at Arvindguptatoys.Com] See page 18 of Zen Mind for perhaps the most idealized description of the Zen roshi in the English language.

[7] Heine, Steven and Wright, Dale S., ed. The Koan, Oxford University Press, 2000. [pdf at Terebes.Hu] The book is a wonderful collection of articles on many aspects of the history, use, and development of the koan. For concise instructions from the famous Ch'an master Hsu-yun (1840–1959) on the actual way to practice with a hua t'ou, (Ch. Word-head) a simplified form of the koan used widely in China, see Luk, Charles Ch'an and Zen Teaching, First Series, Rider and Co., 1969, pp. 37–41. [html at Terebes.Hu] Though koans purport to give a verbatim interaction between a Ch'an master and an interlocker, most often a disciple, clearly there was no court stenographer recording the event. The cases are mostly highly redacted, often decades if not hundreds of years later. The current form we have of the Record of Lin-chi (Japanese: Rinzai), supposedly his words and deeds as recorded by his disciples, is from an edition dated 1120. Lin-chi died in 866. Though koans are presented as descriptive of an actual event, they may be viewed as prescriptive, that is, instructing how a Ch'an master should act.

[8] and [18] The development of the story of transmission from the historical Buddha to Mahakasyapa is an illustration of how the Ch'an lineage myth has been constructed over hundreds of years. As the mythology developed, it was felt that the Ch'an lineage could not begin with Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch, or with Bodhidharma, the first Chinese Patriarch, but rather, for credibility, had to begin with Sakyamuni Buddha. A version of the story in a Ch'an text dated 801 CE does not have the Buddha holding a flower or Mahakasyapa's smile, while the true teaching of the Buddha was presented as the collection of sutras preached by the Buddha and recited by Ananda. At this early stage in the creation of the myth, there was an "ambiguous understanding" of the Buddha's true teaching. It was presented as "formless" and subtle," yet it still identified it as verbal, that is, with the canonical tradition as recited by Ananda. Even the important Sung Ch'an transmission record of 1004 did not mention the flower and the smile. The flower and Mahakasyapa's smile is first mentioned in a Ch'an record of transmission in 1036 in a text that also, interestingly, promoted the idea of Ch'an identity as "a special transmission outside the teaching." The first version of the story that explicitly connects "a special transmission outside the teaching" and the wordless holding up a flower and the smile transmission, occurs in an apocryphal text in 1077. Subsequently, this version of the story began to appear in Ch'an transmission records. It reached its full popularity only later in the unique Sung literary form, the collections of kung-an (koan) case studies such as the Gateless Gate (Wu-men kuan), compiled in 1228, where it is Case 6. For the full study, see Albert Welter, "Mahakasyapa's Smile: Silent Transmission and the Kung-an (Koan) Tradition" in The Koan, ed. by Steven Heine and Dale S. Wright, Oxford Press, 2000, pp. 75–109.

[9] This comment about the master being beyond the understanding of ordinary people is standard Zen belief. The author heard the modern day Taiwanese Zen master Shifu Sheng-yen [Wikipedia] proclaim this to his students.

Another part of this model purports that the Tang dynasty was the Golden Age of Ch'an. This model suggests the history of Zen is comprised of the totality of the biographies of enlightened Zen masters. In Chinese Buddhist biographies it is difficult to tell "fact" from "fiction." It is important to note that the verbal interaction presented between masters and their students were colloquial, even some times witty, as opposed to the more formal exchanges in other forms of Buddhism. The physical interaction was looser and some times included rough physical contact along with shouts. Despite the fact that the Tang dynasty was considered the Golden Age of Ch'an, it was in fact during the later Sung dynasty that this model was finalized in form and projected back in time, as if it were developed during the earlier Tang dynasty. Numerous scholars have discussed the many aspects of the construction of Ch'an history, including Cole, Faure, Foulk, McCrae, and Welter to name a few.

[10] Dharma transmission is the formal empowerment by the teacher making his student a new teacher. This places the student in the teacher's mythological unbroken lineage going back to the Buddha.

[11] Zen is considered the most prominent form of Chinese Buddhism because it is the most Confucian. Its most eminent clerics and their patrons were from the literati class. They were all familiar with Confucian rituals, "especially those connected to ancestor worship and its corollary, genealogy." Zen's "pseudo-history was stated in terms of genealogy," that is, Dharma transmission and unbroken lineage, when the study of genealogy in China was at its peak. For an in depth look at the Ch'an/Confucian connection in the T'ang dynasty see, Jorgensen, John, "The 'Imperial' Lineage of Ch'an Buddhism: The Role of Confucian Ritual and Ancestor Worship in Ch'an's Search for Legitimation in the Mid-T'ang Dynasty", Papers on Far Eastern History, 35:89-134, (March 1987).

[12] Theoretically there may have existed, countless Buddhas. The historical Buddha was Shakyamuni; his predecessor supposedly was Dipankara Buddha. The coming Buddha is to be Maitreya. Zen some times refers to the previous Buddhas as the six Buddhas preceding Sakyamuni.

[13] This idea was suggested by Chang, Julia, Mysticism and Kingship in China, Cambridge University press, 1997, p. 209. [html format at epdf.pub]

[14] I am referring here to practice in the sense of being part of a Zen center with a Zen master/roshi as leader and the views and behaviors that develop in being an active member. Some one could practice Zen on their own, but this is a different case from what I am discussing here.

[15] See Pierre Bourdieu, "Rites of the Institution," in his Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press, 1991.

[16] This concise statement and interpretation of Bourdieu's model of religious authority is from Alan Cole, "Simplicity for the Sophisticated: Rereading the Daode Jing for the Polemics of Ease and Innocence," History of Religion, vol. 46 (2006) 13.

[17] [Return to Part 3, Note 62.] There is much written on the many ways Dharma transmission has been understood. See Faure, Bernard, Rhetoric of Immediacy, Princeton University press, 1991, pp. 14, 17, 221, 225 for the surprising uses of Dharma transmission. See Welch, Holmes, Buddhism in China:1900-1950, Harvard University Press, 1967, p. 315 for transmission given to someone without ever having met or knowing if he would accept it. See Bodiford, William M., Soto Zen in Medieval Japan, University of Hawaii Press, 1993, p. 215 for Dharma transmission being only dependent on the ritual of personal initiation, rather than whether the disciple realized enlightenment or not. Also see my paper "Means of Authorization: Establishing Hierarchy in Ch'an/Zen Buddhism in America," a paper delivered at the American Academy of Religion Conference, 1999, pp. 14-18, available on the internet at: [updated link] www.thezensite.com  

[18] Please refer to Note 8 above for remarks on Buddha and Mahakasyapa.

[19] Welch, Holmes, "Dharma Scrolls and the Succession of Abbots in Chinese Monasteries." t'oung Pao International Journal of Chinese Studies, vol.50, 1963, pp. 93–149. Dharma transmission and their accompanying dharma scrolls were used in twentieth-century China in such varied ways that it is difficult to make any generalizations about them. Welch describes two types of dharma scrolls: monastery scrolls that belonged to and remained in the monastery, and private scrolls that belonged to the individual receiving Dharma transmission.

[20] McRae, John R., Seeing Through Zen, University of California Press, 2003, p. 10. See pp. 1-21 for a fresh perspective on lineage and Ch'an Buddhism. McCrae calls pretending to explain Ch'an in terms of lineal succession from one great master to another, the "string of pearls fallacy," where the string of masters are like pearls on a string. He adds, this is a variation on the "great man" fallacy of historical writing. Also see Cole, Alan, [C.V./contact] "It's All in the Framing", a paper given at U.C. Berkeley, March 17th, 2002, for an examination of early Ch'an lineage and truth claims, read from a critical text analysis, rather than reading them "for information about Truth and Practice" or about "historical claims to own truth." For a finely detailed analysis of early Ch'an lineage fabrication see Cole's forthcoming book, Fathering Your Father. [2009, www.ucpress.edu]

[21] Bourdieu, Pierre, Language and Symbolic Power, Harvard University Press, 1991, p. 215.

[22] Ibid, p.219.

[23] It is hard to overemphasize the importance of private interviews with the master, especially so during intensive meditation retreats. While the master sits in his room in meditation pose, the student enters with three bows and then sits in front of the master. Incense is burning; the room is quiet and dimly lit. It is in the privacy of the master's room that the student presents his insight/understanding of Zen. It is here that the master will accept the understanding of the student, dismiss him/her almost immediately with a bell, or give some encouragement, admonition, or hint or help on how to proceed. There may be shouts, physical displays, or pushing and hitting. During intensive retreat, there may be up to five meetings a day. For people doing koan study, these meetings have special immediacy and importance. Koan study and moving the student along through the koan curriculum is a rarely discussed topic that needs further study.

[24] Language and Symbolic Power, p. 24. The enchanted relationship is a form of symbolic violence, in contrast to overt violence; it is gentle, invisible violence chosen as much as undergone. See also pp. 51–52 where Bourdieu points out that symbolic violence can only be exerted on a person predisposed to feel it. It is dependent on the social conditions that produce the intimidator and the intimidated. Symbolic violence is violence wielded with tacit complicity between its victims and its agents, insofar as both remain unconscious of submitting to or wielding it. Bourdieu, Pierre, On Television, The New Press, 1996, p.17.

[25] Language and Symbolic Power,pp. 12-23. Simply put, "The habitus is a set of dispositions which incline agents to act and react in certain ways." The idea of habitus was introduced to avoid the belief that people only act from conscious deliberations or calculation rather than being predisposed to act in certain ways. See also, Bourdieu, Pierre, In Other Words: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology, Stanford University press, 1990, p.131. "Habitus implies a 'sense of one's place' but also a sense of the other's place." [This] has particular meaning in the Zen context where the Zen master is imputed to have unquestioned authority embedded in a hierarchical system imported from East Asia.

[26] Because I have a number of papers available on the internet, I have received many emails from people who feel they were deceived and hurt by Zen teachers. These people, sometimes in extreme distress, often feel confused because they cannot understand how there could be a Zen master and Zen social context that so misled and disempowered them.

[27] Berger, Peter L., The Sacred Canopy, Anchor Books, 1967, pp. 81-101. The section "Religion and Alienation" describes this process well. Berger points out that alienation may become a great source of power as it removes doubts and uncertainties that may cause problems and hesitancy in a non-alienated person.

[28] Language and Symbolic Power, pp.117-126. See especially p.119 where Bourdieu discuss the "process of investiture."

[29] Milgram, Stanley, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, Harper Perennial, 1974. Beyond religion, the work of Stanley Milgram, a social psychologist, strongly suggests that a substantial majority of the population will follow an authority figure. Milgram's work shows that even malevolent authority figures will be obeyed by large numbers of "good" people. See pp. 123-134 "Why Obedience?-An Analysis." Milgram states, "Submission to authority is a powerful and prepotent condition in man." He adds, relevant to our discussion, that in humans "structures of authority are mediated by symbols rather than direct contests of physical strength."

top of page