An analytical look at the identity of Ellen White, the ideological reformer of the Protestant Church of the Seventh-day Adventists
Authors: Mgr. Shestakov V., Rabbit R.
This article offers a psychoanalytic portrait of the personality of Ellen White, reformer of the Protestant Church of Seventh-day Adventists.
Key words: psychological portrait / SDA church reformer
There is no doubt that, when speaking about the creation of new religious institutions, we can’t help but mention the many cases of unusual personalities, reformers and founders of current religious institutions.
It would be very interesting to follow and, if possible, research the information that is usually hidden from the majority of people.
Many faiths disintegrate almost automatically, either because of the death of their founders or because of a change in the perceptions of the prevalent religion.
While analysing the scientific sources regarding the issue, the author was faced with information which proved to be a complete reversal to the previously studied theme. He also found a surprising absence of literature on the subject in question.
For instance George Night, in Helen White’s World, writes about the state of the society in which the prophetess lived (p. 1-3), and gives a synthesis of the historical and scientific facts surrounding her (p. 2-4).
One edition touches only upon the historical components: Helen White’s world before the civil war (chapter 1, p. 3-34), the symbols of the new epoch, and Charles Darwin (chapter 2, p. 35).
Another edition, by Otto Betman, Good Old Times – they were not terrible, contains a lot of illustrations and is not of academic interest.
It is worth mentioning that new religious organizations are social institutions combining modern religion with worldview syncretism, various religious practices and beliefs, and methods of attracting adepts and religious activity in general, while acting synchronically with traditional religious cultures and social customs, etc.
According to the Institute of Studies of American Religions, these organisations are, “groups split from the religious dominations defined as sects. In most cases they follow the traditional denominations but differ from them in strict doctrinal and behavioural requirements to their members and in stressing their difference from the dominant culture.”
One such religious organisation is the SDA church. As mentioned above, it follows the traditional denomination but differs in strict doctrinal and behavioural requirements to its members.
Every church unifies around a saviour or leader, whose power devolves from the church’s weakness. These leaders define and lead the fight.
And, in our absolutely secularised, desarcalised, eschatologicalised world, new saviours such as Moon, Johns, and others, appear (out of the blue).
That’s why the subject of the research is focused on the leader of a religious organisation.
The aim of the research is to study Helen White’s autobiographical works and thus create a psychological portrait of her.
The goal is the analysis of all possible literature sources on the issue studied, to create the psychological portrait and to make conclusions.
The study aims, a) to analyse all the available literary sources relevant to the case, b) to create a psychological portrait, and c) to form a conclusion.
In order to solve the stated goals, the following methods have been used:
Interviews, discussions, and the completion of the Kettel 16-factor personal questionnaire.
To create the psychological portrait I elected to study the personality of Ellen White, spiritual leader of the Protestant Church of Seventh-day Adventists.
I observed a high propensity towards a choleric nature.
Ellen White shows a strong leaning towards being a pedantic type of character, though, at the same time, she displays some ostentation, determined by her ability to embrace other characters and to understand other people. Typically, her responsibility and foresight enables her to avoid different kinds of excess.
With positive social development such a personality can become a wonderful writer, actor, teacher or social worker, thanks to the ability to understand a collective image.
The personality has mostly general abilities determining a disposition to quite a wide range of activities, formed by development of the intellect and the person’s peculiarity determined by her individuality.
The general peculiarities include a readiness to work, the need to work, industriousness, and a high working capacity.
Character features include: attentiveness, recollection, purposefulness, observation, creative thinking development, semantic mental flexibility, ability to orient in difficult situations, adaptability, and high productivity of mental activity.
General abilities form the social-psychological basis of special skills in a definite type of activity, for example, musical, research, teaching, etc.
Personal orientation necessarily includes many structures, such as one’s activity, behaviour and life satisfaction.
The orientation of the studied person is aimed at the tasks and communications that are determined by satisfying social needs, and the necessity of expressing oneself and putting into practice creative abilities.
A well-known Soviet psychologist, S.L. Rubenstein, considered intellect as a type of human behaviour – “clever behaviour”. The core of intellect is a personʼs ability to distinguish essential features in a situation and adjust his behaviour to accommodate it.
Intellect is a system of psychic processes enabling oneʼs ability to assess a situation, take decisions and adjust his behaviour accordingly. One should remember that intellect is perception plus action. Therefore, one should not only be able to develop all types of intellect but be able also to put into practice rational decisions, to show their intellect both in words and deeds, as it is recognised that besides perception there is also a professional and social intellect: the ability to solve problems of interpersonal relations and to find a rational solution.
In our case, based on memoirs and chronology, we can presuppose the presence of a high social intellect of the studied person. It should be stressed that intellect is especially important in substandard situations as a symbol of a personʼs ability to study all that is new.
An extrovert internal type is manifested.
- Qualities of volition.
Developed self-control and accuracy of performing social demands. The studied person follows her beliefs, controls her emotions and behaviour, and follows each case to its conclusion. She is characterised by purposefulness and integration, and the urge to protect. It is reasonable to talk about the (her) developed ability to empathise, sympathise, and show compassion and understanding toward others.
- Communicative skills
The person possesses a nature that is open, kind-hearted and sociable, characterised by the naturalness and easiness in her behaviour, attentiveness, kindness and soft-heartedness in relations. Ready to work with people, active in solving conflicts, trustful and unafraid of criticism, Ellen White’s positive emotions, tactfulness and resignation, enable her to actively respond to all situations.
- Emotionality and dynamics
Communication and her belief in success lead to situations in which she often becomes an enthusiastic leader of group activity.
Preferring her own decisions, she is independent and leads the way. Although she takes decisions and acts on her own, she is not always dominant, i.e., she does not ache to impose her opinion on others. It would be incorrect to say that the studied person does not like people. However, she finds their approval or support unnecessary.
- Self-control level
The studied person is mature, hard-working, emotionally mature and realistic. She is able to follow group demands and is characterised by her continuity of interests. She does not suffer from nervous exhaustion. In extreme cases she may exhibit rigidity and insensibility, and a tendency to hypochondria and tiredness. Disavowal of interests is not observed.
- Ability to co-operate in group
It should be mentioned that, for the studied person, social contacts are emotionally essential. There is also indication of a strong intent for business.
The person is characterised by social courage, activeness, readiness to deal with unknown circumstances and people, and a patience and ability to get on well with others. She is free from envy, easy to deal with and works well in a team.
In conclusion, with reference to the completed analysis of the studied personʼs character and independent from social and worldview sentences, we can state that Ellen White’s personality benefits greatly from the observed positive characteristics.