Charisma and charismatic: what kind of energy is it?

Charisma, carma, Crishna, Cristo, crisma and caritas posses the same Sanskrit root, kri or kir. It refers to the cosmic energy that refines and vitalizes, penetrates and rejuvenates all. It is a force that attracts and fascinates the spirit. A person does not posses charisma: the person is possessed by charisma. It is as if the person, regardless of personal merit, is possessed by a force that irradiates to others, astonishing them: if they are talking, they become silent; if they are focused on something, their attention turns to the charismatic person. Charisma is something surprising. It is in humans, but it does not come from them. It comes from something higher and superior. Nietzsche says that when he was hiking in the Alps he would be possessed by a force that would make him write. It was something other that used him. Nietzsche would take his notebook and write down his best intuitions.

Anthropologists introduced the word mana, taken from the Melanesian culture. The mana-personality irradiates an extraordinary and irresistible power that, without violence, imposes itself on others. It attracts, enthuses, fascinates, commands. In our Western tradition, it is the equivalent of charisma.

Who are the charismatic? In fact, everyone is. No one is denied that cosmic force of presence and attraction. We all carry within something of the stars whence we come. The life of every person is called to shine, according to what a singer says, to be charismatic in one way or another. Jose Marti, the Cuban thinker, one of the best of Latin America, put it well: there are human beings who are like stars, they generate their own light, while others reflect the brightness they receive from them. Some are suns, others, moons. No one is outside the light, be it their own, or reflected. In the end, all of us are in the light to shine.

But there are charismatics and charismatics. In some, this force of irradiation implodes and explodes. They are like a light shining in the night. They attract the gaze of everyone. All the bishops and cardinals could have paraded before the gathered faithful; there could have been impressive figures from the intelligentsia, of administrative capacity and apostolic zeal, but when he was still with us, all eyes would have been fixed on Dom Helder Camara, an eminent carrier of charisma. His figure was insignificant. He looked like a suffering servant without beauty or adornment. But from him emanated a force of tenderness that, together with the vigor of his words, was softly imposed on all.

Many can speak, and there are good speakers who attract attention. But let the emeritus bishop of Sao Felix do Araguaia talk. His voice is hoarse and sometimes it almost disappears. But in that voice there is such strength and persuasion that people are left agape. It is charisma that makes a fragile and weak bishop appear to be a giant. Today almost unable to speak, due to advanced Parkinson’s disease, his writings and poetry have the strength of fire. He is a magnificent poet.

There are politicians who are capable and great administrators. The majority masterfully handle the spoken word. But let Lula rise to the lectern facing the multitudes. He begins to speak softly, assumes a narrative tone, and searches for the best way to communicate. Slowly he gains strength, surprising connections emerge, the line of argument acquires the correct framework, the volume of his voice rises, his eyes become incandescent, his movements modulate his speech, and at a given moment his whole body is in communication, argumentation, and communion with the multitude, that goes from boisterous to silent and from silent to petrified, then, in the culminating moment, erupts in shouts of applause and enthusiasm. It is emanating charisma. It matters little the opinion we may have of his eight years of governance. In Lula the presence of charisma cannot be denied.

Not for nothing Max Weber, scholar of the charismatic power, calls it «the nascent state». Each time it emerges, the charisma seems to call forth the creation of the world within the charismatic person or mana-personality. The function of the charismatics is to be midwife to the latent charisma within others. Their mission is not to dominate them with their splendor, nor seduce them so that the people follow them blindly, but to awaken them from their every day lethargy. And, when they awaken, that they discover that every day life has within it secrets, novelties, and hidden energies that can always be awakened and can give new meaning of brilliance to life, to our short passage through this universe.

Let everyone discover the star that left its light and its imprint within. And if they are faithful to the light, they will shine, and others will perceive it enthusiastically.

Free translation from the Spanish sent by
Melina Alfaro,,

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