I've always believed that everything that is said from authority is either the authority of one's own heart, one's own brain, one's own reading, one's own trust, but not the authority of someone who claims it because they're speaking for God and they know the truth because it's written in a book. That, essentially, is where I come from. In a sense, tolerance is my religion. Reason is my religion.
In a culture of technique, we often confuse authority with power, but the two are not the same. Power works from the outside in, but authority works from the inside out. . . . I am painfully aware of the times in my own teaching when I lose touch with my inner teacher and therefore with my own authority. In those times I try to gain power by barricading myself behind the podium and my status while wielding the threat of grades. . . . Authority comes as I reclaim my identity and integrity, remembering my selfhood and my sense of vocation.
Self-confidence is inseparable from submission to the creedal order, and through that order, to the supreme authority expressed in that order. ... Deep individualism cannot exist except in relation to the highest authority. No inner discipline can operate without a charismatic institution, nor can such an institution survive without that supreme authority from a relation to whom self-confidence derives. Without an authority deeply installed, there is no foundation for individuality. Self-confidence thus expresses submission to supreme authority.
The reason why the simpler sort are moved with authority, is the consciousness of their own ignorance; whereby it cometh to pass that having learned men in admiration, they rather fear to dislike them than know wherefore they should allow and follow their judgments. Contrariwise with them that are skilful authority is much more strong and forcible; because they only are able to discern how just cause there is why to some men's authority so much should be attributed.
There is a great difference, then, between "power" and "authority." Power refers to one's ability to coerce others (through physical, economic, or other means) to do one's bidding. One can possess the means of power: physical strength, armaments, and money. But authority must be performed. Authority refers to one's ability to gain the trust and willing obedience of others. While power rests on intimidation, authority survives through inspiration.
Put away the book, the description, the tradition, the authority, and take the journey of self-discovery. Love, and don't be caught in opinions and ideas about what love is or should be. When you love, everything will come right. Love has its own action. Love, and you will know the blessings of it. Keep away from the authority who tells you what love is and what it is not. No authority knows and he who knows cannot tell. Love, and there is understanding.
I'm happy to respect authority when it's genuine authority, based on moral or intellectual or even technical superiority. I'm eager to follow a hero if we can find one. But I tend to resist or evade any kind of authority based merely on the power to coerce. Government, for example. The Army tried to train us to salute the uniform, not the man. Failed. I will salute the man, maybe, if I think he's worthy of it, but I don't salute uniforms anymore.
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