In contrast, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as Lancaster Dodd is relaxed, smooth, and almost totally without gimmick. It’s the most natural portrayal of a completely artificial man you’ll probably ever see. The founder of a quasi-religion and self-help movement vaguely resembling Scientology, Dodd is an obvious fraud, such an obvious fraud, in fact, that it’s hard to believe anyone, even a madman like Quell, would buy the snake oil he’s selling. But he’s also such a genial and charming rogue and is enjoying his own con game so much that people can’t help wanting to join the fun. Nobody, not even Dodd, knows what’s going to happen next. Brought back from a hypnotic “trance” in which Dodd has supposedly placed her in order for her to re-experience a past life, one of his dupes or disciples---same difference---eagerly prompts him for the right responses to his questions as if she’s afraid she might spoil the game by making up the wrong answer. Dodd’s own son tells Quell that Dodd is making it up as he goes. But that’s part of the fun.
But along with the fun and games, Dodd is making something else up as he goes or, rather, somebody. Himself.
It’s more than that Dodd is caught up in his own con to the point of forgetting it is a con. He is the con. That is, the object of the whole charade is to create the persona of Lancaster Dodd. Dodd calls his movement the Cause. But the Cause is the cause of his existence. It brings him to life. We don’t know what would happen to him without it, if people stopped believing in the Cause and in him, except that he would cease to be Lancaster Dodd, and whatever not being Lancaster Dodd is, Hoffman lets us see that it’s horrible enough to terrify him in moments of doubt and repellent enough that the slightest doubt on the part of any disciple enrages him.---from my review of The Master, Caution: Genius at Work.