The Relationship with Authority

Conversion and the Quest for the Perfect Father
  • Chana Ullman
Part of the Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy book series (EPPS)


The members of the People’s Temple cult who committed collective murder/suicide in their agricultural haven in Guayana addressed Jim Jones, the cult’s founder and destroyer, as “Daddy.” “Dad knows best,” “Just do as Dad tells you,” and “Forgive me, Father” were frequently repeated in the letters and interviews they left behind. Indeed, the Temple members accepted Jim Jones as their only father, re-creating in this relationship the total dependence of a helpless infant on the perfect parent. Like a child eager for the protection and approval of a parent perceived as omnipotent, they totally submitted to Jones’ authority and swallowed without reservation his increasingly deranged vision of the menacing outside forces out to destroy their haven. In his account of the rise and fall of the Guayana commune, Naipaul (1981) describes this relationship:

Jim Jones was the axis about which the Temple revolved. The Temple was not devoted to abstract ideas and principles. It was not love as such or compassion as such that redeemed but Jim Jones’ love, Jim Jones’ compassion. (p. 229)


Male Child Religious Experience Biological Father Authority Figure Absent Father 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chana Ullman
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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