Malignant Narcissism: A Stage Production
Azar Nafisi, an Iranian professor of literature, teaching now at Johns Hopkins University recently book, Reading Lolita in Tehran. It is about the years she lived in Iran under the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini. She tells how she held onto her identity and kept critical thinking alive by forming a group of her women students to study great works of modern literature together. She says:
A stern Ayatollah, a blind and improbable philosopher king, had decided to impose his dream on a country and a people and to re-create us in his own myopic vision. So he had formulated an ideal of me as a Muslim woman, as a Muslim woman teacher, and wanted me to look, act and in short live according to that ideal1.
Modern fiction brings out the evil in domestic lives, ordinary relations, people like you and me...Evil in [Jane] Austen, as in most great fiction, lies in the inability to 'see' others, hence to empathize with them. What is frightening is that this blindness can exist in the best of us...as well as the worst....We are all capable of...imposing our visions and desires on others.2
George and Betty Geftakys similarly created the Assembly to embody their vision--a "heavenly vision" of the perfect New Testament church, a candlestick of pure gold. George constantly reminded us and instructed us about this "heavenly vision" in his Bible studies, seminars and publications.
But there was another factor at work in the Assembly. Not only was there an ideal, it was driven by George Geftakys' extreme narcissism.
One of the characteristics of narcissism is insistence on a perfect image. George's self-image of perfection is apparent in many and diverse ways. His braggadocio and his vanity are obvious expressions. But on a deeper lever, he often brags, "I haven't sinned in weeks", or "months". On at least one occasion he told someone, "I haven't sinned in 10 years."
I submit that George and Betty envisioned and created the Assembly to be a projection of Georges' self-image of perfection. It was a church built "according to the heavenly pattern" that expressed the mind of God, to prove their goodness and superior spirituality.
They made sure their Assemblies included all the activities of normal Christianity - prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship, witnessing, outreach, fellowship. Everything was more and better than other churches. Everything was supported by Bible verses. The many standard hymns of the faith buttressed the impression that everything was orthodox. It all looked wonderful, a dream church.
But essentially it was a fantasy, a drama, produced and directed by George and Betty, to enact their fantasy that he was a great man of God. George played the lead role, of course, but the drama was largely played out by the supporting cast of sincere people with whom he surrounded himself. We were George's disguise of godliness. As Azar Nafisi says, "We had become the figment of someone else's dreams."
We experienced a terrible downside to this charade. The production wore us out and poisoned us, causing severe sickness of soul, and even of body for some. George's doctrines of "the Testimony" and "the Inheritance" made us willing to attempt a perfect performance. His misapplied teaching on "going the way of the cross" ensured that we kept on performing, to our spiritual and emotional and physical and financial and relational detriment.
This was the malignancy of his narcissism. He sacrificed our well-being to enact his narcissistic fantasy, to perpetuate his guise of godliness. Peck says of the evil, in People of the Lie, "They cause suffering. The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society."3
1Reading Lolita in Tehran, p. 165.p.
2Ibid, p. 315.
3 P. 124.
Narcissism Part 1 Malignant Narcissism: Excerpts from People of the Lie
Narcissism Part 2: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
Could There Have Been a Few Sociopaths among Us?
Cult of the Narcissist
Emotional Abuse, Verbal Abuse - the Very Early Warning Signs
The Abuser's Body Language
Liars' Brains Are Wired Differently