This term comes from the books of Carlos Castaneda. The Seers believed that a Tyrant was in charge of the world. On Earth, then, impossible people in authoritarian positions, which one has to deal with in life, were assigned the classification of "Petty Tyrants". There were several subcategories of Petty Tyrants, as outlined by the Seer Don Juan in "The Fire from Within":
I. TYRANT: primal source of energy, ruler of the universe.
A. Petty Tyrants -tyrannical rulers or authoritarian persons who actually hold power over life or death of others.
B. Minor Petty Tyrants - Tormentors who are fearsome and inflict misery, but do not hold any real power over life or death of others. (two subcategories :)
1. Little Petty Tyrants - (Four types :) a. Torments with violence and cruelty b. Torments by inducing fear through deviousness c. Torments by subjugate another through sadness d. Torments by making another act in anger rage. 2. Teensy-weensy Petty tyrants/Small-Fry Petty Tyrants: tormentors who are just frustrating, exasperating and annoy to distraction.
Many people fall victim to the Petty Tyrants of the world and being defeated by one means a loss of one's vital energies. The Seer Don Juan explained to Castaneda that it was the task of Warriors to learn to face these Petty Tyrants with temperance and to prevail against their torments. Dealing with Petty Tyrants called for four qualities of warriorship: control, discipline, forbearance and timing. Whereas to be defeated meant to act in anger, and potentially join the ranks of the Petty Tyrants.
This hierarchical structure proposed by Carlos Castaneda is analogous to the STS pyramid in the Cassiopean Material. The STS hierarchy is imbedded within a hyperdimensional reality, with the apex of the pyramid being the STS thought center of Non-Being. At the lower levels, within fourth and third densities, the various classifications of Petty Tyrants are explained as organic portals or psychopaths who channel through them the energies of the "Tyrant". It is the task of seekers of knowledge to be able to hold their own vis-à-vis people/petty tyrants in our lives who (often unconsciously) seek to distract, derail or deplete seeker's reserves of energies through manipulation.
To illustrate the point, Castaneda's Don Juan tells the story of his servitude as a worker in a mansion, under the supervision of a brutish slave driver who regularly worked his captives to death. He escapes once, gets shot and is healed by his to be teacher and master. Years later, Don Juan returns, following his master's advice and of his own accord to the house in order to derive further benefit from the petty tyrant. This time, Don Juan plays the role of a hard worker and devout Christian, to the point of leading a prayer circle among the servants. He attracts the attention of the owners of the plantation by his service and initiative, which can only infuriate the slave driver who thenceforth seeks for any opportunity to murder Don Juan. Finally, in the presence of the people of the house, including the owner's wife, he insults the slave driver and flees into the stables. The furious man pursues him there and is kicked to death by a horse.
The point is made quite clear: Toiling without complaining under the supervision of a brute given to excess and violence and doing so without fear or resentment, simply biding one's time certainly develops control over impulses, rids one of excess self-importance or vanity. Deliberately irritating the supervisor by reacting in an unexpected manner, being pious and exemplary and gaining favor constitutes stalking, where Don Juan effectively drives his quarry, the slave driver, to higher and higher levels of irritation and thoughtlessness, eventually leading up to him losing control of himself and running to his death. The final act is an example of perfect timing, recognizing and seizing the opportunity. Doing all this in a deliberate manner, biding one's time until the right moment, all the while adapting to the situation cultivates patience and forebearance. Don Juan takes refuge in a 'higher law' by not engaging the slave driver at his own level in a fight and by doing all in broad daylight, eventually leading to the exposure and demise of the slave driver.
In Castaneda's book, Don Juan even says that if one does not have a petty tyrant to begin with, one must go seek one out. In practice, diverse levels of petty tyrants occur naturally. They cannot always be confronted directly or bypassed. Castaneda gives an outline for how such a situation can be turned around and used as a catalyst for growth and how one can expose the petty tyrant while oneself maintaining the higher ground.
We can compare Castaneda's precepts to Gurdjieff's. Gurdjieff does not directly advise people to go seek impossible persons in position of power but he certainly made his way past many such on his adventures, for example during the exodus from under the Russian revolution. Gurdjieff is no stranger to using concrete danger, chaotic circumstance and the idea of death as a catalyst for spiritual development. Gurdjieff also speaks of the value of maintaining external considering in difficult situations. We can see the petty tyrant as a source of friction, shocks and negative emotions to be transformed.
Gurdjieff does not go as far as to saying that one should find a brute and manipulate him to run to his death simply because one can, as a show of mastery, though.
Castaneda makes valid remarks on dealing with danger and persecution and the allegoric story of the petty tyrant can be an inspiration. We enter into difficulties however if we try to apply it too literally.
See Laura Knight-Jadczyk's "Adventures with the Cassiopeans and Carlos Castaneda's "The Fire from Within for further information.