She said, under the trees after the talk, that she had come to listen in case the teacher of teachers spoke. She had been very earnest, but now that earnestness had become obstinacy. This obstinacy was covered over by smiles and by reasonable tolerance, a tolerance that had been very carefully thought out and cultivated; it was a thing of the mind and so could be inflamed into violent, angry intolerance. She was big and soft-spoken; but there lurked condemnation, nourished by her convictions and beliefs. She was suppressed and hard, but had given herself over to brotherhood and to its good cause. She added, after a pause, that she would know when the teacher spoke, for she and her group had some mysterious way of knowing it, which was not even to others. The pleasure of exclusive knowledge was so obvious in the way she said it, in the gesture and the tilt of the head.
Exclusive, private knowledge offers deeply satisfying pleasure. To know something that others do not know is a constant source of satisfaction; it gives one the feeling of being in touch with deeper things which afford prestige and authority. You are directly in contact, you have something which others have not, and so you are important, not only to yourself, but to others. The others look up to you, a little apprehensively, because they want to share what you have; but you give, always knowing more. You are the leader, the authority; and this position comes easily, for people want to be told, to be led. The more we are aware that we are lost and confused, the more eager we are to be guided and told; so authority is built up in the name of the State, in the name of religion, in the name of a Master or a party leader.
The worship of authority, whether in big or little things, is evil, the more so in religious matters. There is no intermediary between you and reality; and if there is one, he is a perverter, a mischief maker, it does not matter who he is, whether the highest saviour or your latest guru or teacher. The one who knows does not know; he can know only his own prejudices, his self-projected beliefs and sensory demands. He cannot know truth, the immeasurable. position and authority can be built up, cunningly cultivated, but not humility. Virtue gives freedom; but cultivated humility is not virtue, it is mere sensation and therefore harmful and destructive; it is a bondage, to be broken again and again.
It is important to find out, not who is the Master, the saint, the leader, but why you follow.
Commentaries on Living Series I
Chapter 28 'Authority'