The Science of Evil
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil
to one who is striking at the root.”
– Henry David Thoreau in Walden
These and other related pernicious phenomena have perpetually persisted for millennia, assuming various forms in each generation to thwart anew the dream for a sustainably healthy world. A diverse range of people, motivated by a combination of principled conscience, self-interest and concern for those that they care about, have taken an interest in, investigated or worked to help resolve these issues. This range includes experts in a variety of fields who have carried out, to the best of their abilities, scientific studies focused on understanding and discovering solutions to each of these challenges. Yet, despite the investment of all of this energy by so many, humanity has been unable to reduce their impact significantly enough to achieve the type of lasting peace, harmony and justice that we assume all of us desire.
Why is this?
Perhaps we can gain some insight into the reasons behind this abiding failure by considering the fact that all of these stubbornly enduring phenomena share something in common. They all involve harmful, destructive behavior that challenges assumptions about the core good of all and, thus, all raise timeless and crucial questions about the force that we call “evil.”
- What do we mean when we use the word evil?
- Which entities, actions or phenomena qualify to be described as evil?
- Are certain environments or settings more or less conducive to the emergence or perpetuation of evil?
- How do various manifestations of evil interconnect and feed back on each other?
- To what extent is destructiveness in our world inevitable as opposed to preventable?
- To what extent is the destructiveness in our world accidental as opposed to consciously and willfully carried out or enabled or unnecessarily tolerated?
- To what extent are human beings responsible for provoking, carrying out, enabling or unnecessarily tolerating evil?
- Why do certain people, groups and institutions exhibit a strong predilection for harmful, cruel, destructive or neglectful behavior?
- Why do some experience apathy or even pleasure upon encountering evil, while others find it disdainful and resist it?
- How do those who lack conscience influence others close to them?
- How can we better recognize those who promote or enable evil to take place?
- To what extent can and should humans work to prevent or resist evil?
- When indicated, how can we best do this?
Yet, though we regularly apply science in examining the demographic, sociological, psychological and physical causes, characteristics and consequences of these symptomatic problems, we far too often fail to apply it in examining the meaning, sources, enabling factors and dynamics of evil itself or in inquiring into optimal strategic approaches to it.
Instead, many view and engage with the subject from a variety of non-scientific or even anti-scientific perspectives:
- Some simply philosophize about evil, treating it as an abstract, rather than practical, matter.
- Some principally focus on evil through literature or art in which it is portrayed as a shadowy mystical or, at times, even romantic force.
- Some are drawn to and stubbornly cling to unsupported, oversimplified explanations or wild conspiracy theories.
- Some take a theological approach, framing evil as the product of vague supernatural agents such as spirits or demons.
- Some relate to evil primarily emotionally, experiencing or expressing sentiments, in regard to it or its manifestations, ranging from deep sadness to furious rage.
- Some mainly relate to evil moralistically, experiencing themselves as proudly superior to “wrong-doers,” stridently demanding righteous behavior from others and even impulsively advocating for aggressive or violent revenge against those who do not comply.
- Some say that we can simply never truly understand the origins and nature of evil.
- Some, for a variety of reasons, refuse to even discuss the topic.
And all of these cases can involve a sometimes egotistical refusal to risk the shattering experience that can result from thoroughly considering whether one’s impression of evil may be incorrect or incomplete.
It is understandable that we take some of these approaches to the issue of evil. It may be that we evolved to most naturally consider the issue through these lenses and in these terms and many of our traditions reinforce these ways of viewing it. Perhaps these ways of thinking will always play at least some role. And in the past, when our knowledge and tools were more limited, we may have had an excuse to only employ these approaches.
But our situation has changed drastically.
We no longer live in the environment or situation in which such views evolved and to which they are suited. Human systems arrangements have been revolutionized. Our shift from a relatively small number of people living sporadically in small tribes to a quickly growing mass of billions of people, living extremely hierarchically in mostly highly dense urban settings, has helped to drive scientific progress, enabling the development of more and more potent technologies, which in turn support more and more extensive and interconnected power structures, financial systems and communication networks. The continuous mutual advancement of these technologies and complexes has, in some respects, improved our lives. But it has also fueled a sort of ever-accelerating “arms race” in which the stakes are continuously raised.
On one hand, the march of civilization has transformed the nature of the dangers we face, creating opportunities for forms and scales of destructiveness not previously seen. New tools and structures and the connections between them have introduced new vulnerabilities, allowing misguided or malicious people, in smaller and smaller groups or even as lone individuals, to pose greater and novel types of threats ever more easily and to spread their ill intent faster and farther than ever before. While evil has, in some form, always had influence within our world, modern ways of life have both amplified and diversified its potential impact.
On the other hand, luckily, the improved science that has emerged from the increased interconnectedness and specialization of human systems has also strengthened our potential for countering these new and magnified threats. It offers us more relevant objective knowledge than we previously had and far more options and tools for investigation, prevention and protection.
In the face of these enormous, complex developments in our capacities both to foster harm and to promote care, ways of thinking about evil that may have served us in our evolutionary past are not, in and of themselves, serving us very well in this new environment. For, they, alone, are no longer capable of generating sufficient or optimally workable solutions.
As those with malicious intent increasingly employ the insight and fruits of science to exploit newly created or discovered weak spots in our social and ecological systems, it is more desperately important than ever that we who value health and sustainability keep pace by at least attempting to employ its tools and techniques just as vigorously in defense of ourselves and those we care about. We must apply the power of that same science that enables technological advancement toward achieving a similar level of advancement in our understanding of why and how destructive evil acts continue to take place. This includes the pursuit of ethics as a science in order to ensure that, as we consider matters that are responsible for such vast suffering, we are not unnecessarily laboring under flawed conceptions and assumptions and, as a result, responding in ways that are ineffective or that even make situations worse.
Unfortunately, it appears that a gap may be widening as the malicious accelerate their application of science for ill intent faster than those valuing health and sustainability are accelerating its application to addressing the core issue of evil itself. While we certainly do apply science and our improved knowledge much more frequently in attempting to directly counter specific malicious threats, we are not using it nearly enough in aiming to understand, as objectively as possible, what really underlies malice, destructiveness, wastefulness and neglect, develop the type of terminology necessary to accurately discuss them and determine how best to respond. It is likely that this gap relates deeply to what Einstein meant when he stated that “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
It is crucial that we close this gap.
In fact, it is so important that we attain greater understanding, promote new ways of communicating and discover more accurate and complete answers in regards to the aforementioned questions about evil that, not only should we apply science to this task, but we need an entire scientific discipline devoted to the task. A discipline in which professionals with backgrounds in fields ranging from psychology, psychiatry and other areas of medicine to public health, from sociology to history, from biology to law and education contribute to designing and carrying out serious studies utilizing our most powerful tools and techniques to investigate all aspects of that which we consider evil.
Luckily, I found out that just such a discipline already exists.
Consideration and investigation after previous painful experiences had already led me to strongly consider and promote awareness of the role of conditions such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) in the genesis and propagation of harmful activity. So I did have some insight into what might explain the behavior I was observing. But this new situation was a bit more extreme than those I had encountered in the past. And, as a result, I was led to read about more extreme conditions such as psychopathy and sadism in a search for deeper understanding.
In the course of researching these topics, I happened upon mention of the term ponerology.
What is Ponerology?
- Discover the general laws of the genesis of evil, also known as ponerogenesis, at all levels of human systems – from the family, group and societal levels to the national and global levels
- Develop the proper categories and working vocabulary to technically name and explain the factors involved in that process
- Potentially develop ways to slow, prevent or neutralize ponerogenesis
Ponerology has been described as follows:
“In the author’s opinion, Ponerology reveals itself to be a new branch of science born out of historical need and the most recent accomplishments of medicine and psychology. In the light of objective naturalistic language, it studies the causal components and processes of the genesis of evil, regardless of the latter’s social scope.”
“…a new scientific discipline which would study evil, discovering its factors of genesis, insufficiently understood properties, and weak spots, thereby outlining new possibilities to counteract the origin of human suffering.”These descriptions come from the work most directly associated with the field of ponerology and most often credited with popularizing the term. It is a book that I was lucky enough to come across almost immediately after discovering the word ponerology for the first time - one whose preface makes the bold claim that “The book you hold in your hand may be the most important book you will ever read; in fact, it will be”…and arguably provides a perspective important enough to back it up.
That book is Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrew M. Lobaczewski (aka Andrzej M. Lobaczewski).
A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes
by Andrew M. Lobaczewski
Lobaczewski was someone whose background, education and interaction with patients at a particularly relevant historical time situated him in an extraordinarily well-suited position to write this book. He grew up and trained as a clinical psychologist in Poland during one of the most destructive phases in human history and experienced firsthand the violence and oppression of both the Nazi and Soviet occupiers. With a keen scientific mind, honed by his training and his work amongst health care professionals, he was naturally intrigued by questions of how and why such evil came to pass and was dissatisfied with the common mystical or religiously based answers, as well as with the apparent lack of proper terminology with which to even effectively describe what was happening. Given his perspective, he longed for a more objective understanding of these phenomena from the standpoint of etiology, epidemiology, pathodynamics and so on.
After a trying period of seeking such insight on his own, he was let in on the fact that there were other professionals who were sincerely attempting to shed light on these issues by carrying out secret scientific investigations. Those who participated had to go to great lengths to hide their work from the authorities and, if identified, risked severe punishment. But Lobaczewski – like his fellow researchers – showed tremendous courage by participating despite these risks. Many of those involved, including Lobaczewski, suffered greatly in various ways in the course of the work. And ultimately much of the data was lost and the studies were never fully completed.
But Lobaczewski was determined to share with the world as much as he could of what they found. In his attempts to publish these findings, he was opposed every step of the way by the very forces that he was focused on describing. It took him three incredibly difficult attempts to write and finally get a book into circulation. But, at last, with help from some likeminded thinkers, he succeeded in publishing Political Ponerology.
In it, along with some notes and thoughts from the editors that helped him achieve publication, Lobaczewski very specifically reports, to the best of his ability, on the findings of the secret investigations. The work concentrates mostly, though not exclusively, on the aspects of ponerology describing how evil plays out on the highest – or “macrosocial” – levels of human systems. In other words, it attempts to explain the means by which and consequences of evil people and groups politically taking over whole societies or nations. However, as we shall see, Lobaczewski makes clear that these patterns apply similarly at all levels of human systems.
A GENERAL OVERVIEW OF POLITICAL PONEROLOGY
The main thrust of Lobaczewski’s work, as I interpret it, is that the secret investigations that he and his colleagues conducted revealed the following:
Normals and The Pathological
- The vast majority of human beings experience empathy and have a conscience rooted, to a significant degree, in values such as peace, cooperation and shared health and prosperity. Lobaczewski refers to these human beings as “normals.”
- Some human beings, however, exhibit certain important psychopathologies – including psychopathy or other personality disorders (which Lobaczewski calls characteropathies) - that can affect them in a very holistic way, fundamentally shaping their perception and experience of the world so as to:
- Reduce their ability to experience empathy
- Reduce their ability to experience certain other emotional states in the same ways that normals do
- Lead them - despite the assumption of many normals that all people value peace, cooperation and shared health and prosperity as they do - to actually hold very different values such as domination and excessive, if not endless, acquisition
- Reduce their ability to experience empathy
- These various relevant disorders can have different causes. Some inherit these psychopathological conditions. Others acquire them through various means, including:
- Certain pre-natal or natal circumstances or incidents
- Brain lesions
- Contact with other pathological people, who may include parents or other family members or caregivers or others in their society, especially at an early age, that distort the development of their worldview and conscience
- Certain pre-natal or natal circumstances or incidents
- Whether inherited or acquired, these conditions can have deep biological roots, often represented in noticeable genetic and/or brain or other anatomical differences, which Lobaczewski describes. And their effects can be quite severe. For example, Lobaczewski explains that, in the most extreme cases, the inability of those with these conditions to perceive the feelings that normals feel or comprehend the values of normals is analogous to the perceptual inabilities of those who are color blind. Indeed, he tells us, “Psychiatrists of the old school” often invoked Daltonism, a particular form of color blindness, in referring to individuals with an especially severe inherited type of psychopathy that Lobaczewski calls “essential psychopathy” as “Daltonists of human feelings and socio-moral values.”
- Different disorders within this group are marked by different courses, including the points in life at which their various symptoms become evident and the types of events that trigger their symptomatology. Each brings with it certain shortcomings and enables particular traits, talents and skills in those who have it. Lobaczewski describes in detail these aspects of the different pathologies.
- But despite these differences, the psychopathologies in question all have in common certain very important related effects on biology, emotions and values. Because of these similar effects, Lobaczewski groups people who have any combination of these particular psychopathological conditions under the rubric “the pathological.”
- The differences between normals and the pathological represent a profound and fundamental division within humanity. This division is so profound and fundamental, in fact, that some knowledgeable theorists view certain types of pathological people as members of a subspecies of humanity or, as Lobaczewski has referred to them, “para-Homo Sapiens.”
Conflict between Normals and The PathologicalThe existence of psychopathy and the key relevant personality disorders is simply a fact of nature. Therefore, although, as mentioned, the vast majority of humans are normals, capable of conscience and empathy, we can be certain that, within any human system, there will be a relatively small, but potentially influential, contingent of psychopathological people living amongst those normals. That means that within any human system, these groups will inevitably be in constant interaction with each other.
Because their experiences and values so fundamentally conflict, these interactions constitute a source of constant tension. Since they cannot relate to normals’ feelings of strong compassion or significant concern for long-term health or sustainability, the pathological cannot comprehend the behavior that stems from them. They may come to view normals as quite foolish and consider the normals to actually be the abnormal ones. Furthermore, many of the pathological are highly paranoid, and, thus, interpret these incomprehensible actions in the most suspicious light. Perceiving such a vast gulf in motivations and values, many of the pathological ultimately consider themselves not a subspecies, but almost an entirely separate species from normals – and a far superior species at that.
Given such a disdainful, mistrusting view of normals as not quite conspecific fools, combined with a lack of empathy and a desire for domination and acquisition, it is no surprise that the pathological often interact in ways that are quite detrimental to normals.
In fact, the pathological often learn very early in life how to traumatize those around them in ways that can be turned to their own advantage.
Many of the tactics that the pathological use to harm and undermine normals are quite insidious. The pathological tend to share, to varying degrees, skill at deceptiveness. And, throughout Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski carefully details the various manipulative tactics through which they employ this skill, including the use of:
- Paralogisms - Particular manners of twisting logic to falsely make the illogical appear logical and vice-versa
- Paramoralisms - Specific methods of twisting morality to falsely portray the unethical as ethical and vice-versa
But, the pathological can also, at times, employ far more blatant measures to harm normals. When someone is viewed as a member of a different species, it makes it much easier to assail them and more likely that they will be subjected to physical aggression. And some of the pathological are indeed more than willing to attack or even kill normals in the service of their goals.
Furthermore, Lobaczewski explains that, among normals, there will be a contingent that are deficient, frustrated, feel outcast from the group or lack critical thinking, and can, thus, be hijacked by the pathological, often to the extent that they become enslaved by their stunning combination of paranoia and charisma.
A healthy human system is one in which, despite such activity on the part of a pathological minority, aided by a certain segment of complicit normals, the values of the majority of normals nonetheless, on the whole, maintain prominence. Lobaczewski terms this a “system of normal man”. But, the pathological find it very difficult to live comfortably within systems of normal man. They view any rules and regulations imposed by normals for the purpose of maintaining cooperative peace and shared prosperity as senselessly limiting and oppressive. In such a situation, the pathological feel a strong impulse to break free of such limits. They dream of bringing about a situation and world where they can rule and dominate based on their own values. As a result, life can become, for the pathological, a power struggle of “us vs. them.”
The condition of a human system at any point is profoundly influenced by the current state of this seemingly endless power struggle between its normal and pathological members. At any given time, the system’s state is determined by how successful or unsuccessful it is at resisting the pathologicals’ myriad methods of attempting to seize control and translate their “us vs. them” mentality from malevolent obsession into harsh reality.
The Vicious Cycle of Reduced ResistanceIn an individual’s body, when certain conditions, such as a healthy immune system, hold, potential threats can be kept at bay. If conditions change in certain ways, such as if the immune system is weakened, threats latent within or lurking outside the system - even small ones, such as just a few mutated cells or a microscopically tiny bacterium - can take root and flourish into a dangerous cancer or infection that then further erodes the body’s ability to resist. Similarly, in larger human systems, certain situations and contexts represent a weakened “social immune system” and leave us vulnerable to a spiral of deterioration instigated by the “social pathogens” represented by the pathological.
There are a number of factors, many of which are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, and some of which have been previously mentioned, that can, and, in various systems throughout history, have contributed to diminished resistance to the threat of pathological dominance. These include:
- Lack of public awareness of the very existence of the pathological
- Misunderstanding among the public about the nature of and significance of the threat posed by the pathological
- Denial regarding pathology and its impact among those who have not personally perceived being affected and, lacking direct conscious experience, doubt its reality or importance
- Denial, as well as other defense mechanisms, employed by those who have been impacted by pathology but have not come to terms with or resolved that experience and, thus, continue to relegate certain aspects of it to their subconscious or unconscious
- Widespread and paralyzing conceptions that evil either simply cannot be understood at all or can only be understood through appeals to supernatural influence - Both of these beliefs can stifle the curiosity required to drive new investigation and learning about the actual role of psychopathology in the genesis of evil.
- Underestimation within the social sciences of the role pathologies play in various destructive processes - This has contributed to and helped to validate the aforementioned lack of public awareness, understanding and acceptance
- Difficulty identifying the pathological - Despite their vast differences from normals, and contrary to stereotypes, the pathological are usually not easily identifiable monsters. They can include highly respected figures in any and all areas of society, including the mental health field itself. They have even included some famous individuals and world leaders who Lobaczewski discusses. This can make it difficult for many in the public to recognize who is pathological and challenging for them to accept that even people they have admired and respected greatly could actually be pathological. In addition, other issues can blind people in ways that inhibit their pathology detection skills, including certain illnesses that can render people vulnerable to particular well-honed manipulative tactics.
- Para-appropriate Responses – For a variety of reasons, many normals, when encountering harmful manifestations of pathology, tend, perhaps understandably, to respond:
- Emotionally, with sadness and rage
- Moralistically, condemning the perpetrator as an inferior enemy and impulsively calling for revenge
Regardless of how immediately relieved we may feel due to the catharsis of expressing such reactions, emotionalism and moralism alone, in the long run, provide us with no actual wisdom about or capacity for practically resisting the threat of the pathological and, in fact, can serve as barriers to critical understanding.
For these reasons, such responses are not as appropriate as they seem and ultimately leave us more helpless in the face of the danger of pathological dominance. Therefore, Lobaczewski refers to them as “para-appropriate,” rather than appropriate, responses.
- Emotionally, with sadness and rage
- Overly forgiving responses – While some respond to pathologically driven harm with para-appropriate outrage and condemnation, others, at the opposite extreme, preach a sort of across the board form of forgiveness that discourages even potentially effective forms of resistance against the pathological. Many of the pathological are well aware that certain normals hold such an enabling philosophy and stand ready to encourage and exploit it at every opportunity.
- Certain economic conditions
- A high prevalence of people with pathological conditions in the population
- A high prevalence within the population of potentially submissive or complicit people vulnerable to manipulation or hijacking by the pathological
- An excessive tendency to conflate the merit of ideas and the perceived merit of the person or people promoting them
- An extensive focus on more superficial divisions like race, class, gender and religion that distracts the population from attending to the far more important distinction between normals and the pathological
Several other factors further reinforce this cycle.
- Many of normals’ instinctive, though currently ineffective, responses to pathology may be deeply embedded and challenging to change because, as we have discussed, they represent evolutionary adaptations to a very different past environment in which they were more successful. In other words, they are long reinforced, stubbornly surviving maladaptations.
- There is a certain contagious quality to the way that the pathological engender resistance-reducing traits in normals with whom they come into contact. Even some of the most apparently fitting responses to harmful behavior may actually themselves represent symptoms of having been influenced by the pathological.
- Many of these resistance-reducing factors and responses are passed down through the generations.
All of these conditions and factors can contribute to increasing the number of normals who are either hijackable by the pathological or, more commonly, are simply unmotivated or unable to resist them. It is when conditions such as those discussed here prevail that the pathological can begin to take over in certain archetypal ways and a human system may begin the journey to becoming “ponerized.”
PonerogenesisPonerogenesis often develops from within a vulnerable system. In such cases, pathological members of that system’s population insidiously assume dominance through a process that, though variable in some respects from one situation to another, nonetheless, on a statistical level, plays out in archetypal stages consisting of characteristic discernible patterns and timeframes.
Development of Pathological Groups
The process begins when the pathological, now operating within a more conducive environment, develop particular relationships amongst themselves and hijackable normals. These relationships then form the basis for the development of certain kinds of pathological groups. This can occur through the creation of new, previously non-existent, groups or through the infiltration of existing groups – even, in many cases, previously well-intentioned, highly idealistic groups.
Within these pathologized groups, different types of psychopaths and characteropaths each assume a variety of stereotypical roles depending upon the distinctive traits and skill sets associated with their specific brand of pathology. Those able to effectively conceal their pathology from the outside world while carrying out tasks may assume public roles, while those unable to effectively conceal their pathology may assume more covert, private roles. The essential psychopath plays an especially important, though often hidden, role in ponerogenesis. Within these roles, each member begins to carry out certain well-timed and orchestrated actions.
The Ponerogenic Roles of Ideology and Religion
In addition to pathological and complicit people, ideologies and religions also tend to play major roles in the ponerogenic process. Pathological groups create or hijack and then pervert such doctrines and employ them for different manipulative purposes at different stages of ponerogenesis.
- Early on, ideology or religion may be used to attract true believers to join the group and its ostensible cause.
- Later, when the group wishes to sneak its pathological influence more broadly and deeply into the surrounding system, it may use ideology or religion as a Trojan horse to convince the wider public that it has benevolent motivations and fool it into ceding the group greater power. For instance, in a form of demagoguery, the group may focus on a certain very real problem within the system, stir up public frustration, claim a doctrinal commitment to fixing that problem, but insist that doing so will require that it be granted a higher degree of control. Then, having attained this newfound position, under the pretext of promoting public improvements, the group instead exploits it to acquire still greater power and to implement damaging and/or self-serving policies.
- Once the pathological attain significant power within the surrounding system, ideology and religion may then be used to fool still larger outside systems that could become suspicious and consider intervention.
It is crucial to note that not only can otherwise truly potentially beneficial ideologies be abused in these ways, but such ideologies may, in fact, be the most likely to be so abused. It should come as no surprise that pathocrats wishing to stealthily pursue malicious goals coopt particular ideologies or religions precisely because those belief systems advocate for the exact opposite of, and thus provide cover for, their true destructive intentions. Lobaczewski experienced just this, for example, when a Communist ideology supposedly dedicated to helping the common man was instead used to justify and enable the horrific oppression of millions – including Lobaczewski himself as he struggled to carry out the work that culminated in this very book.
There is one other very interesting matter to note about the ideologies often adopted by the pathological in the process of ponerogenesis. Unfettered research in sciences like psychology, biology and genetics holds the greatest promise for exposing the true nature of the pathological. Thus, perhaps it is no coincidence that pathologized groups so commonly take advantage of and inculcate those around them with doctrines that include strongly dogmatic and twisted views of these very subjects.
Veiled Psychological Warfare
As they gain influence, pathological groups wage campaigns of veiled psychological warfare consisting of various manipulative tactics. Charismatic members capitalize on their spellbinding capabilities to capture and lead public sentiment and attract vulnerable people. They contaminate the system with toxic “foreign material” through written and oral propaganda featuring particular manipulative forms of language. These communications promote paralogisms and paramoralisms that spread infectiously or metastasize throughout the system, deforming intellectual and moral capacities, especially among the young. In addition, they often employ certain types of carefully crafted doublespeak, tailored to strike the public at large as fully consistent with the group’s stated ideology, while actually simultaneously relaying hidden pathological signals decipherable only by those in the know.
Increased Pathologization and Escalation
Lobaczewski explains that, in the early phases of ponerogenesis, it is often the milder characteropaths, whose conditions were caused by brain damage, that dominate pathological groups. But as these groups operate over time, they attract more and more severely psychopathological people – often those with the inherited forms of the disorders – and those more severely disordered members increasingly ascend to positions of greater power within the organizations. Normals and the less psychopathological, including those who actually fervently believe in the group’s originally declared goals, despite comprising a majority, are nonetheless forced to either submit to or be pushed out by the more aggressive and malicious members. This progression continues until, ultimately, the essential psychopaths assume the central, behind the scenes, leadership roles.
As these groups become dominated by their more severely pathological members, their activities become more and more visibly disconnected from the ideals of their supposed ideologies and they may embrace more dangerous and explicitly violent methods, up to and including torture and murder.
The Tipping Point
Eventually, a tipping point is reached at which the severely pathological are viewed within the system as impressive respectable figures, while normals are viewed with contempt. The pathological may forcefully defend against threats to this perception through actual censorship of books and other communications. They may further reinforce it by exerting control over educational systems, exercising censorship to rigidly determine which material can and cannot be taught or designating who can and cannot participate in teaching, administration and other functions. They may even go as far as infiltrating the educational system, installing impostors, disguised as unbiased professionals, to teach curricula manipulated to facilitate furtive indoctrination of unsuspecting students.
Lobaczewski himself believed he experienced such attempted indoctrination during his psychological training when a man claiming to be a professor suddenly appeared and, in a threatening manner, began delivering strange non-scientific lectures. While many fellow students simply accepted and were deeply influenced by these addresses, Lobaczewski, possessing a relatively rare level of prior awareness about pathology, was skeptical. This skepticism proved seminal in the path that led toward his creation of Political Ponerology.
But, for various reasons, such top-down information and image control often proves unnecessary. For, commonly, by the time the tipping point in ponerogenesis is reached, much of the population has internalized the pathological control mechanisms and adopted a form of self-censorship. Most may resist learning the truth and harbor inherent disdain for anyone who attempts to sound alarms.
As the pathological approach this pivotal point, they interpret it as validation of what they have always suspected - that they are, in fact, the fundamentally superior creatures, while the normals are simply an abnormal and weak subset of humanity.
Ponerization does not always emerge organically from within a system. Ponerogenesis can also be initiated when pathological people or groups infiltrate a system from outside, sometimes implementing an element of force even earlier in the process as they gradually break down the system’s resistance.
PathocracyThe process of ponerogenesis culminates in the establishment of what Lobaczewski calls a “pathocracy.” He defines a pathocracy as a:
“system of government thus created, wherein a small pathological minority [of ‘pathocrats’] takes control over a society of normal people.”In other words, the term describes a human system in which the power structures are run by psychopathological people and the value system is dominated by their psychopathological values. Such a system resembles and functions like a severely pathological individual writ large and stands in sharp contrast to systems run by normals, which, again, Lobaczewski refers to as “the systems of normal man.”
In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski details the relative sizes and makeup of various tiers of society within a pathocracy.
Pathocracy plays such a crucial role in so many of the challenges and so much of the suffering of mankind, and has done so for so long, that Lobaczewski identifies it as “the great disease” of human systems. In fact, a case could be made that pathocracy is responsible for more of the man-made destruction in history than anything else.
Pathocracies are, in many aspects, quite deceptive. For example:
- Much like earlier in ponerogenesis, pathocrats may continue attempting to hide their true intentions behind a mask of ideology or religion. They may employ the symbols and catchphrases associated with their stated philosophy, even while committing psychopathic acts, driven by the desire for power and control at any cost, that reflect values exactly opposite those espoused by that philosophy. Observers that listen to what pathocrats say more carefully than they watch what they do are likely to be fooled and pathocrats, knowing that many will indeed make this mistake, take full advantage of that.
- Within a pathocracy, the apparent power structure, reflected in public titles and formal positions, may bear little relationship to the actual power structure. People that seem to be of the people may secretly be pathocrats. Members of the ruling party may, in fact, be covert resisters. People presented as powerful leaders may really be nothing but figureheads, such that it is, for all practical purposes, utterly pointless to appeal to them for reforms or replace them through elections, since, despite the illusion that they exercise control, it is actually others, perhaps behind the scenes, who are pulling the strings.
- Stratifications on the basis of criteria such as wealth or talent, which are often extremely meaningful within a system of normal man, may be relatively superficial and insignificant within a pathocracy, where it is primarily a person’s relationship with the pathocrats that really determines his or her status.
Pathocrats, many of whom are somewhat paranoid in any circumstance, greatly fear returning to a system of normal man, in which they may be outcast or possibly targeted for revenge. Therefore, they will go to great lengths to maintain power, including engaging in terrorism and extermination. They may start expansionist wars so as to inspire patriotism, distract the population at home from their exploitation, obtain resources and weaken other systems more strongly influenced by normals that may be tempted to challenge them. They may even purposely inflict hardships and poverty on their own people in order to intensify their dependence and obedience.
Often, the pathological pursue one of their classic pipe dreams by attempting, through various means, to force normals to become pathological. They remain either unaware or in denial of the fact that the difference between them is deeply biological and that turning one into the other is as impossible as turning a normally-sighted person color blind. So when they inevitably fail in this futile endeavor, as they must, they will blame anyone and anything that they can find to cast as a scapegoat.
As a result of these activities, normal people, and even some pathological people of particular types, experience enormous suppression, repression and suffering within pathocracies. Living in such an environment has a shocking affect on a population and may cause widespread neurosis. Gifted and talented normals, whose sensitivity often brings enhanced awareness, may especially suffer as they attempt to maintain their psychological health not only in the face of such dysfunction, but in the midst of so many others that do not understand them or what is happening and often invalidate and deny their pain.
Pathocracy is, in a sense, contagious and can spread from one system to others. Lobaczewski describes how frustrated, abused or deviant people around the world may discern the meaning hidden within an existing pathocracy’s doublespeak propaganda and come to view it as a symbol of hope for a society in which they can experience acceptance and importance. When a system’s population includes enough such yearning members, it can become vulnerable to pathological infection or conquest. Lobaczewski goes on to explore both the similarities and the differences between pathocracies that emerge from within a system and those that originate from outside.
The central challenge that faces pathocrats is that of balancing their desire for domination and their technical dependence on certain others. While pathocrats might wish to directly control every single aspect of a society, it is simply impossible to maintain a system without many tasks being performed with sufficient competence. Thus, pathocrats must, to some extent, grant autonomy to carefully selected people within the system possessing essential talents and skills. Since some of these necessary technicians are normals, who might balk at contributing to destruction, pathocrats may, at times, have to deceive them about the true nature of their goals.
However, a major weakness of the severely pathological is their refusal, even at their own peril, to accept limits. Thus, eventually, their desire for power often overrides their pragmatism. They begin to fill all positions of leadership at all levels of society with other pathological people chosen on the basis of loyalty, without concern for competence. Once this line is crossed, the pathocracy is in danger of meeting its downfall.
Downfall of the Pathocracy and RecoveryIn time, the incompetent regime installed and overseen by the ruling pathocrats wastes the system’s talent and potential, paralyzes its development and leads to the deterioration of its structures. The contrast between the pathocrats’ stated ideology and their actions grows too stark and the populace begins to recognize the contempt that they actually feel for their espoused doctrine’s values. When a great enough proportion of society grows disillusioned and disaffected, the situation becomes unsustainable.
The constant effort required to survive within a pathocratic system eventually helps to rebuild the muscles of perception and creativity. The public recovers and comes once again to value its psychological knowledge and awareness and pathology detection capacity. People reopen their minds to learning and begin to revisit history anew, seeking answers regarding their current predicament in the similar events of the past.
Ultimately, the normals increasingly see through the deviant version of reality presented by the pathocrats. Certain especially valuable normals, many of whom previously experienced pathological communications and activity within their families or in other significant relationships, possess some level of fluency with the pathocratic language, along with a well honed talent for recognizing and calling attention to similar patterns in other contexts and systems. They are often among the first to pierce the veil of the pathocrats’ deception and alert others around them. And, at this stage, they are finally respected and appreciated for their skill and contribution.
As they awaken from the nightmare of pathocracy, normals develop a language of oppression - complete with a characteristic irreverent sense of humor often highlighted by mockery of the pathocrats - that only they and others who have shared such an experience can understand. They also become progressively better at detecting and exploiting the ever more rapidly appearing cracks in the oppressive system.
Some of the young who were raised from early on within the pathocracy may have a hard time breaking free. And unless the system finally acquires a fundamental and lasting understanding regarding the constant threat of pathological domination, as soon as more prosperous conditions return, it will find itself once again vulnerable.
But, for the time being, the system begins to recover.
The Historical CycleHistorically, we can observe a somewhat predictable pattern in which vulnerability to pathocracy within systems rises and falls in sync with the cyclical rise and fall in prosperity. Lobaczewski explains that, during prosperous times, human systems often drift toward arrogance, and, not wanting the unpleasant, unjust or pathological aspects within the system recognized or considered, various forces strongly compel denial of these threats to their prosperity. They devalue the psychological knowledge that would raise awareness of such factors and ostracize those schooled in that knowledge who attempt to do so.
Over time, a system increasingly loses its capacity to detect pathology. Once this capacity deteriorates sufficiently, the pathological are able to exploit the situation, even to the extent that they become idealized or viewed as heroic figures. Eventually, the pathological dominate the society, and their self-serving, short-term values and incompetence progressively destroy the system’s prosperity until the masses finally begin to realize what is happening, place greater value on psychological knowledge, detection of the pathological and whistleblowing and resist vigorously enough to regain control and usher in a new era of prosperity, beginning the cycle anew.
It can be difficult to see this pattern throughout history without trained eyes since pathocracies hide in many different ideologies and kinds of groups. But once we learn to look past those superficial differences, we do recognize the pattern – exemplified by the 20th century, with its cycle of massive wars and death counts alternating with periods of peace and prosperity – by which the pathological arise to exploit complacent vulnerable systems, are eventually driven from power to restore societies’ fortunes and, in time, arise once again.
We can learn a great deal about a particular system, its path and its level of vulnerability or immunity to pathocracy and conquest by considering, along with the state of the many risk factors described earlier, its place in this historical cycle elucidated by Lobaczewski.
Mutually Reinforcing Pathocracy on Various Levels of Human SystemsWhile Political Ponerology focuses heavily on the process of ponerogenesis on the macrosocial levels, Lobaczewski makes very clear that an analogous process occurs on lower levels of human systems, as well. Whether within a romantic relationship, a family, a business or a religious institution, ponerogenesis plays out through similar steps and generates similar destructive consequences. People, especially gifted and talented people, suffer deeply when they experience pathocracy in, for example, the family into which they are born, just as they do when it overtakes their society. Often, people find themselves unfortunately embedded within pathocracies at multiple levels at once.
Moreover, Lobaczewski points out that what happens on the lower levels of human systems mirrors and intertwines with what happens on the macrosocial levels and vice versa. The result is that pathological systems on all levels, despite differences in appearance or scale, support each other in promoting the overall spread of pathology.
Regardless the level, the same holds true:
“In ponerogenic processes, moral deficiencies, intellectual failings, and pathological factors intersect in a time-space causative network giving rise to individual and national suffering.”
Breaking the CycleBreaking the cycle of the rise and fall of pathocracy, and bringing about healthy sustainable control by normals, is one of the most important challenges facing humanity. And it is becoming ever more important. As astounding as the damage done by pathocracy throughout history is, the risks of even more serious and lasting damage are only becoming greater.
Yet our responses remain far too ineffective.
Since we remain ignorant about the historical cycle, we fail to recognize that times of prosperity are actually times of great risk. Our lax policies during such times allow vulnerabilities to grow and the pathological to begin to cause more extensive harm. Faced with the resulting increase in evidence of destructive activity, we then tend to fall into the typical responses that reduce our resistance to ponerogenesis in the first place. Some respond with para-appropriate outrage, calling for harsh punishment. Others respond with messages of excessive forgiveness. Rifts develop amongst people, and even within ourselves, as harsh debates break out over the merits of these equally ineffective approaches. And no matter what combination of the two is ultimately employed, we fail to prevent further progression of the process.
As ponerogenesis progresses, we try to understand the nature of those who threaten to dominate us. However, in doing so, we rely on the old evolutionary instincts and intuitions so maladapted to the very different threat posed by modern pathocracy. Unaware of the existence or nature of psychopathology, we try to make sense of them as if they are malicious normals. We take their statements at face value and categorize them based on the ideologies, labels and positions that they announce. This of course plays right into their manipulative hands since these statements are misleading, causing us to improperly understand them – not to mention to improperly understand the actual nature of the ideologies - and allowing the process to progress to full blown pathocracy.
Over and over, we see systems of normal man respond in this self-destructive fashion. It seems that this is simply the predictable reaction as a typical system of normal man attempts to stave off pathocracy and that, therefore, typical systems of normal man are just not sustainable in a world that includes the pathological. If we are ever to break the cycle, and prevent the growing destructiveness that pathocracies are likely to bring, we must fundamentally change how we respond and, in the process, change the very nature of, and consequently pathology-proof, systems controlled by normals.
Lobaczewski is convinced that we can indeed successfully make the types of changes necessary to break this ponerogenic cycle. In fact, in his conception, one of the main reasons that the discipline of ponerology is “primarily interested in the role of pathological factors in the origin of evil” is that “conscious control and monitoring of them on the scientific, social, and individual levels could effectively stifle or disarm these processes.” But, specifically, what changes should be made and how can we bring them about? Political Ponerology has been referred to as a “survival guide” for non-psychopaths. As such, it offers suggestions, such as the following, on how to better respond.
- Acknowledge how enormously vulnerable a lack of psychological knowledge leaves us to the pathological, as well as how immensely important a substantial level of psychological knowledge is in any attempts to maintain healthy systems and improve our world. Recognize that, as Lobaczewski puts it, “psychological matters are as important to the future as grand politics or powerful weapons.”
- Practice increasingly facing the inevitable discomfort and psychological disintegration and accept the existence of these psychopathological conditions, the fundamental differences between those who have them and normals and the reality of the threat posed by pathocracy.
- Restrain our knee jerk tendency to approach these conditions and their consequences through an exclusively emotional and moral lens - Evolutionarily, we as a species did not experience enough situations similar to modern pathocracy to have evolved a well-honed, instinctive adaptive response to the threat that it poses. Instead, as we have seen, we tend to respond in the impulsive para-appropriate ways that perhaps served us when posed with somewhat different threats in that very different past environment, but that do not serve us well now. Moreover, being exposed to pathology without effective defenses tends to deform whatever limited ability we do have to wisely perceive and react to it, exacerbating our tendency toward ineffective impulsive reactions. Therefore, we cannot rely on “common sense” or everyday intuition to provide us with effective insight and strategies. We must develop our understanding and response plans through a very different method based on systematic study and education.
- Increasingly develop our skill at examining these conditions and the resulting actions, cycles and patterns that they impel, as Lobaczewski and his colleagues did, through the dispassionate lens of science - When we restrain our impulsive emotionalism and moralism, we then allow ourselves to stand back and carry out scientific investigations in and through which we:
- Collect data about psychopathologies, as well as other disorders linked to aggression and violence, and their impact on human systems
- Continue to seek, discover and understand additional or new disorders that may also be involved in destructive behavior within human systems
- Enhance our understanding of the anatomy, biology, genetics, toxicology and other features characterizing these pathologies
- Better recognize the signs and symptoms of the various pathologies
- Collect data about psychopathologies, as well as other disorders linked to aggression and violence, and their impact on human systems
- Identify the actual stages and typical time progression of the ponerogenic process – Medical researchers specializing in infectious diseases or oncology work to lay out the specific courses most frequently taken by various forms of infections or cancers. Similarly, we should build on Lobaczewski’s work to further recognize the details of the stages and progression of the “disease” of pathocracy.
- Develop methods for assessing the current ponerologic status and prognosis of a given human system – When an infectious disease specialist or an oncologist sees a patient, he or she applies our best understanding of the course of various infectious diseases or cancers, along with effective tests that have been developed, to determine:
- If the patient is indeed infected or does indeed have cancer
- If so, what particular pathological factors were most likely involved in causing the illness and to what recognized stage in the resulting disease process the patient’s illness has progressed.
- What the most likely next step is in the progression of the disease
- Whether the illness is severe enough to demand treatment
- If treatment is called for, what is its likelihood of success
Similarly, as we more clearly identify the typical stages of various forms of ponerogenesis, we will be better able to discover and apply to particular human systems methods to determine:
- Which stage, if any, the system is at in the ponerogenic process
- What mix of pathologies may be involved
- The likely course of the condition within the system
- Whether the situation calls for and can benefit from intervention
- If the patient is indeed infected or does indeed have cancer
- Determine the best methods and times for intervention or non-intervention in ponerogenic processes – Medical researchers have capitalized on our growing understanding of infectious and cancerous processes to:
- Develop preventative public health measures and vaccines and treatments that help us avoid or reduce potential damage
- Recognize when those public health measures, vaccines and treatments, optimally, should and should not be applied (In other words to recognize and understand the features of specific leverage points and non-leverage points in the processes)
- Determine the extent to which certain side effects can be expected after employing various measures, when those side effects are justified by the offsetting benefits and how to best respond to those side effects
- Which interventions introduced at which stages best work to prevent, halt or reduce the severity of the consequences of the ponerogenic process
- The types of backlash that can be expected from the introduction of certain interventions in certain contexts, whether those consequences are justified by a greater benefit and, if so, how to at least minimize or best respond to such backlash
- In which cases and at which stages ponerogenic processes are simply not amenable to intervention or are even made worse by interventions
- Develop preventative public health measures and vaccines and treatments that help us avoid or reduce potential damage
- Develop proper objective technical terminology describing all aspects of the ponerogenic process - In the course of discovering, recognizing, understanding, preventing, diagnosing, prognosing, and effectively treating (or not treating) various disease processes, we have, along the way, developed a powerful and constantly growing base of objective technical terminology that allows us to effectively and accurately communicate about all of these endeavors. Over the years, we have increasingly agreed upon precise scientific names for various pathological factors, aspects of disease processes, technologies, materials, procedures and so on. This language had to be consciously created because much of what was being discussed involved new ideas, entities and concepts that humans had never before in their history had to or been able to put into such specific words.
For instance, long ago, the illness of a patient whose cancer had developed to a significant degree might be described in general terms that left a great deal of room for interpretation. Today the condition of that same patient can often be pinpointed and described down to the exact stage to which the cancer has progressed and the very specific biochemical markers that differentiate it from other similar cancers. And, for the most part, modern health care professionals, nearly anywhere in the world, will understand precisely what this description means in precisely the same way.
Without this conscious creation of such precise mutually understood technical language, much of the clear communication between scientists required for progress – not to mention between patients and others for understanding and support - would have been extremely difficult, if not impossible. In fact, the miscommunication that might ensue from the use of more vague terminology could even lead to mistakes with disastrous consequences. On the other hand, the assignment of a technical term to a previously unnamed or vaguely named entity or idea can have a powerful effect in raising consciousness about its existence and importance.
A similar situation exists in other technological fields. For example, without having consciously and systematically developed precise technical terminology to describe various chemicals, physical laws, materials, methodologies and so on – many of which were recent discoveries, completely new to humanity – scientists around the world would find it incredibly difficult to cooperate in developing new electronic equipment. And it would also be very difficult to train people to repair that equipment or for those repair people to interpret and communicate about problems with which users present them. However, with the aid of such terminology, electronics has advanced in leaps and bounds and, with many of the technical terms making their way into regular public discourse, awareness and discussion of the role of electronics in our lives has blossomed.
Ponerology presents us with similar technical and semantic challenges and opportunities. While some of the pathologies and processes with which it is concerned have existed for millennia, addressing the dangers of complex modern ponerogenic processes requires us to achieve an unprecedented level of systematic recognition regarding crucial, but complicated, details and patterns. Our “natural” knowledge, based on our evolutionary history, simply cannot provide us with the insight to fully recognize these characteristics and schemas or with the language to effectively communicate about them. Yet such communication is invaluable if we are to improve our understanding of ponerogenesis and how to resist it. And miscommunication in this realm not only can have dire consequences, but so often does that the pathological purposely encourage it as a tactic to prevent effective resistance.
Thus, it is imperative that we move beyond the vague, confusing, often literary style of language that we have too long been forced to use in discussing these matters by consciously creating and agreeing upon precise scientific terminology to deeply describe all aspects of ponerologic phenomena. Doing so will have many benefits, including:
- Enabling greater connection and cooperation between people around the world as they seek understanding of ponerogenesis and how to prevent, resist or repair its consequences
- Providing words and phrases that can accurately convey meaning - to both those with and without prior experience with psychopathology and ponerogenesis – and capture the public imagination in the course of raising awareness of ponerologic issues
- Helping to more easily distinguish between situations that, on the surface, seem similar but in fact, at a deeper level, are quite different. For example, by strictly categorizing systems based on a combination of both stated ideology/religion and level of pathology, rather than just one or the other or both separately, we could solidly codify the understanding that:
- Statements of ideology or religion are sincere in some groups, while serving only as a manipulative mask or Trojan horse in service of ulterior hidden and unspoken goals in other groups
- Groups claiming the same ideology or religion may, in terms of their actual goals and actions, be vastly different
- The same ideology that is employed harmfully by an extremely pathological group in one case may facilitate great benefits when used by another non-pathological group
- Statements of ideology or religion are sincere in some groups, while serving only as a manipulative mask or Trojan horse in service of ulterior hidden and unspoken goals in other groups
- Safeguarding against the miscommunication and confusion about their nature and activities that the pathological try desperately to promote and upon which they thrive
- Enabling greater connection and cooperation between people around the world as they seek understanding of ponerogenesis and how to prevent, resist or repair its consequences
- Build strong support networks among normals of all races, classes, genders and religions based not on any particular issue, but rather on their normalcy itself and on the understanding that this division between normal and pathological is the most important division in humanity – the “difference that makes a difference” - The formation of these networks will be greatly aided by the scientific progress, increased public awareness and development of accurate technical language described above. And such groups can be instrumental in implementing measures to help prevent and resist pathocracy in the systems of which they are part.
- Develop human systems in such a way as to enable lasting, optimally healthy coexistence between normals and the pathological - There is a very important difference between the process of resisting ponerogenesis and the analogous processes of resisting infections or cancers. In the case of the latter, our goal is often to eradicate the causative agents. However, in the case of the pathological, Lobaczewski makes clear, the goal should not be to eliminate them. He insists that they will likely continue to exist and that they have a right to exist.
The goal is not even to demonize them. After all, assigning typical superficial versions of blame and guilt makes little sense once we understand that their psychopathology has biological underpinnings, including genetic inheritance, brain damage and trauma.
The goal, instead, is to place the good of the whole system as the paramount concern and to enable normals and the pathological to healthily coexist.
Since the pathological do not respect protective boundaries and limits and inevitably strip them away as they rise to power, healthy coexistence does require that human systems be restructured and reformed in such a way that normals can remain sustainably in control. Ideally, those in leadership will not only be normals, but normals with deep understanding of pathology and ponerology, aware of the implications of the fundamental and likely unchangeable differences between normals and the pathological, who can apply that insight not to justify escalating aggression, as the pathological do, but in the service of responsible government. Only then can we best prevent the pathological from imposing their minority will on the vast majority of others.
Furthermore, there are times that somewhat aggressive measures, such as forced treatment for certain pathological people, may be called for. However, such measures should never be driven by revenge or punishment, only by necessity in the service of protecting the rest of the system.
But, within those limits, we should in fact aim – and make clear that our aim is – to help the pathological live the best, most satisfying lives that they possibly can.
Lobaczewski insists that no outside entity should impose or dictate the specifics of how such a system of coexistence will function. Those details must evolve organically, driven by the will of the people in each particular system. However, what we can offer are general tools and principles empirically demonstrated to be essential in bringing about such a transformation.
Thus, by addressing the genesis of evil objectively, we can escape the hopeless cycle of alternating revenge and forgiveness and achieve an effective defensive-minded balance. We can build the habit of prioritizing practicality and protectiveness in responding to ponerogenic threats. We can balance respect for individual goals with the health of the collective and the passion of popular sentiment with the power of technical knowledge.
LogocracyLobaczewski’s name for this new form of human system that would enable normals and the pathological to optimally coexist is a “logocracy.” This term has been used by others for different purposes. But for Lobaczewski a logocracy is a human system:
“based upon understanding of the laws of nature operating within individuals and societies, with objective knowledge progressively superceding opinions based upon natural responses to phenomena.”In other words, it is a system that has moved beyond reacting to situations based merely on perceptions and impulsive feelings shaped by our evolutionary heritage, which may not be most beneficial in our present circumstances, to reacting based on rationally and scientifically validated knowledge about the workings of people and social groups. Replacing potentially misguided “natural” responses with more systematically tested responses could improve outcomes on a variety of fronts. But the most important, and most relevant, of course, in Lobaczewski’s view, is in improving our ability to resist pathocracy.
A logocracy, because of its consistent application of the scientific approach discussed earlier, will internalize and become armed with a certain meta-knowledge about the previously long-mysterious issues of pathology and ponerogenesis and their pivotal role in the origins of evil. This improved consciousness will drive the generation of the proper “antibodies” that can prevent the devastating consequences of pathological takeover. Such a structure would represent a milestone in evolutionary history:
A special type of system of normal man that has used data gained through investigation and testing methods, discovered and created by humans, to develop a watershed adaptation – a level of self-awareness about the nature of differences among humanity itself that protects it from some of the most insidious threats to health.Such a system, brimming with critical thinking about the diversity of human psychological variety, and constantly consciously controlling and monitoring anomalies would be as pathocracy-resistant as can be, allow normals to remain relatively safely in control and provide the most sustainably healthy system possible. Or, as Lobaczewski puts it:
“Due to their properties and conformity to the laws of nature and evolution, logocratic systems could guarantee social and international order on a long-term basis.”Without logocracy, humanity remains doomed to repeating the historical boom and bust cycle of rising and falling pathocracies – a miserable cycle that wastes our valuable energy and threatens, eventually, to irreparably harm our species, as well as much of our ecosystem, and to significantly stunt or set back our evolutionary path. But, within a logocracy, we would finally find a solid platform that can ensure our ability to channel our energies into the flourishing creativity that will drive our evolutionary path into the mysterious and unforeseeable future. As Lobaczewski says of logocracies:
“In keeping with their nature, they would then become transformed into more perfect forms, a vague and faraway vision of which may beckon to us in the present.”Some may find Lobaczewski’s belief in our ability to form such systems utopian. Is there really hope for us to develop logocracies? Perhaps. We must remember several things.
First, even in the darkest hours of pathocracy, the vast majority of normals cannot, even through the most extensive propaganda and manipulation, be changed into pathological people themselves. In fact, most of them will never even willingly conform to the pathocrats’ most deeply held wishes. And in every system, there is a certain group that will champion defensive measures at any cost. More specifically, Lobaczewski predicts that within each system, among those who have suffered most at the hands of the pathological, there will be a conscious few that will respond by channeling that suffering into assertive action to resist.
Second, again, Lobaczewski is not claiming to know the exact form that every logocracy will take. He is only providing principles that would generally characterize them in his view.
Third, as a scientist, what Lobaczewski is really advocating for is simply for us to experiment with these new approaches to society. It is clear that our current path is dangerously unsustainable. So it is appropriate for us to at least test out measures that can bring about more logocratic systems.
Fourth, Lobaczewski describes logocracies not as perfect, but simply as “more perfect” forms. A logocracy is not a utopia. Within one, there will still be conflicts and troubles. The main difference is that, since normals, who value cooperation and long-term health, will retain control, these conflicts and troubles are far more likely to be resolved in ways that are in the best interests of the ecosystem, humanity as a whole and future generations.
By adding the types of strategies and tactics previously discussed to the traditional calls for morality that have persisted for millennia, we can build on these sources of hope and aim to bring about this new and promising form of human system that will then enable us to discover what lies beyond.
IMPLICATIONS OF ANDREW M. LOBACZEWSKI’S WORK
Mental Health FieldsThe implications of Lobaczewski’s ideas for the mental health fields cannot be overstated. If, as he argues, “psychological matters are as important to the future as grand politics or powerful weapons” and psychopathology is the driving force behind many of the most ominous threats to humanity, then a great responsibility for impeding the advancement of various forms of evil in our world falls in the hands of our mental health professionals. For they are the members of human systems entrusted with the psychological knowledge and skills to improve our understanding of the pathological, recognize the pathological, as well as their victims, for who they are, promote understanding and healing throughout the system and empower future members of their profession with the capability to continue playing these invaluable roles into the future.
Unfortunately, in too many systems, the mental health community has, in a variety of ways, been negligent in taking on this responsibility. And this negligence greatly enables pathocrats as they rise to and then maintain power and dominance. Pathocrats themselves certainly realize how important mental health systems could be in preventing their ascent and how much more easily they achieve and hold onto control when those systems fail to perform that function. That is why, as Lobaczewski describes, so many of the pathological highly prioritize opposing, through various means, the development and maintenance of a vigorous, high quality, scientifically-based and unbiased mental health system.
In order to strengthen the ability and commitment of mental health systems to effectively act as bulwarks against ponerogenesis, Lobaczewski calls for a reconstruction of psychology involving a much greater focus on issues related to ponerology. This reconstruction would call for the mental health community to:
Increase Focus on Research about Relevant Psychopathology
Lobaczewski insists that psychological knowledge, especially about fundamental psychological differences among humans, is as important to the sustained healthy functioning of human systems as any knowledge we can have. At certain points, the focus of mental health research aligned with this fact. For instance, early in the 20th century, a number of scientists concentrated on studying some of the psychopathologies, such as psychopathy, that Lobaczewski links to ponerogenesis. But assaults on that science and intimidation and persecution of many of those scientists impaired this endeavor and caused the loss of much of the resulting data.
Later, researchers like Hervey Cleckley ushered in a resurgence of research focusing on psychopathy. This trend has led, over the decades, to a significant advancement in our understanding of not only psychopathy, but related disorders such as Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder, as well. However, given their central importance, those with influence on the mental health community should encourage an even greater focus on the deep study of these ponerogenic disorders, as well as on an attempt to recapture some of the lost data compiled by earlier researchers.
Expand Education about Psychopathologies Linked to Ponerogenesis and Include Education about Ponerology in Mental Health Professional Training
The reconstruction of psychology that Lobaczewski advocates can be driven by a few important reforms within the training of all mental health professionals:
- Placing greater emphasis on the details and potentially profound impact on human systems of psychopathy and certain personality disorders
- Adding discussion of just how these disorders, in the absence of effective resistance, lead, through the ponerogenic process, toward pathocracy and its devastating consequences
- Stressing the responsibility of mental health professionals to respond to this threat and preparing trainees do so
Lobaczewski urges that mental health professionals work to enhance our ability to accurately recognize psychopathologies. He points out that, in doing so, they can call upon an increasingly powerful arsenal of knowledge and tools relating to a range of areas including:
- The genetics of and genetic markers associated with certain psychopathologies
- The neuroanatomy of the psychopathologies, including common telltale lesions visible through neuroimaging or evident through other testing
Lobaczewski stresses the importance of recognizing those who have been victimized by the pathological (which may include the sometimes confusing task of distinguishing them from the primary pathological people themselves.) He explains that often, when a client’s condition has no clear cause and seems intractable, the concealed problem is the ongoing influence of a pathological person from their present or past. Not only does accurate diagnosis of this influence enable the determination of optimal future treatment measures. But, in the case of victims of the pathological, accurate diagnosis can, even by itself, often prove immensely beneficial.
As Lobaczewski explains:
“Mere awareness that one was subject to the influence of a mental deviant is in and of itself a crucial part of treatment.”Improve Treatment of Victims of the Psychopathological
For many who come into contact with the pathological, whether in the form of abuse or neglect by family members and/or oppression by a larger system such as a government, the experience can be deeply traumatizing. It can forever alter their perception of and thoughts and feelings about themselves, others and the world around them. And it can establish a lifelong attachment to an identity – and a corresponding pattern of behavior – shaped by that of the originating pathological person or entity.
As a clinician, Lobaczewski explains from experience how mental health professionals can help victims transcend this condition by:
- Activating clients’ healing mechanisms
- Releasing them from the pathological grip on their perception, identity and worldview and allowing them to regain the ability to perceive and think for themselves
- Protecting them from falling prey to such enslavement in the future
- Accurately pinpointing the pathological condition that influenced the victim
- Providing education and therapy, precisely targeted according to the particular disorder by which the client has been influenced, that include a focus on stimulating an objective, scientific understanding about the workings of that pathology
- Mobilizing the reintegration of suppressed and repressed material into consciousness
Unfortunately, many therapists remain ignorant about the need for such special therapies, cling to an ideological belief in invalid methods unfounded in scientific data about psychopathological influence or, for a variety of reasons, are anxious about providing such deep and intimate care. These are yet more reasons that it is so crucial that mental health professional training programs be updated to require demonstrated understanding of and skill at providing these types of care for victims affected by the pathological.
Apply Effective Therapeutic Principles on a Wide Scale
In a chapter entitled “Therapy for the World,” Lobaczewski explains how the same principles that characterize effective treatment of those detrimentally impacted by the pathological on the microsocial scale can inform our approach to pathological influence on the macrosocial scale. He suggests that we multiply the beneficial effects achieved through treating victimized individuals and families, for example, by disseminating targeted educational and therapeutic messages, aimed at liberating people and entities from pathological control, throughout pathocratic or at-risk systems.
Safeguard the Integrity of the Mental Health Professions
The mental health professions are such central battlegrounds in the struggle between normals and the pathological that Lobaczewski includes an entire chapter in Political Ponerology called “Psychology and Psychiatry Under Pathocratic Rule.” In it, he discusses the various subtle and blatant ways that the pathological corrupt these important disciplines for their own benefit and to the great detriment of the system as a whole. He describes, for instance, how they:
- Attempt to prevent the discovery or dissemination of psychiatric and psychological knowledge and methods that they find threatening – especially information and techniques that might lead the public to recognize the pathology behind their masks or their own traumatized state - They may try to do this by discrediting, intimidating, threatening or punishing researchers and clinicians that prioritize unbiased science, unfettered research and public awareness above submission to service as tools for the pathologicals’ bidding.
- Attempt to spread and apply self-serving misinformation and propaganda under the guise of accurate psychological and psychiatric knowledge - This may even include using their power to rewrite diagnostic criteria based not on scientific validity but on how well they can then employ the manipulated diagnoses as weapons, obscuring the true cause of victims’ suffering and stifling dissent by painting painful expressions and outraged outcries as themselves symptoms of pathology.
Lobaczewski knew better than most just how effectively the pathological could carry out these tactics. After all, he himself had to work in secret, at tremendous risk, while carrying out his research and lost much of his data and not one, but two, versions of the book that ultimately became Political Ponerology because of the aggressive way in which his country’s authorities oppressed and persecuted dissident mental health researchers and clinicians.
In order to better protect the mental health fields from such manipulation by the pathological, and ensure that they can best play their roles in promoting the critical thinking, knowledge and health required to resist pathocracy, Lobaczewski suggests that those in these fields must first take a clear-eyed approach. Just as so many of them advise their own clients on the importance of self-examination and insight, even when uncomfortable, they too must be ready and willing to identify and address within their own practices and discipline:
- Conflicts of interest
- Cases in which other agendas and biases, whether political, financial or otherwise, have superseded scientific accuracy
- Cases of dangerous pathology in the population, even when they involve powerful, respected or admired individuals or groups
Promote the Importance and Value of Psychology and Psychological Knowledge and Skill
As noted, psychological knowledge is as important as any other form of knowledge in enabling and sustaining the healthy functioning of human systems. Unfortunately, in far too many systems, this knowledge and those most educated in it and skilled in applying it are treated with apathy, if not outright hostility. Such an attitude, though unrecognized as problematic by many, serves as either an invitation for the rise of the pathological or a sign of its having already taken its toll.
Popularizing a mindset friendly to and curious about accurate, scientifically-grounded psychological knowledge and techniques is one of the most beneficial endeavors that can take place in a human system. And those within the mental health professions should be the most equipped and motivated to challenge apathy and hostility and promote greater acceptance of and interest in these subjects by:
- Acknowledging and expertly negotiating the obstructive defenses responsible for aversion to psychological awareness
- Stimulating honest discussion of the role that psychopathology plays in destructive processes
- Awakening others to the enormous theoretical and practical value of psychological knowledge
- Championing admiration and respect for those, both within their profession and amongst laypeople in the public at large, who most abundantly possess, embody and apply this knowledge
Public Health FieldsSince psychopathology and ponerogenesis often detrimentally influence the health of human systems on a vast scale – at times, to a far greater degree than other medical conditions that receive greater attention - they should rightfully be considered significant public health hazards, and, in fact, some of the worst. Therefore, like mental health professionals, public health professionals should also bear a sizeable share of the responsibility for addressing them. Here are some of the measures that the public health community might enact that could lead to more effective resistance amongst large-scale populations against these threats.
Increase Research Regarding Psychopathology and Ponerology
Public health researchers should carry out relevant studies about these topics that complement those carried out by researchers in the mental health fields by focusing on their wider demographic aspects. This could include studies reinforcing our knowledge about:
- The prevalence of various psychopathological conditions in various populations
- The breakdown of cases of inherited vs. acquired origin in various populations
- The reasons for differences in these statistics in different locations at different times
- The varying ways that ponerogenic processes play out in particular systems depending on these demographics
Put simply, like mental health professionals, public health professionals should all receive significant training regarding ponerology and the psychopathologies it involves.
Advocate Public Education about Psychopathology and Ponerology
Many populations suffer from far too much ignorance and delusion regarding widespread psychopathology and its potential consequences. This lack of accurate understanding can exist both among those who have not experienced significant direct contact with the pathological - even if they do have an intellectual awareness about psychopathology and even among mental health professionals – as well as among those with direct experience, who often struggle to make sense of or even acknowledge the reality of the situation through the fog of trauma.
But people cannot have a healthy realistic view of humanity without clearer understanding of these topics. And without such a realistic view, they cannot sustain healthy functioning systems. It is hard enough for members of a system to resist the tactics of the pathological when they are informed and prepared for them. It is even more unlikely when populations fail to recognize the pathological as fundamentally different from normals or to learn about how they repeatedly manage to rise to dominance.
Thus, public health professionals have a duty to reorient populations to reality and bolster prevention of ponerogenesis by promoting greater public education about issues such as:
- How psychopathological conditions and thinking come about and are spread through populations
- The fact that the pathological can differ from normals at the deepest levels of genetics and biology, including in their brain anatomy
- The particular deceptions and manipulations that the pathological predictably employ and how to effectively recognize and respond to them
- He points out that where there is widespread ignorance about the influence of psychopathology, victims often feel deeply misunderstood and outcast. Their initial trauma is compounded by the painful lack of sensitivity amongst those around them about what they’ve been through and why they display the symptoms that they do. When populations are educated about ponerology, they are then able not only to show greater compassion to victims, but also to treasure them as crucial sources of firsthand data, which in turn can fuel the transformation of a downward spiral of ignorance into a positive feedback cycle of greater research and enhanced understanding.
- He explains that we should use the aftermath of ponerologic catastrophes as teachable moments for exposing the underlying psychopathology and pathological tactics involved. He specifically suggests that the Nuremberg trials could have been more effective in this regard had they resulted not only in imprisoning or executing Nazi war criminals – which, in fact, the pathological would prefer – but also in more mental health and public health professionals working diligently to study and diagnose the pathology of particular Nazis, identify the specific archetypal ways that they manipulated ideology, institutions and people, and then aggressively spreading this information throughout the world.
Focused therapy with a knowledgeable clinician, well-trained in treating victims of trauma at the hands of the pathological, is probably the ideal setting for healing from that experience. But public health officials also have much to offer to these victims. They should:
- Work to help more victims afford or gain access to treatment
- Provide the best possible substitute services, in the meantime, for those victims unable to receive quality therapy
- Encourage those victims who can afford and gain access to treatment, but have not sought it, to do so for the sake of themselves, those around them, society and future generations
- Provide complementary services that enhance the healing of those victims who are being or have been treated
- Create a more fertile environment among populations as a whole for the healing of victims to take place
Few undertakings could more significantly impact our ability to sustain healthy systems than actually reducing the prevalence and impact of psychopathologies themselves. Such an outcome could exponentially reduce the threat of pathocracy for generations to come. There are several public health interventions that could help us progress in that direction.
- Provide education and counseling about the risks of transmitting psychopathology to children - In the case of many disorders that are inherited, communicable or passed down in other ways, we attempt to reduce the burden of those conditions on society through awareness campaigns, as well as specific, more personal counseling where indicated, about the mechanisms and probabilities of those forms of transmission, so that people can manage those risks by making informed choices about mating and having children. However, tragically, we have not applied this methodology as commonly in the case of psychopathological disorders. Public health professionals should work to close this gap.
In part, the gap can be closed through the type of public education about psychopathology to which we have already alluded. Such efforts could raise public awareness about the likelihood that, if one or both parents have a particular psychopathology, it will be transmitted to their children either genetically or through pathological parenting. In addition, more specific genetic and other counseling should be provided to at-risk families known to be affected by psychopathology just as it is for other transmissible conditions. This will allow people to make wise, data-driven decisions about whether to mate with someone pathological and, if they do, to put in place practices to reduce the risks to their children.
- Improve prenatal and natal care of mothers and children – As discussed, some psychopathologies are acquired through traumas or illnesses sustained in the womb, shortly after birth or during childhood. By more successfully preventing events such as early brain injuries and infections and promoting healthier childrearing practices, we may be able to reduce occurrences of acquired psychopathology.
- Expand treatment of the psychopathological and their victims, especially children – It is doubtful that we will ever fully prevent the introduction of new cases of psychopathology into populations. So the next best thing we can do to reduce its prevalence and damage is to ensure that anyone influenced by it receives the best possible treatment. In some cases, this may eliminate their symptoms entirely and even render them stronger and healthier than before. In others, it will at least assist in managing their symptoms more effectively, making it less likely that they will pass on the detrimental consequences of their condition to others.
The advancement, over the last several centuries, in our understanding of the workings of immunity and how to harness them represents not only one of the most powerful contributions to humanity of the public health field, but, arguably, one of the most powerful developments in any sphere of human history. Learning about, discovering and efficiently administering methods that stimulate protective resistance to dangerous illnesses has enabled a new level of effectiveness in ensuring health within populations far beyond that possible through post-illness treatment alone. Perhaps the most effective way for public health professionals to support efforts to attain logocracy is by applying the same mindset, energy and techniques to understanding and harnessing the workings of immunity as it relates to human systems’ resistance to “the great disease” of pathocracy. Such an endeavor would allow us to build populations’ capacity to more effortlessly peer through the masks of the pathological to identify the unique patterns of speech and behavior that characterize them, detect ponerogenic risk factors and proactively resist them.
Lobaczewski’s own research offers us a headstart on this path. He spends a great deal of time in Political Ponerology discussing the dynamics of ponerogenic immunity that he and his colleagues recognized on all levels.
In doing so, he makes an important distinction between two different types of immunity against ponerogenesis.
- Natural Immunity – As is the case with a number of diseases, some individuals and systems, having fallen prey to pathological domination, develop a set of responses that enables them to more successfully resist the same process playing out again. Lobaczewski explains how he himself, as a result of repeated contact with the pathological, found his instinctive reactions gradually honed, enabling him to respond far more effectively in later encounters. While this type of immunity can help prevent a certain proportion of those previously victimized by ponerogenesis from being re-victimized, it, nonetheless, has its shortcomings. Obviously, it can only be attained by those who first endure the tragedy of ponerogenesis at least once. And the resulting immunity is likely to be very specific, limited only to the very particular type of pathological influence that stimulated it.
- Scientific Immunity - By proactively administering wide-ranging education about the scientific facts of ponerology, along with pre-emptive forms of therapy, we can replace the ignorance that the pathological leverage for manipulation with a type of immunity superior to natural immunity in that it is:
- Attainable even without having to first experience the horrors of ponerogenesis
- Longer lasting
- Broader – Able to provide resistance not only to specific forms of pathology, but against the pathological in general, regardless of the particular mask they may wear in any given case
- More transferrable – Because scientific immunity is general, those with access to it can, through working with and educating others, spread it not only to those within their own systems, but to those in other systems throughout the world, including those who have only had experience with a different form of the pathological or even those who have had no direct experience at all.
- Attainable even without having to first experience the horrors of ponerogenesis
Science as a WholeOn a wider scale, not only mental health and public health professionals, but all scientists should be made aware of ponerology so that they can both take the necessary steps to protect the integrity of the scientific community – the entity tasked with carrying out unbiased investigation, which pathocrats strongly oppose – against pathological corruption, as well as employ the resources of their particular fields to contribute to increasing public awareness of and resistance to ponerogenesis.
Educational SystemsAs long as we maintain formal educational systems, we must decide both how to protect those systems from being corrupted by the pathological - who may attempt to hijack them to indoctrinate students or bias them by censoring information to which they object or barring or eliminating from participation people of whom they disapprove – as well as how to include within their curricula age-appropriate lessons about ponerologic material.
Legal SystemsMany of us believe in and rely on the law’s capacity to protect us from harm or afford us justice when it is unable to do so. When it comes to protecting us from or responding to harm caused by the pathological, however, while the law may, in various places and situations, help prevent or slow its detrimental influence, unfortunately, Lobaczewski warns, it too often fails us. The reason, he explains, is that legal systems are out of touch with biological and psychological reality because too many within these systems are ignorant regarding the true nature of the genesis of evil in psychopathology, and, as a result:
- In too many ways, they structure legal systems as if those with ponerologic psychopathologies are simply normals behaving badly, rather than fundamentally different from normals.
- We tend, as noted, to swing between extremes of responding to harmful behavior with either severe reactionary punishment or overly forgiving “humane” leniency. Both approaches play into the hands of the pathological, providing them ample loopholes to exploit as they continue to traumatize those around them. In fact, they sometimes even allow the pathological to hijack the legal system itself and use it as a weapon to further injure their victims.
Educate Legal Professionals about Ponerology
Those training in any capacity within the legal system should at least be required to achieve a basic understanding of ponerology so that they are familiar with the full spectrum of psychopathology, how the various disorders manifest, and the array of devious tactics the pathological use in their pursuit of control and power. Only then will they recognize, and be able to respond based upon, the actual origins and motivations behind some of the behaviors that they encounter in the course of carrying out their duties.
Create Laws Grounded in Objective Knowledge about the Pathological
Once those involved in the legal system are informed about ponerology, they can then update its structure to reflect and embody our growing scientific knowledge about pathological influence by creating and implementing targeted laws that:
- Acknowledge and take into account the special circumstances that may characterize cases involving the pathological, including:
- Their tendency to traumatize others in unique, even non-physical, ways that can be difficult to measure or even recognize
- Their inability to be rehabilitated in typical fashion due to the biological lack of a normal capacity for guilt or remorse
- Their tendency to traumatize others in unique, even non-physical, ways that can be difficult to measure or even recognize
- Go beyond merely imposing increasingly extreme punishments in response to repeated symptomatic transgressions by more specifically addressing the root pathological causes of those violations
HistoryHistory takes on a new level of depth when viewed through the lens of ponerology – and vice-versa. We have yet to fully recognize, for instance, the extent to which historical events have been affected by factors such as the variations in distribution and level of influence of various pathologies in different locations at different times. Therefore, historians, equipped with ponerologic knowledge, should revisit the past with an eye to discovering new patterns and gleaning new lessons that can improve both our understanding of history and of ponerology. As Lobaczewski says “The history of mankind demands a re-reading and re-telling by historians educated in the science of Ponerology.”
Current EventsBy applying a ponerologic lens to the analysis of events in today’s world, we can gain greater insight into the risks of ponerogenesis in various systems and, thus, make better decisions about how to prevent or respond to them.
Language and CategoriesIn order to mount successful cooperative responses to the threat of ponerogenesis, we must be able to communicate with each other about all facets of the process clearly and accurately. But doing so can be quite a challenge. We are predisposed to attempt to understand the pathological using language and categories developed for describing the normal and this habit almost inevitably leads us astray. Furthermore, the pathological realize just how greatly mislabelings, misconceptions and misunderstandings can hinder the collaborative capacity, and in turn the effectiveness, of those seeking to resist their attempts to gain power. And so, in the course of the ponerogenic process, they put great effort into provoking and exploiting several types of linguistic and categorical confusion.
Lobaczewski suggests several measures that should be implemented so as to maintain and improve our ability, even in the face of such misleading propensities and a constant onslaught of interference, to precisely identify and discuss the entities, phenomena, strategies and tactics involved in ponerogenesis.
Develop and Promote Understanding of Patho-Semantics
The pathological include masters of propaganda who deviously manipulate language and ideas in order to disorient and mystify potential opponents. In order to protect ourselves from exploitation by silver-tongued pathocrats, it is essential that we establish critical thinking about the messages we encounter. Patho-semantics is a term that Lobaczewski introduces to refer to the use of particular forms of communication – including those commonly formulated by the pathological - for deceptive and malicious purposes. Through in-depth study, we can strengthen our knowledge of patho-semantics. And by educating people about it, we can furnish the public with the skills to recognize manipulative messages, especially from authority figures, as well as the resulting consequences of such messages, and to respond optimally based on this recognition.
More Assertively Engage in the Battle over the Definition of Relevant Terms
We have already discussed at length the importance of objective technical language in facilitating cooperative research on and response to the problems introduced by psychopathology. But, when we attempt to popularize that more precise language, which is so beneficial to those resisting pathocracy, we may find ourselves in a sort of battle with the pathological themselves for the linguistic minds of the public. For a long time, the pathological have gained advantage by dominating this battle and framing the debate in terms that portray them in a falsely flattering light. We must assertively engage in taking back some of that power by insisting on the use of accurate, often scientific, terminology when discussing ponerologic topics and proactively explaining the importance of using such language to the public.
Categorize Ideologies According to BOTH Their Content AND Their Function
When discussing mental health, it is crucial that we use language that distinguishes between cases in which the same symptom occurs in clients with very different conditions of different origins and in which that symptom plays different roles and reflects different meanings. For instance, we must categorize in such a way as to distinguish between one situation, in which an otherwise healthy and critically-thinking person truly holds an outrageous belief on the basis of faulty logic, and another situation, in which a person holds that same outrageous belief within the very different context of a delusional disorder, characterized by many other outrageous beliefs, that together serve to repress a painful trauma.
The reason it is so important to make this distinction is that our responses to the two cases should be very different in terms of how much we address – or do not address – the content of each person’s belief. In the first case, it is quite reasonable, and probably even necessary, to focus on the content of the person’s belief and its direct meaning when working with them. In the latter case, however, focusing on the actual content or direct meaning of the belief would likely only serve to distract from the far more important focus on the underlying psychological condition and the defensive role that the false belief plays and, ultimately, to perpetuate the person’s disorder.
Similarly, and for analogous reasons, it is crucial that, in discussing ideologies, we use language that distinguishes between cases in which the same ideology is used within very different contexts and for very different purposes. There is an enormous difference between one situation, in which a relatively normal group promotes and enacts an ideology in which it truly believes, and another situation in which a pathological group claims to believe in that same ideology solely for the purpose of using it as a Trojan horse for their oppressive and pernicious policies. In responding to the first group, it is sensible to discuss and debate the merits of the ideology itself. But, in responding to the second group, focusing on the ideology itself, which is, in reality, being put forth just for show, would serve only to distract us from addressing the group’s underlying pathology and malicious motives.
Unfortunately, far too often and for far too long, we have been fooled into discussing – and, hence, treating - both of these situations similarly because our categories do not prompt us to make the crucial distinctions. This misguided form of communication has immeasurably aided the pathological in repeatedly ascending to power and spreading destruction.
Thus, we desperately need to develop a new terminology that classifies ideologies based not only on their contents, but also on the function for which they are being engaged in a given situation. Specifically, our nomenclature should reflect an understanding of the fundamental difference between an ideology being used by normals and an ideology being abused by the pathological by providing different names for its pre- and post-ponerogenic forms. Only then will our language itself urge us, in cases of pathological hijacking, to focus not on the ideology but on the disorder of those who have coopted it.
By making such changes, we can reap great rewards. We will not only weaken one of the pathologicals’ most potent weapons – namely, the ability to sneak their harmful influence into populations distracted by the content of their ideological smokescreen and, thus, unaware of its function. We will also regain the potential value of various ideologies whose names have been tarnished through their perverse applications as masks for the pathological but which, in their original pre-ponerogenic forms, and when used responsibly by normals, may actually still be quite beneficial.
More Thoroughly Classify Ponerogenic Groups
A variety of disciplines should contribute to the creation of a system with which we accurately classify the various ponerogenic groups. Of course, the classification criteria would include each group’s stated ideology, as well as its degree and type of pathology and what function(s) their ideology serves for them. But proper organization would also involve identifying many other factors that distinguish ponerogenic groups from non-ponerogenic groups as well as different ponerogenic groups from each other.
Identify Actual, Rather than Ostensible, Power Structures
Determining the true nature and makeup of power structures within pathological systems can prove quite difficult. As previously discussed, superficial characteristics, such as high socioeconomic positions or prestigious titles, which may be assumed to indicate authority within a system of normal man, may be meaningless, misleading or even willfully deceptive within a ponerized system, in which the true seats of power may be concealed and typically depend on one’s relationship and loyalty to the pathological leadership, which itself may be hidden. Nonetheless, in order to best foster accurate understanding of and responses to pathological systems, it is important that we unravel these webs to discover and name the sites at which authority truly lies.
ActivismIt is essential that activists who work to improve human systems at any level consider the profound influence that the pathological have on these systems. Activists who remain ignorant of or in denial about ponerology, and hence unaware or unaccepting of this influence, are likely, in many cases, to be ineffective in their work or even to play into the hands of the pathological, counterintuitively enabling their destructiveness. This is because such activists will tend to employ faulty strategies based on false assumptions.
For instance, they may campaign for change by putting forth carefully formulated arguments based on reason and logic, ignoring the fact that pathological systems, riddled with mental illness, are not rational entities. Or they may attempt to solicit the cooperation of the pathological via messaging designed to appeal to the perceptions and values of normals, failing to internalize the fact that the pathological perceive and value in markedly different ways. Or they may invest energy in working to petition, overthrow or recall apparent authority figures in pathological systems, blind to the fact that these figures are only figureheads who actually hold little real power.
Only when activists learn about and come to terms with the lessons of ponerology can they more wisely and effectively strategize on the basis of sound scientific underpinnings. Driven by a deep understanding of the facts of ponerogenesis, they can then also prioritize and achieve other important goals such as:
- Moving beyond divisions of race, class, gender and even nationality, as well as beyond the scattering of energies among various pet issues, by forming strong networks, devoted to the core cause, common to all of their interests and concerns, of defending normals’ right to determine their lives
- Discovering and elevating those normals within their ranks that have the particularly valuable skill of developing wise responses to pathological people and groups
Thus, we should invest especially heavily in educating potential activists about ponerology. We should work to confer an exceptionally strong level of immunity among such groups. And, in cases where activists may have suffered traumas from pathological contact – which is common, since such traumas often serve as the impetus that motivates a person’s interest in activism in the first place - we may obtain great benefit from providing, and activists may obtain great benefit from seeking, the special type of therapy necessary for healing.
Leadership and GovernmentSome feel that, as long as human systems are characterized by a significant contingent of power-hungry psychopaths and characteropaths, constantly threatening to take over social structures, it is simply too risky to maintain vast, powerful centralized governments at all. As long as we do, however, it is imperative that we educate citizens about ponerology. Only a public so informed can work to prevent the pathological from assuming today’s enormously potent positions of authority and advocate for the election or selection of competent responsible leaders instead.
Given the extent and variety of damage that ponerogenesis generates, resisting the development of pathocracies should be considered perhaps the top priority for leaders. So we especially need authority figures who themselves understand ponerology and are, thus, able to apply its lessons, replacing leadership based on emotional or moralistic impulses with leadership based on wisdom. Only such leaders can help us avoid the escalating tensions perpetuated by unnecessarily demonizing the biologically-based pathological, move us beyond futile alternations between overreliance on force and vengeance and excessive vulnerability and institute wise constructive policies targeted at ponerologic leverage points. Only they will have the credibility and skill to both promise and deliver systems that can support the healthy coexistence of normals and the pathological by affording the pathological the best life possible within the limits of control necessary to protect normals’ autonomy.
ReligionLike the mental health fields, religion is also a central battlefield on which ponerologic struggles play out. In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski explores religion, including the Bible, as seen through the eyes of a ponerologist. He also explains why religion, on its own, can no more equip us to resist evil than it can equip us to resist infections or cancer. For, evil has its genesis in psychopathology and psychopathology, like those other illnesses, involves forces that act on a material, rather than abstract spiritual, level. Without the benefit of understanding ponerology’s scientific aspects, religious communities not only tend to respond to ponerogenic manifestations with the ineffective moralistic and emotionalistic responses that enable further evil, but are ripe, as much as or more than any other ideological entity, for being hijacked and perverted by the pathological, thus becoming part of the ponerogenic process.
However, Lobaczewski explains, if religious leaders become willing to integrate a scientific understanding of the genesis evil with their traditional worldview and allow it to inform their responses, they can better protect themselves and their communities from this hijacking, find common ground with those of other religions – and of no religion - around the shared goal of protecting the freedom of normals, and actually become a part of the solution.
New DisciplinesOften, in science, when we create a new discipline to research and advise us about issues that are not yet being adequately addressed by existing disciplines, its work then stimulates awareness of the need for and the subsequent creation of still more related new disciplines. For instance, ponerology, as described by Lobaczewski, is, for all intents and purposes, a relatively new discipline created to address the increasingly apparent need for a scientific response to the processes of evil. In the course of pursuing work in this new discipline, Lobaczewski realized the need to address rampant ignorance about the malicious manipulation of language, so often exploited by the pathological, which, as we have already discussed, he refers to as patho-semantics. We could perhaps best meet this need through the establishment of an actual academic field, closely linked with ponerology, named patho-semantics and dedicated to its study. And it is possible, and even likely, that as we continue to pursue greater knowledge about ponerology, we will encounter other phenomena and dynamics not being adequately addressed by existing disciplines and realize the need to create even more related new disciplines.
Manage BacklashLobaczewski makes clear that implementing some of these measures may lead, at least temporarily, to a rather stormy reaction. Some of those who have been victimized by the pathological, as well as some who were complicit with them, may protest especially strongly. However, he insists that such a backlash represents a necessary phase whose unpleasantness is justified by the consequent long-term benefits and offers advice on how to best weather the storm and, in fact, to channel its energy toward further strengthening the human systems of the post-ponerogenic era.
SUMMARY THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL PONEROLOGY:
A SCIENCE ON THE NATURE OF EVIL ADJUSTED FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES
for Political Purposes is a “depiction of the ways and means by which pathological figures take over and undermine the social structures of normal people…” It is a book that, according to Lobaczewski, was written and published in the face of great opposition and resistance both in Europe and in America. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in thinking about the origins, nature and role of evil in our world today and throughout history.
It isn’t a perfect book. Readers have raised a variety of challenges to it. And, while some of these challenges are easily addressed, are actually responses not to Lobaczewski’s work itself but to the editor’s notes, or, frankly, are irrelevant, others really do raise important issues.
In my review of Political Ponerology, I offer my perspective on the shortcomings of Lobaczewski’s work and of the editors who annotate. In addition, the publisher has added a postscript which addresses some of the concerns people have expressed about it. This postscript, for instance, expounds upon why dividing people along normal vs. pathological lines is ultimately beneficial even when so many other divisions are not (and even when the pathological invoke that same division, in a somewhat different fashion, to justify their transgressions) and exposes how some pathological groups themselves have tried to discredit Lobaczewski’s work through association. Even Lobaczewski himself conceded that his work had shortcomings and, as a scientist, encouraged further investigation.
But regardless of any imperfections, Political Ponerology is a fascinating and impressive attempt to apply a systems thinking type of approach to some of humanity’s most pressing challenges. This makes it one of the most important books I’ve ever read. And, as we shall soon discuss, whatever your view of Lobaczewski’s particular story, ideas or way of describing the world, Political Ponerology serves as a powerful launching point for much further crucial examination and discussion. I believe that even Lobaczewski would proclaim that stimulating such activities, rather than having the final infallible word on these subjects, would be his most important and gratifying achievement of all.
Other Works Related to Ponerology
Moreover, I came to understand that, since Lobaczewski’s ponerologic work focused most extensively on the dynamics of evil operating at the highest levels of human systems, the field of ponerology, in order to be comprehensive, badly needed others to build upon and complement his work. It needed deep exploration of both the lower human systems levels – such as the family, group, social and corporate levels – as well as of the suprahuman system levels, such as that of the ecosystem as a whole, from a ponerologic perspective.
Soon after, I had a further realization. Not only was Lobaczewski not the sole person who had explored issues ponerologically. And not only was it crucial that others extend the field’s scope by investigating its implications at a broader range of system levels. But, I suddenly recognized that I myself had already read books and seen films, produced by a range of people other than Lobaczewski, that, whether the authors or filmmakers even realized it, could, to some degree, be categorized within the discipline of ponerology and which did exactly that.
These works included:
- The work of Derrick Jensen – Jensen focuses primarily on the pervasive influence of violence within our culture at all levels, from the family to the global, and its relationship to our ecological unsustainability. At points within his work, he references and discusses psychopathy and other psychopathologies and examines the forces that perpetuate our widespread denial of their true nature and high degree of impact. His work also challenges readers – especially activists - to confront the very real strategic implications of such intractable, often biologically-based disorders playing fundamental roles in the creation and escalation of our catastrophic ecological crisis.
- The Corporation – This film compares the characteristics and behaviors of modern corporations, point by point, with World Health Organization ICD-10 and DSM-IV criteria, to make the case that their structures impel them to operate in ways that mirror those of a psychopath.
- Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed and My Sister Stole My Mother's Boyfriend by Barbara Oakley - This book thoroughly explores why and how the “successfully sinister” employ Machiavellian strategies, placing others in awful positions and causing damage and suffering all around them as they seek hedonistic pleasure, power and control. It offers an absolutely superb overview of the genetics and neuroscience of disorders such as psychopathy and Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as explaining how – as I recap at length in my psychopathy page – powerful pathocrats, over the millennia, have exploited their relatively vast mating opportunities, driving a documented explosion in the prevalence of their genes within the population. By combining a deeply personal account of her painful experience with pathology in her own family with consideration of its enormously destructive impact on the grandest historical scale, Oakley both reveals how pathological patterns at various human systems levels mirror and reinforce each other and makes what might otherwise be a tedious academic book extremely readable and engaging.
- The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout, Ph.D. – In this book, Stout, a Harvard psychologist, describes the crucial role of empathy and conscience among humanity and paints a chilling portrait of those people who lack them. She makes the statement, which I often quote, that the presence or absence of conscience is “possibly the single most meaningful characteristic that divides the human species” and asserts that, however difficult it may be for most of us to grasp or accept, people who simply do not experience feelings such as guilt or compassion for others are far more prevalent and inhabit far more diverse areas of society than we might think. She also offers tips on how to best recognize and respond to such cold calculating people.
- Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work by Paul Babiak, Ph.D. and Robert D. Hare, Ph.D. – Robert Hare, the world’s leading expert on psychopathy, and Babiak delve into the psychopath’s special talent for manipulating and exploiting the unique vulnerabilities of modern hierarchical institutions, including corporate, religious and political organizations, as they deceptively slither their way into and abuse positions of power.
Again, the writers and filmmakers behind these works may not all describe themselves as participants in the field of ponerology. It is possible that some of them may never have even heard of the term. But, nonetheless, the subject matter of their work does in fact fall, at least partially – and in some cases very heavily – within ponerology’s purview.
For many years, I have pointed to the work of Daniel Quinn as pivotal in imaginatively describing how we gave rise to our current ecological predicament and passionately advocating for a creative revolution in social structure that might support a return to sustainability and health. However, I have simultaneously pointed out that his work falls short by failing to sufficiently elucidate or address the deeper – especially psychological - reasons why attempts to make such changes are continuously sabotaged. Ponerologic works such as those mentioned help support Quinn’s view of our destructive path through history and reinforce his message about the importance of bold innovative action. But they also do something else that his work alone does not. They promote the scientific knowledge about psychopathology necessary to truly understand the barriers to change and to develop a realistic strategy for lasting reform. Thus, it is works like these that can potentially bridge the gap between so many important messages, like Quinn’s, that rightly bring attention to our crisis and offer potential solutions and the actualization of the solutions for which they call.
The Central Role of Psychopathology in the Genesis of Evil
Although the works discussed in the previous section represent only a small sample of the additional body of literature and film that examines the workings of evil at various levels of human systems from a scientific perspective, it is nonetheless telling that they all, fundamentally, support Lobaczewski’s basic thesis.
To varying extents, they all:
- Identify the roots of a tremendous amount of evil as lying in the archetypal manipulative interactions of those with certain psychopathologies - marked by specific genetic, brain and other biological abnormalities with ethical implications – with each other and with those around them
- Emphasize the enormous importance of – and were created out of a desire to participate in – promoting education about our growing understanding of how people with psychopathy and certain personality disorders, especially Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder:
- Fundamentally differ from other people
- Are more prevalent than most of us realize
- Exist and operate within all areas of society, including within institutions ranging from families to religious communities to businesses to large governments
- Include well known, highly trusted and even misguidedly admired figures
- Influence our world disproportionately to their numbers
- Skillfully fake, pose and deceive as they attract each other along with susceptible, potentially complicit, people
- Exploit vulnerable people and systems that remain ignorant, especially about psychology – a class that, sadly, can even include professional psychologists
- Insidiously navigate or even hijack modern hierarchies and power structures of all types
- Contribute to the occurrence of harmful, destructive activities – ones that many of us would refer to as evil and that we ignore at our peril - between people, families, societies, nations and our environment that generate immense amounts of suffering for those near them or entrenched within the systems that they influence
- Enhance their damage by affecting systems in such a way as to keep victims unconscious or in denial of what is really behind their suffering
- Conspire to keep talented ethical people out of positions from which they can mobilize resistance
- Fundamentally differ from other people
- Touch on the distinction between moral and biological evil and recognize that a comprehensive picture of humanity, our history and reality must include an understanding of the biological aspects of evil
- Explain that normal people will be led astray if they try to make sense of situations involving the psychopathological in terms of their own very different feelings, motivations and values or by taking the superficial statements and symbols of pathological groups at face value
- Promote the knowledge and usage of more precise technical terminology in discussing pathologized events, activities or entities
- Consider steps that we as individuals, families, groups and societies can take to prevent and reduce the damage caused by psychopathologically-based evil
However, despite these differences, all of these works seem to basically converge on the thesis that psychopathology plays the central role in the generation of what we call evil.
Such agreement does not imply that we have reached a final and ultimate conclusion about the nature of evil. Ponerology is by definition a discipline based in science. As such, it demands that we neither blindly accept nor stubbornly ignore the findings and views of Lobaczewski or any of these other investigators and thinkers. Rather, we must encourage and support further investigation, based rigorously on sound methodology and evidence, rather than speculation or wishful thinking, to verify or discredit their arguments and hypotheses, as well as to explore the validity of other possible theories about the origins and nature of evil on all levels.
In any case, at this point in time, based on my experience, the scientific evidence best supports the conclusion that a small group of particular forms of psychopathology play the central role in the genesis of that which we call evil.
The Future of Ponerology
- Continuously improve and better solidify our definition and understanding of evil
- Classify the various forms of evil and explicate how they reinforce one another
- Develop methods for surveying various potentially harmful situations in order to pinpoint the underlying factors responsible for their danger
- Identify the proportion and types of destructive, neglectful – or even just apparently absurd - behavior that can be attributed to what we term evil as opposed to other causes such as accidents or justifiable ignorance
- Better explore and describe the stunning effects that evil has on human systems and relationships on all levels, as well as the effects that evil within human systems has on other, non-human systems
- Detail evil’s influence in particular areas of society, clarifying why ponerology has relevance to all of them
- Reconsider past data and reinterpret history through the lens of this new paradigm to see what we can learn or recover
- Further elucidate, as meticulously as we do mechanisms in other sciences, the patterns and processes by which evil develops
- Advance our capacity to assess ponerogenic risk within a system by estimating its level of vulnerability or resistance to ponerogenesis
- Determine to what extent evil has biological, as opposed to other, roots
- More thoroughly confirm or deny the aforementioned theory, asserted by Lobaczewski and others, that certain specific medical psychopathologies lay at the heart of the ponerogenic process
- Determine whether any other medical conditions are involved at any stage or in any facet of ponerogenesis
- Continue to expand the terminological base that will enable accurate, meaningful discussion about the people, groups, communications, mechanisms, strategies and layers upon layers of tactics involved in ponerology
- Identify the most efficient and effective methods for raising widespread awareness and consciousness about ponerology and fostering skill in detecting the factors that generate evil amongst the public. This includes identifying age-appropriate ways to teach this information to and promote these abilities in youngsters.
- Develop and advocate for the implementation of protective methods that optimally prevent or wisely resist ponerogenesis and the spread of evil and address the factors that leave us vulnerable to being victimized by it or becoming complicit with it – without costing us our souls in the process
- Complement the knowledge and skills of those in influential positions - whether caregivers or loved ones in families or activists, businesspeople, clergy, educators, legal or law enforcement professionals, policy makers or voters in society – by introducing to them, and, where applicable, more comprehensively training them in ponerology’s most up to date language and hard technical know-how
- Incentivize these influential people to move beyond ineffective, misguided customs and actually apply ponerology’s lessons in carrying out their roles or jobs. Whether they are raising children, running corporations, advising students or followers or choosing society’s leaders, it is a travesty for those with such impact to continue acting based on outdated baseless ideas, no matter how instinctively right they may seem due to tradition or early wiring induced by a very different environment, which all but vanished long ago, when the consequences to themselves and others are so great.
- Support sound, competent leaders who not only are not themselves ponerogenic, but who understand ponerology, prioritize effectively addressing ponerogenesis and its consequences in the world and are mature enough to consistently promote the measures necessary to maintain health with a focus on protection rather than revenge
- Discover the social policies that can most humanely furnish with treatment or separate from others those who pose a threat to the health of systems
- Determine the forms of therapy most successful in healing people and systems damaged by the influence of evil
- Respectfully serve as watchdogs, monitoring other disciplines and communities not only to detect and expose signs of ponerologic manipulation, but to ensure that these entities are, in fact, contributing to a reduction in ponerologic risk
- Advocate for the expansion of existing fields and, when necessary, the creation of new fields to further contribute to all of these tasks
- Teaching people how to track the actions, speech and writings of potentially influential people over time in order to evaluate the workings of their consciences and detect any deception reflected in their patterns of behavior and language usage
- Educating families and groups about the signs of conscience-reducing pathologies so that they can remain as alert to indicators of these disorders within their midst as they often are to those of less destructive conditions such as ADD and depression
- Encouraging the establishment of institutions equipped for and charged with helping us recognize the workings of pathology, protecting systems from its spread and designing methods and structures that empower the pathological to live their most satisfying possible lives within the confines necessary to preserve the rights and autonomy of normals
- Working to promote organizational and political procedures and processes, informed by our most up to date understanding of ponerology, that reduce the likelihood of power hungry pathological people, eager to recklessly break free of all healthy limits and boundaries, or ignorant people, wishing to implement public policy based on outdated supernatural fantasies about the sources of evil, attaining positions of power
- Ensuring that we can accurately identify victims of pathology and interpret their signs and symptoms so as to not only properly diagnose them as just that – victims, rather than primarily pathological people themselves – but to identify the likely pathologies and, when possible and advisable, the identities of their abusers
- Improving our ability to administer the special targeted treatment and rehabilitation that victims of the pathological need
- Promoting and assisting in the emergence of committed networks of normals, bonded, despite any more superficial differences, by their common values of compassion and care, that can work to assertively defend the self-determination of people of conscience and spread awareness of the workings of evil, all while avoiding unnecessarily aggressive attacks
- Developing and implementing measures, rooted in realistic strategies that take into account the sometimes intractable nature of these biological conditions, to reduce the prevalence and impact of psychopathy and personality disorders
In all of this, our advancing technology, especially in the realm of communications, may play a beneficial role, allowing us to almost instantly access information collected from disparate parts of the world during a range of historical periods, illuminate the patterns hidden within that data, and connect people with that information, our analyses and each other in ways that were impossible even a few short years ago.
However, even though the development of a flourishing field of ponerology could bring with it so many benefits, garnering the support necessary to boost the field’s status may not be easy. After all, it is questionable whether a civilization as destructive as ours could ever have arisen in the first place if not for the consistent influence of substantial forces strongly opposing attempts to significantly address questions about evil. And today, as we work to promote the discipline most focused on and committed to uncovering evil’s roots, we are likely to run up against many of these same opposing forces, taking forms ranging from apathy to outright support for the destructive and being embodied by and channeled through people in a variety of interested and sometimes overlapping categories, including:
- The Pathological – If Lobaczewski and the likeminded thinkers discussed are correct and evil in our world stems from the rise to power of psychopathological people who then exert disproportionate leverage and control in order to maintain their respected positions and images, we can imagine the furious campaigns in which they will engage in order to discredit the very concept of honest, unrestricted investigation that constitutes the heart of authentic scientific inquiry. And we can imagine that such pathocrats would, perhaps most intensely of all, aim to suppress the emergence of a well-established scientific discipline of ponerology.
In Political Ponerology, Lobaczewski describes in detail – and his own life and the story of his struggles to research and publish on the topic of ponerology are telling examples of – the myriad of ways that the pathological employ their power to drown out potential dissent, especially by the most insightful normals, by:
- Painting those who ask certain questions about psychological issues as unwelcome troublemakers
- Persecuting those who try to help victims or others become aware of the pathocrats’ actual values, plans and goals - This may involve manipulatively charging them with hypocrisy based upon a false equivalence between normals’ efforts to accurately label the pathological in order to facilitate extremely necessary defense and protection of the vulnerable and the pathologicals’ own ploy of spuriously labeling anyone failing to submit to their wishes as a dangerous agitator, if not pathological themselves.
- Even perverting scientific institutions and the mental health and educational systems
- Painting those who ask certain questions about psychological issues as unwelcome troublemakers
- Well-Intentioned People who are Uncomfortable Accepting or Facing the Emerging Realities of Evil’s Existence or Nature – For some, the subject of evil hits a raw nerve and triggers defense mechanisms. Despite claims to the contrary, they may, though perhaps only unconsciously, value the comfort of their present worldview and feelings more highly than they do a clear-eyed, evidence-based quest to understand malicious activity, even if that quest could ultimately turn up the knowledge necessary to bring about the type of world they profess to desire.
- Victims Damaged by the Processes of Evil – These people may resist anything that threatens to bring the awful truth about what they have endured to consciousness
- Those Who Have Been Unconsciously or Consciously Complicit with Evil – Each of the groups below includes people who have been unknowingly complicit with evil and, like victims, may cling to a non-ponerologic worldview and resist that which threatens to bring the awful truth – that they actually enabled evil – to consciousness. In addition, each group includes those who, for various reasons, have knowingly chosen complicity with evil.
- People whose valued relationships, jobs or current livelihood depend on their complicity
- People who claim to be or ostensibly are working to improve the world while actually, consciously or unconsciously, perpetuating the familiar problems of the status quo – Many people portrayed as activists for good promote change, year after year, via methods that have repeatedly proven ineffective and that are doomed to fail. This allows them to maintain an image of constructiveness without having to face the fears that genuine change might raise for them and while, in reality, allowing the ponerogenic process to continue playing out relatively unabated. Their avoidant response to ponerology threatens to expose them.
- Parents whose parenting practices contribute to creating or enabling evil through the development of submissive, uncritical or unquestioning children - These parents may not only avoid awareness of their childrearing methods’ detrimental consequences, but may vigorously defend their right to raise their children as they see fit, regardless of the consequences to those children and to the larger system, and viciously resist the emergence of any field that might generate scientific conclusions unfriendly to their parenting philosophy. Furthermore, they may strongly oppose the teaching of ponerologic material to their children because the children’s resulting awareness may render them less thoughtlessly obedient to authority – an outcome many would applaud, but which authoritarian parents disdain.
- People whose valued relationships, jobs or current livelihood depend on their complicity
- Those Who Have Never Experienced Evil Extremely Directly – Doubting evil even exists, these people may view a field such as ponerology as unnecessary or even absurd.
- The Highly Moralistic and Emotionalistic Who Crave Harsh Revenge Against Those Who Do Evil – People in this category may view ponerology’s rational, objective, methodical approach as weak, interpreting attempts to understand evil scientifically as tantamount to excusing it. Moreover, they may be greatly displeased if ponerologists discover that, while draconian punishment of wrongdoers may be cathartic and satisfy a desire to feel superior, it fails to deal with evil at its roots and thus solves little and may be logically unjustifiable.
- Those Traditionally Granted Status as Experts or Authorities on Ethics – For millennia, religious leaders, certain philosophers, legal professionals and politicians have been considered the people best suited to advise the rest of society on questions of right and wrong or good and evil. Although many of these so-called experts bring little objective knowledge to the table, and have thus done a rather poor job of actually reducing evil’s influence in the world, they may nonetheless resist ceding this responsibility to science and allowing ponerologists to replace, or even join, them as primary authorities on ethical matters.
- Those that Simply Enjoy, In a Sense, the Mystique Surrounding Evil - These people may feel that as we gain a more objective, scientifically validated understanding of evil, a certain mystical, romantic or poetic quality, which they value, could disappear from the world.
However, the stakes are very high.
In our recent past, untold millions of people, not to mention countless non-humans, have suffered as a result of the various manifestations of evil. The past century has seen this devastation come to a head, with massive destruction on many levels and, today, millions more continue to suffer in the wake of harmful, wasteful and unsustainable actions that may well detrimentally impact future generations and, quite possibly, the planet as a whole.
And all the while we are faced with two related and overarching facts that, together, frame humanity’s most compelling challenges both now and for the foreseeable future:
- Evil - understood in terms of any remotely sensible definition – appears to be a part of life that we are not going to - and would likely be foolish to try to – completely eliminate.
- As Lobaczewski warned, modern civilization is “insufficiently resistant to evil.”
How we choose to approach the issue of evil, and the remarkable predicament with which it confronts us, may be the most important decision we have to make both from a humanitarian perspective, as well as for the sake of the rest of our ecosystem. If we simply allow pervasive denial to persist, evil will continue to find entry points within our systems, much of the potential for healthy development and flourishing will continue to be smothered and the tools and methods that we devise to improve life may continue to be hijacked by forces that employ them for ill. To even have a chance at restoring sustainability, we are going to have to foster the emergence of some realistic arrangements in which systems can endure in a reasonably healthy condition even in the midst of and while tinged with evil.
And to make that possible we must ardently seek insight and wisely choose our actions.
We may not, as yet, know all that we need to know about evil and how to go about studying and responding to it. But we know enough to recognize that it is inexcusable to go on acting as we did in the past when our ignorance about the subject was even greater. Innumerable human and non-human victims, including scientists like Lobaczewski and his colleagues, have sacrificed greatly and perhaps the only silver lining that we can find within their suffering is that it has, at least somewhat, increased our understanding. Not to apply this dearly acquired knowledge, to whatever extent we can, disrespects them.
And so, toward that end, let us consider what, at this point, we do know.
On one hand, we know that we must avoid ineffective strategies. For example:
- Philosophizing alone will not bring us the insight we need.
- Attempting to apply ethical principles while ignoring the growing body of relevant scientific knowledge will only lead us further astray.
- Failing to distinguish between truly and consequentially different categories and types of people and systems - such as those with contrasting experiences, views and agendas regarding empathy, conscience, constructiveness and sustainability themselves - enables so much damage that it could be considered immoral.
On the other hand, we also know that, even as we engage in the actions deemed necessary to oppose ponerogenesis, we must refrain from those, motivated by an impulsive desire for harsh revenge, which only counterintuitively encourage that process.
Put simply, we know that our strategy must strike a balance between passivity at one extreme and foolish recklessness at the other.
And, furthermore, we know that we must continue to learn.
We must try and test new approaches. We must carry out new experiments.
Without devolving into wild conspiracy theorists, we must persistently shine the light of science into every dusty corner where the forces that drive seemingly inexplicable and intractable problems that have plagued our systems for millennia may hide.
And, what’s more, we know that in order to do this, we must invest in the necessary people, tools and processes. We must identify, value and support those “canaries in the mine” or whistleblowers that recognize and alert us to the signs of evil brewing, as well as those with special talents for helping us make sense of and constructively respond to evil. And we must work to discover or invent new technologies and methods precisely targeted to elucidate and protect us from evil’s presence and workings.
As we have seen, there are those who will fervently oppose us in all of these efforts. Therefore, we also know that we must have the courage to:
- Weather the challenges and protests that, in the short run at least, will surely arise, as they nearly always do when we make important fundamental changes
- Encourage and support each other in:
- Channeling and metabolizing that anxious, fearful and defiant energy
- Transcending the defenses that impel and maintain our desire to avoid facing reality, as well as our own fear, guilt and shame
- Undergoing the necessary “positive disintegration” that often accompanies removing blinders, releasing sometimes painful unconscious material – repressed and suppressed at the cost of immeasurable suffering to ourselves and others – and breaking longstanding cycles of denial
- Allowing a more accurate worldview, as well as a the habit of critically revising attitudes and beliefs to better reflect reality, to develop in that void
- Channeling and metabolizing that anxious, fearful and defiant energy
Of course, despite our best efforts, we may find no feasible way to avoid some conflict and clashes with those who consciously and willfully resist such progress. We should do our best to be prepared for these events, as well.
Beyond this basic framework, nothing is certain. For, it is only after we derive the results of each round of experimentation that we can wisely make decisions about the next. But we can speculate on certain themes likely to emerge as central if we consistently focus on the challenges posed by evil.
Evolution has long involved a perpetual positive-feedback cycle of one-upsmanship in which enhancements in manipulative entities’ capacities for deception contribute to rendering conditions increasingly favorable to and selective of entities most skillful in detecting that deception and enhancements in such detection skills incentivize still further improvements in deceptive ability. Humanity – or at least the segment of it that values shared prosperity and health – will be called to step back, reassess the patterns reflected in our most pressing crises, carefully consider the roles that deceptive entities may be playing in their stubborn persistence and innovate ways to make a quantum leap in the realm of detecting this deception. Our likely goal will be the achievement of a stable new milestone level of proficiency at which we are much more difficult to fool.
Of course, the advantage gained as a result of this leap would not last forever. Eventually, deceptive entities would evolve yet again to develop even craftier forms of deceit that demand still more creative responses. But we have the opportunity to make up for a great deal of lost time and, at least for some period, pull ahead in this race. And it is likely that staying one step ahead of the deceivers in this epic contest will long prove a central focus in any successful strategy for addressing evil.
Evolution has also long involved a similar positive feedback cycle between improvements in invasive capacities - whether those of predatory creatures or destructive ideas – and improvements in the capacities of structures crucial to competing entities to resist such invasions, thus maintaining those entities’ health and integrity. It is likely that any successful strategy for addressing evil will require significant focus on determining what structures can optimally safeguard valuable systems by resisting being hijacked or destroyed by evil even while acceding to its existence.
One particularly crucial area that we have discussed whose structure must be deftly molded in order to best secure its integrity is that of science itself. As scientists increasingly venture into this more and more dangerous and fraught territory by directly investigating evil, science’s philosophies, methods, institutions and practitioners will likely increasingly come under attack. We must decide how to make arrangements so that its principal tasks of asking questions unrestricted by the whims of authorities and seeking similarly unbiased answers, as well as those courageous participants who carry them out, are always protected and respected as the lifelines to long-term health and sustainability that they are. In fact, we should make arrangements in such a way as to actively promote such critical thinking so that the formal scientific community becomes a model and its propensity for authentically and competently pursuing truth is encouraged in all forms of relationships and social endeavors.
And there, at the center of all of this, in greatest need of protection of its integrity, should be the field of ponerology itself – the formal discipline whose very existence challenges our denial, elucidates our fears, enshrines our commitment to constructively addressing problems of evil and not only declares our value for, but provides a home base of support for, those, so often outcast elsewhere, who are devoted to applying their talents to promote and defend objectivity, critical thinking and the scientific method, especially as it is used to:
- Steadily explore ways to elude or transcend regressive defense mechanisms, optimally predict and overcome conscious and unconscious opposition and reverse an entire era of futility by breaking through previous limitations that have prevented us from precisely, consistently and successfully grappling with evil and its consequences
- Assess our long history and present path of destruction and suffering to determine the origins and nature of the responsible forces
- Transform our relationship with evil to one marked by a habitual wise, balanced approach, an attitude of constant learning and constructive problem-solving and innovation of new structures, technologies and processes, as well as best practices, that can contribute to sustainability
Yet, even as we wisely consider the resistance to and risks of pursuing a commitment to ponerology, it is worth remembering that there are also forces and factors likely to strongly favor this path and which offer reason for authentic hope for the field’s flourishing. For instance:
- Most of us have a certain level of inborn drive to resist seriously malicious evil and, when offered effective methods and a supportive community, may increasingly regain and more frequently act on this innate tendency.
- Many who have been affected by evil and either have retained consciousness of what occurred or whose desire for understanding, when exposure to more prevalent ponerologic discussion surfaces memories, exceeds their desire for denial, will actually be highly relieved and inspired to see the topic more directly and thoroughly studied, healed by some of the ensuing measures and strongly drawn to contribute to ponerology’s cause.
- To whatever extent psychopathology plays a role in ponerogenesis, it is worth remembering that normals still far outnumber the psychopathological.
- In The Story of B, Daniel Quinn states:
“The relevant measures are not ease or difficulty. The relevant measures are readiness and unreadiness. If the time isn't right for a new idea, no power on earth can make it catch on, but if the time is right, it will sweep the world like wildfire.”Lobaczewski said – and it seems to me, as well - that the time is ripe and the world is ready for the idea of ponerology to more fully emerge. We can especially hope that the young and future generations, less restricted by old traditions and exposed earlier and more regularly to ponerologic information - which even suppressive parents and other authorities will find more and more difficult to censor as this information and communications age progresses – will more willingly embrace this new paradigm of viewing ethical issues in our world through a scientific lens and internalize the many lessons that such a view brings about.
- Lobaczewski also saw promise in the fact that, when we do commit to studying evil, those studies are often quite successful in turning up very meaningful data and conclusions. The subject matter really does lend itself to being profitably mined for beneficially useful knowledge.
- We will actually finally have a discipline expressly dedicated to helping us look beyond the surface appearances, names, symbols, categories, stated ideas and propaganda that often mislead us into falling prey to evil, more clearly distinguish the truly relevant classes and stratifications and identify the types of social structures and relationships that foster it. This will make all of our systems much harder to corrupt.
- We will see a further explosion of works, such as the ones discussed earlier, created by a more and more diverse group of people with different backgrounds and experiences, that can:
- Strip away the remaining mystique that surrounds evil
- Guide us in leaving behind outdated views and knee jerk moralistic and emotionalistic responses, which only further fuel the ponerogenic process
- Inspire greatly expanded discussion about evil throughout society
- Stimulate us to gain and apply much more widely a cutting edge understanding of humanity and our world
- Strip away the remaining mystique that surrounds evil
- We will further solidify our understanding of pathological people, how they view the world, how they attract susceptible individuals, how they spread their pathological perspectives and habits and what role all of this plays in the genesis of evil.
- Those touched by the effects of various forms of evil will more quickly be able to identify the roots of their symptoms and find resources to help them take effective steps toward healing
- Those aiming to impede our understanding of evil will encounter greater obstacles and be much easier to catch in the act – At present, since no one prominent field serves as a central base for the investigation of evil, those wishing to suppress our knowledge or efforts to attain knowledge about the subject may be able to stealthily do so by manipulating various aspects of disparate disciplines under a variety of pretexts. However, once the field of ponerology, dedicated specifically and exclusively to the study of evil, is so established, anyone attempting to distract from or impair the development of relevant insight and awareness would have no choice but to try to directly censor and discredit the field. And an effort to do that would then represent a clear, explicit, blatant and easy to detect attack on the pursuit of knowledge about evil itself, which would be much more difficult to rationalize and would quickly prompt almost unavoidable suspicions and discussion about why someone would harbor such motives.
- We will learn how to base our humanitarian and ecological endeavors on what the best available evidence shows truly works in the long run – We will achieve greater clarity about how to take strong actions that balance wisdom and boldness, incorporating, where appropriate, acceptance and forgiveness - along with recognition of when unusual measures are called for and necessary - to more effectively slow or halt the ponerogenic cycles that have repeated themselves for ages and protect human and ecological systems from the ever present threat of the emergence of pathocracy.
- Begin to balance the enormous level of skill and energy that we invest in tapping science and technology for life-enhancing ideas and tools with a similar commitment to applying them to ourselves in order to discover ways to prevent the destructive wasteful tendencies within human systems from sabotaging us by turning those otherwise beneficial creations against us for damaging purposes
- Realize that just as a naturalistic, rational approach, based on study and controlled experiments – rather than just our gut feelings alone – was necessary to help us build more effective buildings, cars and so on, this same modern approach is required to effectively reduce the suffering that stems from the many problems, such as those discussed at the very opening of this piece, constantly emerging and stubbornly persisting in today’s industrialized world
- Begin to more widely and effectively apply systems thinking principles to identify the leverage points in some of the world’s greatest addressable challenges – challenges in which cause and effect can be distant in space and time and, thus, the dynamics difficult to ascertain
This is exactly what those dedicated to or complicit with evil do not want – the light of critical thought and objective knowledge suddenly shining on them from every direction, exposing their true nature and reducing their leverage on all around them.
In Ishmael, Daniel Quinn, himself a strong proponent of applying naturalistic, rational and systems thinking to our greatest social problems, offers us a choice between two paths leading to two very different futures:
- Continue on our present destructive course and thwart those who might evolve after us, robbing many of their chance at life and virtually ensuring that we will be despised by those whose lives we have detrimentally impacted or…
- Chart a different course that will allow evolution to indefinitely continue on through us and become respected, honored and loved ancestors.
The publisher of Political Ponerology, in its postscript, states that in our predicament with evil “Our greatest weakness is ignorance.” To some extent, thanks to works like those mentioned throughout, that ignorance is already being reduced. And with the burgeoning discussions being facilitated by our global communication networks, many are beginning to suspect that there are deeper explanations for evil than those we have traditionally been offered.
The establishment and promotion of the field of ponerology alone will send a strong message about our priorities, validate and empower those with well-founded suspicions, keep the topic of evil at the forefront of the public’s minds and act as a healing factor in the system. Its findings represent critical missing pieces and their dissemination can help clarify people’s picture of the subject, reveal crucial blind spots, reduce ignorance further, separate speculation from valid beliefs, draw attention to impotent approaches so that we can replace them with effective fixes and ultimately beneficially impact all of the areas currently afflicted with suffering due to misguided understanding.
Ponerology does have relevance to nearly every, if not every, other field of human study or endeavor. Expanding it is the best first step we can take toward achieving the balances necessary to stop hacking at the branches of evil and, instead, categorically respond to evil itself, striking the leverage points most profoundly connected to its root. The information that ponerology unearths and the steps that we may feel obligated to take in response may not always be comfortable. But there are few actions that could prove more powerfully and healthfully transformational for humanity and our world or that could do more to ensure that we and our descendants survive in an environment florid enough to enable us to discover what adventures await us far into the future.
Other Resources Related to Ponerology
- My page about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
- My page about Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- My blog piece “Publicizing the Threat of Personality Disorders Among Those in Positions of Power”
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Personality Disorders
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Psychopathy
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Psychopaths
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Sociopathy
- All of my Blog Posts Tagged Sociopaths