We made the Editor’s Pick in New Scientist’s letters section this week. Here is the full text of the letter, the slightly abbreviated version can be seen here, with a link to the original article and to the Open Minds Foundation.
Thanks for an excellent article on awe (NS 3136). At the Open Minds Foundation we work to educate people about human predators and their methods of seduction and recruitment. Your article focuses on the potential benefits of awe, but we’d like to highlight the potential perils.
The induction of awe – or a peak experience – is often an aspect of cult recruitment. The Nazis were well aware of this, and Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will and Olympia exemplify the deliberate use of awe to bind followers to the group’s beliefs. In colonial Africa, the British used firework displays to incite awe in the locals as part of the domination of that continent, and many cult leaders induce awe in potential recruits as part of their indoctrination.
Our board member Yuval Laor made awe and fervour the topic of his PhD thesis, and we hope to help with further research into this fascinating and neglected emotion,
Jon Atack, Open Minds Foundation