Early Historical Forerunners

Mention of paranoid conditions predates even the writings of Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago. Translated literally from its Greek origin, the term means "out of one's mind" and was used in ancient times as a general designation for madness. Stone (1997) suggests that it is possible that certain religious prophets of the Old Testament exhibited paranoid characteristics, though he notes that this is perhaps better left undetermined. Certainly, Yahweh's injunction in the first commandment, "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me," appears appropriate at a point in history when tribal cohesion was a prerequisite for cultural survival and suggests that paranoid ideologies are more likely to arise whenever the collective identity of the group is threatened.

The notion that God is a jealous God and that those who follow other belief systems will burn in Hell forever for disobeying the Almighty smacks of righteous indignation and the lack of good humor typical of paranoid patterns. Paradoxically, it would seem that divine omnipotence and narcissistic injury go hand in hand, at least where God is concerned. What an insult it is when those you have created no longer wish to worship you. In contemporary times, such spiritual artifacts have a kind of desperate in-group versus out-group flavor reminiscent of the loyalty and fidelity that paranoids demand, something strangely misplaced in an era of multiculturalism and religious tolerance. Such points, of course, are highly controversial. At least where religion is concerned, one person's paranoid is another's prophet or god (see "Focus on Culture: Paranoid Conditions and Cult Leaders").

Medical references to paranoid conditions disappeared in the second century, only to resurface in the 1700s. Following the proposals of Kahlbaum (1882), Kraepelin narrowed the meaning of the term paranoia in 1896 by restricting it to highly systematized and well-contained delusions in subjects without other personality deterioration. He believed that perhaps 40% of those with paranoid delusions ultimately deteriorated to dementia praecox, most of the remainder decompensated to a "paraphrenic" level of bizarre thoughts and perceptual hallucinations, and only a very small proportion did not deteriorate at all. For the early Kraepelin, the paranoid personality was simply one station on the road to dementia praecox. Such individuals were thus classified together with all other deteriorated syndromes.

Not until the eighth edition of his famous text did Kraepelin address the premorbid character of persons disposed to paranoid conditions, now explicitly termed paranoid personalities. Kraepelin (1921) noted classic characteristics such as mistrust; continuous feelings of being treated unjustly, of being interfered with and oppressed, and of secret coalitions working against the person; keen interest in secret motives and intrigues; an emotional irritability and discontented mood; faultfinding; and an excessive valuation of the self—all characteristics found in our case of Ron. Nevertheless, Krae-pelin continued to regard the paranoid personality as existing on a continuum with more severe paranoid psychoses. Over three-quarters of a century later, the empirical research on this question is still equivocal.

In the first several decades of the twentieth century, other theorists formulated constructs similar to our contemporary paranoid personality. Birnbaum (1909) spoke of paranoids as possessing overvalued ideas heavily charged with emotion. Bleuler (1906) asserted that individuals with a paranoid constitution would fall short of a delusional system. Others, who do not misinterpret life events more than normal persons, he maintained, instead exhibit a resistance to change leading to a rigidification in their beliefs and, ultimately, a paranoid delusional system. Like Bleuler, Meyer (1908) held that paranoids do not adjust their beliefs to the facts. However, he also noted their inclination to isolate themselves and their resistance to the efforts of others to influence their misinterpretations. Schneider (1923/1950) spoke of two types of the fanatic psychopath. The

Focus on Culture

Paranoid Conditions and Cult Leaders Paranoid Personality, Charisma, and Interpersonal Influence

In a study of the paranoid personality, Hampton and Burnham (1990) explore the character of the Reverend Jim Jones, the cult leader famous for the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 people died, including almost 300 children, most by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid.

As noted by these authors, Jones showed signs of pathology from early in life. As a 6-year-old, he often greeted his next-door neighbor, a university professor, by saying, "Good morning, you son-of-a-bitch." His mother was a factory worker; his father, a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He graduated from college in 1961 and was ordained in 1964. He bought churches in Los Angeles and San Francisco, building a congregation dazzled by oratory and religious claims. He worked hard at instilling terror into his congregation, describing his divinely inspired vision of the coming nuclear holocaust. Claiming sometimes to be the spirit of Christ and sometimes that of Lenin, he preached the virtues of socialism and persuaded his flock to empty their pockets into the coffers of the People's Temple.

Yet, Jones also did good things, such as establishing soup kitchens and social programs and adopting seven children. Such ostensibly altruistic acts allowed Jones to present an extraordinary face to the world. Eventually, he was awarded the title "Humanitarian of the Year" by the Los Angeles Herald.

As his paranoia began to amplify, Jones decided to relocate his command center to Guyana. Almost 1,000 members of his church followed him, and together they founded Jonestown, a safe haven from nuclear holocaust and the persecution of groups back in the United States. Far from creating a heaven on earth, Jones stripped his followers of all autonomy, imposing "a regimen of terror, physical punishment, beatings, exhaustion, emotional dependency, and tyranny" (Hampton & Burnham, 1990, p. 79). Eventually, Jones became convinced that he was being persecuted by unseen forces, particularly the CIA. Those who disagreed with him, he said, would be killed.

The paranoid personality traits of Jones are easy to identify. From an early age, Jones was secretly grandiose. In the era of his Los Angeles and San Francisco churches, for example, he identified himself with the spirit of Christ. Later, he claimed privileged access to special knowledge, his visions of a nuclear war. Entangled with his grandiosity was a lust for power, a deep suspiciousness of those "on the outside," demands for absolute loyalty, severe punishments for breaking this loyalty, and the elevation of his own need for loyalty to the level of religious dogma. The smallest disagreement was treason. To sustain his appetite for domination, Jones worked hard to create strong in-group/out-group feelings in his flock, especially a sense that the end was always near. This he followed up with techniques of mind control, sleep-depriving his followers, and working them to exhaustion. Given his grandiosity, Jones appears as a mix of the paranoid and narcissistic personality disorders, an especially powerful combination for the aspiring charismatic cult leader.

combative type is expansive, aggressive, and actively quarrelsome. They complain bitterly about past injustices and may seek retribution through litigation. In contrast, the eccentric type is quietly suspicious, makes hidden assumptions about the motives of others, and is supposedly drawn to the beliefs of secretive sects. Ron would appear to combine aspects of both of Schneider's types.

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