A SCIENCE ON THE NATURE OF EVIL ADJUSTED FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES
BY ANDREW M. LOBACZEWSKI
A unique psychologist’s profound book about secret scientific studies of the nature of evil, its origins in the destructive deceptions of psychopathological people and how to best respond.
- “The book you hold in your hand may be the most important book you will ever read; in fact, it will be.” – from Editor’s Preface to Political Ponerology
- “We are going to be looking at individuals that are statistically small in number, but whose quality of difference is such that it can affect hundreds, thousands, even millions of other human beings in negative ways.” – Page 68
- “I shall attempt to persuade my readers that the participation of pathological factors, so underrated by the social sciences, is a common phenomenon in the processes of the origin of evil.” – Page 87
- “The depiction of the ways and means by which pathological figures take over and undermine the social structures of normal people…” – from Postscript to Political Ponerology
- “… let us consider…the draft of 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.” – Page 95
And I noticed that, for some reason, while some people like me were deeply sensitive to and concerned about improving this situation, others seemed indifferent to it, while still others even seemed to thrive on it.
In response, I had also, in some ways, spent my whole life attempting to discover and arrange the necessary pieces to solve the puzzles of why these dysfunctions at various levels perpetually occur, how they interconnect and why people differ so much in their reactions to them. In the service of this quest, I had read a tremendous number of books, viewed a diverse array of movies, met with or talked to a wide range of people, including some world-renowned experts, and examined many other resources relating to these inquiries from various angles. All of them contributed to the development of a more and more coherent and comprehensive understanding of the answers to these burning questions.
Yet, even after all of this study, a feeling still nagged at me that my mental model remained incomplete in some important way – that I was still missing some important connections.
Discovering Political Ponerology
In the course of researching these topics, I came across mention of a discipline called ponerology – a field devoted to scientifically studying the origins and nature of what we call evil (poneros is Greek for evil) – and, eventually, the book from which the field apparently took its name, Political Ponerology: A Science on the Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Andrzej M. Lobaczewski (sometimes Americanized as Andrew M. Lobaczewski).
The Remarkable Story of Andrew M. Lobaczewski
and Political Ponerology
And before even delving into the book’s main content, I was extremely intrigued by the remarkable story, as told in its foreword, of how the book came to be at all. For the tale of Political Ponerology’s creation is itself a thriller, an account of the strange fate of a unique person, destined to find himself in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time, prepared with just the necessary experience and training to qualify him to write this incredibly important book that few others could possibly have written and, only after enduring great hardships, finally see it published.
Andrew Lobaczewski was born in Poland in 1921 and grew up there. He lived through the Nazi occupation of his country and fought in the underground resistance to that occupation. He then saw his family’s estate confiscated when the Soviets invaded. He went on to train in psychology and, as he watched his social system perversely transformed by the oppressive government, understandably became strongly interested in the nature of the country under totalitarian rule.
A year before Lobaczewski graduated, a new “professor” appeared and began to teach in a style that led him and some others to recognize it as indoctrination. These students carefully observed the strange and varied effects that this influence had on different segments of the class. This experience sparked Lobaczewski’s fascination with and renewed commitment to the study of the forms of psychopathology about which he had learned before the onset of government suppression. In particular, he was motivated to consider the consequences of psychopathic individuals participating in the government.
Lobaczewski’s investigation into these topics met with repeated challenges. He noticed relevant books suddenly disappearing from libraries. Even the somewhat specific language of the social sciences lacked the precise categories or terminology with which to clearly understand and discuss what was taking place.
Then, he was made aware of a network of others also covertly investigating these issues. He decided to participate, working in Poland while others did complementary work throughout Europe. He and his co-conspirator colleagues had to take such care in terms of security that many of them did not even know who the other collaborators were and were often only allowed access to bits and pieces of others’ research on a need-to-know basis. The secret plan was for one person, kept anonymous, to then perform a final synthesis of all of the data. Under these cloak and dagger conditions, Lobaczewski and his fellow researchers employed their scientific skills to study the destructive social processes taking place in Europe at the time and to develop the language necessary to describe them.
In the early 1960’s, Communist authorities cracked down and many researchers were punished, while others were arrested, dropped out or went missing. In addition, some of the research itself was lost. And the planned overall synthesis was never completed.
During this stormy period and shortly after, Lobaczewski was working as a psychotherapist. Twice he attempted to capture and record his best accounting of this important work in the form of a highly technical book, including comprehensive details of the research data to which he was privy, written for specialists. But, both of these versions, and much of the primary research data documented within, were lost forever. He was forced to quickly throw the first version into the fire after being luckily warned just minutes before the authorities conducted a search of his premises. And he tried to sneak the second version out to the world with an American tourist, but then never heard word of its fate again.
He was then outed to Polish authorities for his controversial activities and special knowledge and was forced to emigrate to the United States in 1977. After arriving, he decided, for the good of the public and in honor of the sacrifices made by his fellow researchers, to try yet again to write a book sharing what he could of the work. Even in America, he continued to find himself hounded by forces that opposed him. But he struggled on, finally finishing the manuscript for the third version of the book, including what he was able to reconstruct without access to the lost original research, in New York in 1984.
According to Lobaczewski, this manuscript was met with suppression. In a particularly fascinating episode, he claims that Zbigniew Brzezinski, famed political scientist and former National Security Advisor under President Jimmy Carter, first offered to help get it published, but then, instead, worked to oppose its publication. Ultimately, Lobaczewski was unable to get the book published while he was in the United States. In 1990, he returned to Poland quite ill and rather destitute and only survived at all due to care provided by old friends who were doctors.
Some years later, likeminded thinkers in the United States, who had themselves, through experience, come to recognize the tragic truth about the malice that humans can harbor, were investigating issues similar to those studied by Lobaczewski and his colleagues decades before. Unaware of this earlier related work, these thinkers were also writing about these topics on the Internet to a growing audience. Twenty years after finishing writing the third version of his book, Lobaczewski came across these online writings and contacted their publishers, offering to send them his manuscript to read. Impressed, these thinkers helped get the book published, adding some of their own commentary within the pages.
So, as the story goes, it was only through a life of great pain and struggle that Lobaczewski was finally able to share this book, and, through it, the lessons that he and so many others sacrificed so much to learn, with the world.
A Tedious but Rewarding First Perusal
It was no pleasure to read. In fact, it was even, at times, almost painful to read because, as even Lobaczewski himself admits, the writing style is extremely tedious. There are a couple of reasons why.
- This is ultimately a practical work that was never meant to be a literary masterpiece. One of the book’s main goals is to provide a more precise vocabulary for what is ultimately a technical scientific discipline. (Remember that earlier versions of the book were actually written for specialists and it was only in this version that Lobaczewski even made any attempt to make it readable by laymen at all.) Thus, a highly abstract academic writing style is, at least to some extent, called for and even necessary.
- The book is a translation from Lobaczewski’s original Polish version, Ponerologia Polityczna.
Political Ponerology’s Main Messages: Several Theses about the Origins and Nature of “Evil” That Resonated with My Experience
Lobaczewski’s argument begins:
- The vast majority of humans, who he refers to as “normal,” are genetically endowed and neurologically wired with the capacity for empathetic and just ethical behavior.
- Some humans, who he calls “pathological” (throughout this piece we will use pathological as shorthand for psychopathological), have either genetically inherited or acquired – usually through exposure to other pathological people, especially during childhood - deviations leading to psychopathy or personality disorders (or, as Lobaczewski refers to them, characteropathies). These medical disorders can affect them in a holistic way, influencing the very core of their perception, thought, character, values and conscience, and lead to a reduction in or lack of capacity for empathy and just ethical behavior. Thus, pathological people may routinely carry out manipulative, harmful or destructive acts against others.
- In any human society, the pathological will likely make up somewhere between 4 and 9% of the population.
- The division between the normal and the pathological represents a profound and fundamental split within humanity.
Lobaczewski goes on to explain:
- For a variety of personal and historical reasons, most of us, as well as civilization as a whole, fail to achieve a proper and accurate understanding of the scientific and medical nature of these pathologies, the implications of their existence – what Lobaczewski calls the link between “moral evil and psychobiological evil” - and the extent to which those who have them differ from the rest of humanity. For those who have not been directly and intimately exposed to extremely pathological people, it may be difficult to even fathom what these conditions are truly like and just how they can, sometimes without a clear physical mechanism, inflict mental and emotional trauma on others. For the rest of us who have been, to some degree, affected, defense mechanisms and pathological optimism often reinforce blindness to our own ignorance in these areas. And, much to the delight of the pathological, normal people are all commonly distracted from focusing on this most important human division as we instead divide ourselves based on far less important criteria such as race, gender and nationality.
- Because of this entrenched lack of understanding and focus, our typical way of seeing the world serves us poorly in assessing situations influenced by such fundamentally abnormal psychological conditions. When examining the actions, speech and writings put forth by other people or institutions, normal people fail to consider, recognize and account for the potential role of pathology. We judge as if we are dealing with other relatively normal people who may simply be making poor judgments without accounting for the fact that, as normal people using normal categories of thinking, we cannot relate to or make sense of the abnormal motives of pathological people. As Lobaczewski puts it “the practical value of our natural world view generally ends where psychopathology begins.”
- Our inaccurate assessments of situations involving pathological influence lead to responses to those situations that are often inappropriate and ineffective. Of course, too often, we are convinced by or submit to the pathological and go along with their thoughts and proposals. But, even when we are perceptive enough to sense something amiss, unaware of the full truth of the related pathology and its impact, we react:
- Emotionally, reflexively lashing out with anger or retreating in sadness
- Moralistically, condemning those we feel have committed a wrong and wishing for – or perhaps violently seeking - revenge
- By – as when people thought infections were caused by malicious spirits - appealing to the supernatural, turning to theology and mysticism to seek oversimplified explanations for and answers regarding the existence of evil in a realm of Gods and demons
Thus, at best, these approaches leave normal people feeling rather helpless and possibly even more vulnerable than before. At worst, our attempt to moralistically respond to pathology leads to misunderstanding, futile desires for revenge or violence that only furthers the ponerogenic process. One might even say, then, that taking a primarily moralistic approach toward biologically-based evil is itself, ironically, immoral.
- Emotionally, reflexively lashing out with anger or retreating in sadness
- The pathological, on the other hand, are profoundly aware of their fundamental difference from normals. They tend to view normals as people so simpleminded, misguided and foolish as to constitute practically a different species and feel suppressed and inhibited by the values of what Lobaczewski calls the “systems of normal man.” Therefore, the pathological deeply wish to assume dominance over human systems so as to institute the power-based values that they prefer. And, in the course of this perceived power struggle with the normals, they are often quite willing to exploit the normals’ ignorance and denial of their true pathological nature to manipulate, harm or even kill them.
- Due to their ruthless and exploitative nature, in the context of normals’ widespread personal and systemic ignorance, denial and consistent reversion to impractical moralizing and emotionalism, the pathological are often able, despite their relatively small numbers, to exercise disproportionate activity and influence within human systems.
- Thus, human systems are vulnerable to being cyclically hijacked by pathological people, deeply drawn to power, who interact in ways that attract other pathological people and who prey on susceptible people, of the type shown to be so common in the Milgram experiment, that are submissive and easily exploitable by those in authority.
- As this process progresses, incompetent and destructive pathological people and their cohorts usurp more and more of the key positions within the system, while excluding or even eliminating people of conscience or whose talents threaten their power. This eventually paralyzes the creative and productive capacity of the system. At the same time, even as they increasingly dominate the system, these pathological authorities, through their actions and communications, discourage unbiased psychological investigation and education. Thus, they exert “a pernicious influence upon the formative process of the psychological world view,” more strongly reinforcing normal people’s blindness to and ignorance of the very pathological conditions exhibited by their leaders.
- The end result of this development is a transition from a “system of normal man” to a state Lobaczewski calls “pathocracy,” in which a small pathological minority and their values dominate and rule over a normal majority. Lobaczewski identifies the emergence of pathocracy as a major recurrent cause of suffering for the masses of humanity throughout history.
- While pathocracy can emerge via remarkably similar patterns at any level of human system – from the small-scale family level to religious institutions to the “macrosocial” levels of governments and even whole empires – it is most extremely damaging when pathological people dominate a whole society, nation or region. Lobaczewski calls this situation “macrosocial evil” or a “macrosocial ponerologic phenomenon.”
- Often, for quite some time after pathocracy emerges, most within the system still remain ignorant regarding the true nature of what is happening and of those in authority.
- Pathocracy in one human system can spread to overtake related or neighboring systems.
- Pathocracies have emerged many times throughout history, but, because they appear under many guises, few of us have adequately recognized the common underlying principles and patterns.
This was not a conclusion to which I came lightly. As a rule, I am not a conspiracy theorist. In fact, I am a great skeptic. But after repeatedly watching harmful approaches carried out and emphatically rationalized in the face of so much contrary evidence, I could come to no other conclusion than that something actively pathological was taking place. The concept of pathocracy crystallized what I had been suspecting and Political Ponerology, along with related works, some of which it inspired me to explore – especially in the wake of scandal after scandal calling into question the prevalence of personality disorders amongst the powerful - made clear that this seemingly unlikely condition is not only extremely possible or even likely, but had, in fact, already happened many times throughout history.
Lobaczewski then offers suggestions on what measures we should take in response.
As we have seen, in our ignorance, we respond to pathocracy insufficiently with:
- Futile misguided emotionalism
- Moral condemnation, which is about as effective as condemning an infection
- An overreliance on violent or military action which can escalate our problems
However, philosophical reflection alone will not bring us this insight.
This is why Lobaczewski cautions us to restrain our reflexive tendency to perceive evil only as a moral, emotional or mystical phenomenon. As a health care worker – a clinical psychologist who worked alongside medical professionals – he views the issue through a scientific and medical lens. Thus, he urges us to see the crucial role of relevant biological, medical and psychological disorders and to accept that these are simply a part of nature. And he advises that we detach enough to act as naturalists, dispassionately doing the hard work of collecting data, designing statistical analyses and investigating the anatomy, genetics, etiology, epidemiology, pathodynamics and treatment of these conditions in an evidence-based manner just as we do in the case of so many other conditions.
In the past, scientists risked their lives as they investigated, for example, infectious conditions to help advance our understanding of their workings and develop treatments. Similarly, Lobaczewski calls for us to take the necessary risks, as he and his colleagues did, to contact pathology closely enough and with enough objectivity to truly understand it.
He also emphasizes the importance of developing and popularizing an objective technical terminology and nomenclature that allows us to communicate about these conditions without having to resort to emotionally charged or overly subjective language.
Some may resist these changes. Some may prefer to cling to a more philosophical approach. Some may find it too uncomfortable to detach, however temporarily, from judgmentalism and moralism, which lets us feel superior to our perceived enemies. Others may fear that seeing evil for what it is will eliminate a certain romanticism about evil. Still others, perhaps due to the influence of pathological people, may experience this process as tedious and this type of knowledge as a burden, preferring to maintain a wall of denial against issues of pathology.
But Lobaczewski shows us why this objective scientific information, which demystifies the roots of our social ills, is too important not to be studying, learning and teaching to our children and throughout society.
With this last message, I found myself in strong agreement. For years I had been frustrated to see how the growing evidence about pathologies was being ignored in personal relationships, politics and, perhaps most troubling, even within the mental health community itself! The public, and even many professionals, were simply not learning the proper terminology or being exposed to the relevant connections and patterns. And so I had come to believe that education about our scientific knowledge on these issues, especially about the relevant genetic and brain differences, was one of the absolute pillars of any effective effort to improve our society or our world.
Lobaczewski’s general argument filled in a number of missing pieces in my mental model regarding the dysfunction that I sensed in the world around me and why so many attempts to alleviate it either fail or are just ignored. In addition, it captured, embodied and crystallized much of what I had already deeply felt about this incredibly important topic. It resonated so profoundly with my own experiences and informal considerations about these issues, in fact, that it sent a chill down my spine.
Rediscovering and Re-Reading Political Ponerology
Finally, as I wrote and completed my page about psychopathy, the time arrived. I read Political Ponerology again, far more fully and carefully, committed to better grasping the complexities of what Lobaczewski was saying and helping to promote ponerology.
Political Ponerology in Far Greater Depth
Throughout the book, he, sometimes in conjunction with the editor:
- Reviews some of the somewhat erratic history of the study of psychopathology from periods of prevalent study such as the late 19th and early 20th centuries to periods of Fascist and Communist persecution and suppression of psychopathological research to the American rebirth of the field symbolized by people such as Hervey Cleckley
- Recounts details of his own research on pathology amongst a diverse group of Poles with a history of harming others
- Describes in great detail the nature of and particular characteristics, talents and skills of the various types of psychopaths and characteropaths that play specific and precisely timed vital roles in the complex ponerogenic process
- Unlike so many related resources, reviews the etiology of the relevant conditions, discussing the anatomy, biology, epidemiology (including a breakdown of prevalence in different societies), genetics and toxicology involved in the inherited and/or acquired forms of these psychopathologies. This deep understanding of origins and pathodynamics facilitates later discussions of prevention, treatment and social response. He also reviews other conditions linked to aggression and violence.
- Describes how the very things that normal people take for granted as human values – peace, prosperity, sustainability – are considered by the pathological to be nightmares. This explains why the pathological feel so outcast within systems of normal man, in which they struggle to make a living and feel constantly threatened for being who they are, and thus seek and covet power so strongly.
- Describes, with reference to relevant research, how many of the pathological belie the stereotype of the easily recognizable anti-social monster. In fact, such obvious criminals represent only the unsuccessful pathological. Political Ponerology shows instead that “they can be doctors, lawyers, judges, policemen, congressmen, presidents of corporations that rob from the poor to give to the rich, and even presidents.” Some psychopaths are even psychiatrists!
- Makes the case for some famous historical, political, military and literary figures as examples of various types of pathologies of different origins and discusses the sometimes massive and widespread impact of their pathology on the world
- Details the nuts and bolts of the common, somewhat contagious and often diabolically effective manipulative tactics such as “paralogistic discourse,” “paramoralisms,” and “reversive blockade” that the pathological use to provoke and then exploit normals’ “para-appropriate” reactions
- Describes the relevant defenses, such as “projection,” “information selection and substitution,” “selection of premises” and “substitution of premises” which, unchecked, render all of us vulnerable to manipulation. He also shows how these defense mechanisms temporarily comfort us, allowing us to sidestep necessary personality disintegrations, but do so at the cost of depriving us and society of opportunities to re-develop and reintegrate with more accurate perceptive capacities and greater resistance to ponerogenic influences. You may experience a chill as you recognize some of these patterns in your own interactions with pathological people.
- Contrasts the different characteristics and relative stability of pathocracies of various origins, from those developing within a system to those “infecting” it from within another system to those imposed by force during periods of susceptibility or vulnerable leadership
- Describes how the pathological hone in on susceptible individuals, recruit and interact to form various categories of working groups, unions and associations that facilitate their ponerogenic goals
- Lays out, in a very systems thinking-like manner, the ways in which “in ponerogenic processes, moral deficiencies, intellectual failings, and pathological factors intersect in a time-space causative network giving rise to individual and national suffering.” This includes describing the schematics, stages and patterns by which the pathological minority gains, maintains and exercises power, including the pivotal tipping point moments in the process as normals, dissenters, people with particular skills threatening to the powerful and people of conscience are driven out and censored and the system as a whole develops a “mask of sanity” whereby the pathological come to be viewed by many as unique geniuses. Lobaczewski also explains how pathological systems on various levels, despite any superficial differences, follow similar patterns and interact with and support each other in the larger spread of pathology. And he invokes a major systems thinking principle nearly verbatim in explaining why, until recently, it had been difficult to tease out these common ponerogenic patterns, stating “Practically speaking, cause and effect are often widely separated in time, which makes it more difficult to track the links.”
- Details how the different types of pathological people - depending on their particular talents for shaping ideology, charisma, spellbinding, propaganda or psychological insight and manipulation, as well as their ability or inability to hide their pathology from others - fill the various highly public and secretively private roles required at different critical points in the ponerogenic process
- Expands upon the unique nature, motives and sometimes hidden, but core ponerogenic role of the essential psychopath, whose imperceptiveness regarding human feelings and moral values he deems analogous to Daltonists – those with red-green color blindness – including how he or she uses devious skill to traumatize others for self-gain. Many of these traits are covered in my psychopathy page, but Lobaczewski discusses many that are not or that are considered in a different context here.
- Discusses how pathological people use demagoguery to exploit frustrations with truly unjust situations in order to implement far more unjust measures under the guise of a sincere attempt to improve conditions
- Explains the indispensable role that exploitation of ideology plays in pathocracy. In Lobaczewski’s case, he was personally introduced to ponerologic issues in a Communist system, supposedly led based on Marx’s ideals of supporting the oppressed, that instead acted oppressively itself – in fact, even oppressing him as he tried to produce this very book. But he came to see that social, political or religious ideology originating in any organization or movement can be exploited, repackaged and tailored by the pathological for their particular historical time, place and population and used as a Trojan horse, serving different purposes throughout the process as they progressively sneak their values into a system while maintaining deniability.
Not only does this include ideologies that in themselves may be well-intentioned and beneficial, but, in fact, especially so, since the more well-liked the ideology in its original form, the longer and the more fervently the duped public will support those who claim allegiance to it. For instance, he points out how Christianity was perverted in such a way when it was merged with Roman society’s legal structure and lack of psychological wisdom. Indeed, it is frequently the ideologies with messages most opposite the actual goals of pathocrats that they can most effectively corrupt and caricature to serve their purposes.
Often, early in the process, participants truly do believe in the stated ideology. But soon, characteropaths begin to shape it for their own more deviant purposes, as they begin to pathologize the system’s thought processes. Soon after that, psychopaths – especially essential psychopaths - will increasingly take over, escalating the system’s ponerogenic level and driving out even many of the characteropaths. At this point, a power struggle takes shape between the ideology’s true believers and the increasingly psychopathic emerging pathocracy. And although the pathological bloc is a minority, they are often able to triumph and take full control.
Once this occurs, the pathocratic leaders employ their talent for deception as they continue to exploit the original ideology as a mask. They fool the population into believing in their allegiance to its ideals by invoking familiar names, terminology, symbols and catchphrases to justify their actions, making slight changes where necessary, even as they commit criminal acts of oppression, war and expansionism that are in sharp contrast to the ideology, for which they actually have contempt. It is utterly foolish to attempt to judge a pathological system at this point in its development based on anything it says because at this stage its communication is deliberately employed to obfuscate any objective assessment. The real ideology in any pathocracy stems from the deviant nature of its controlling psychopaths themselves. In this way, pathocracies at all levels and in all places are, in a sense, the same and support each other in the general spread of pathology despite the apparent differences in their stated ideologies.
It is also, at this stage, difficult to assess the role of individuals based on their official party affiliations or positions since there may be normals secretly resisting from within the leadership as well as pathological people facilitating from outside.
Eventually, as more and more people begin to recognize the growing gap between stated ideology and actions, pathocrats may increasingly employ manipulative tactics and terror to further indoctrinate and to neutralize opponents.
- Explains the peculiar talent of the pathological for using language in such a way that the same words affect different people in very different desired ways. Specifically, he describes how they use special forms of propaganda meant to simultaneously communicate one message to other pathological people and those within their organizations, who are uniquely skilled in deciphering their veiled meanings, and another message to normals. He shows how these coded messages can reach throughout the world, causing a pathocracy anywhere to become a beacon of hope and inspiration for susceptible and pathological people everywhere who pick up on the news and dream of a homeland where they can dominate normals according to their own values.
- Breaks down the demographics of pathocratic systems, which Lobaczewski says are stratified based not on talent or economics, but by one’s relationship to the pathocracy, and are generally made up of three groups:
- About 6% of the population, centering around essential psychopaths, which actively rules
- A middle group, consisting of about 12% of the population that, for various reasons, is most susceptible to the persuasion and power of the rulers. Members of this group are more technically adept and more moderate in their psychopathology and can, therefore, act as managers who relate to both the pathocrats and the normals
- The rest of society
- About 6% of the population, centering around essential psychopaths, which actively rules
- Discusses the “laws” dictating how multiple interrelated social factors - such as a population’s economic conditions, equitability, education and intellectual prowess - influence its relative levels of pathology, people susceptible to pathological influence and the degree to which it is likely to evolve into a pathocracy. This leads into a fascinating geopolitical discussion in which Lobaczewski proposes that, by evaluating a system or nation’s status based on these risk factors at different points in time, we can gain unique insight into its history and remain alert to its relative level of risk for or immunity to impending future ponerogenesis. He also speculates on how the level of pathology among its leadership and susceptibility among its populace influences a nation’s vulnerability to conquerors.
- Describes the various mechanisms by which pathological people and groups perpetuate dysfunction by influencing the emotions and thought processes of other people and of societies - including generationally through parenting, through speeches and writings, through participation in social power structures and, as in the case of Lobaczewski’s own indoctrinating professor, through the educational system – in an attempt to transform normal people into pathological people like themselves, an endeavor as futile as trying to induce color blindness in the normally sighted. He explains how, in the process, they institute “paramoralism factories” that so deform moral development that resisters are painted as unethical while even child abuse is painted as acceptable when it suits their purposes. These ethical corruption machines, he goes on to demonstrate, erode many people’s critical capacity to recognize pathology, even render them admiring and idealizing of their pathological leaders and, at the same time, undermine their ability to distinguish between these admired messengers and the merits of their ideas.
Lobaczewski also describes the trauma and neurosis that this psychophysiological assault on common sense inflicts on normal people, as well as even on the majority with brain dysfunction who, nonetheless, still relate more to systems of normal man than to pathocracy and how they then attempt to cope. He describes how victims of such abuse demonstrate telltale signs and symptoms that point to the particular pathology of their abusers. He provides particular focus on the tragic pain and frustration experienced by society’s most gifted and talented, born into or associated with a pathocratic family or society, as they struggle and scheme to maintain psychological health while avoiding the wrath of the incompetents who maintain power over them. And he shows how this pain is compounded when others deny that this process is taking place at all simply because its mechanisms are not always physically obvious, sometimes leading victims to limit their social circles to those who understand and relate.
On the other hand, he also describes how the pathological, unable to bear the thought of reversion to a system of normal man and wary of potential revenge measures against themselves, lash out when they inevitably fail to fully pathologize the normal population, banning books or foreigners that they blame for spoiling their plan and silencing those who point out the plan's futility.
- Uses the example of a beehive’s suicidally dysfunctional behavior under extraordinary conditions as an analogy for the blindly robotic and ineffectual manner in which many respond to pathocracy. He asks us to imagine a hive in which, for some reason, such as poor weather, the queen bee does not do her job, but the rest of the hive reacts as if nothing has fundamentally changed and carries on as usual. Without some entity – such as a beekeeper - conscious enough to strategically intervene and change the usual script in the wake of such an atypical condition, the hive will soon die out. Lobaczewski explains that human systems act with similar tragedy when they remain ignorant of the fundamental alteration that pathocracy imposes on a system and continue to assess and respond to situations within that system as if they are occurring under typical conditions.
- Describes the delicate balances for which pathocrats must strive between pursuing their goals and hiding their true nature from the public and between exerting pervasive control and granting the necessary autonomy to and cooperating with just the right people to allow the system to function. He explains how incompetent pathocrats finally meet their downfall as they begin to fail at maintaining these balances.
- Interprets some of the dynamics of world history through the lens of ponerology, explaining the historical reasons that modern civilization is “insufficiently resistant to evil,” as well as focusing on the Nuremberg trials and how they could have been better used to shine a spotlight on the dangers of psychopathology
- Devotes all of Chapter III to describing the relevant historical pattern that he calls the “hysteroidal cycle.” According to Lobaczewski, during “good times,” human systems are vulnerable to the progressive spread of a “hysteroidal” state in which they:
- Experience an egotistical fantasy of invulnerability and endless prosperity
- Overvalue power
- Become complacent
- Devalue psychological reasoning and skills, such as the ability to recognize pathology, and humiliate competent talented people or other more normal systems that critically exercise such talents
- Ostracize social groups, such as the underclasses, that reflect the injustices underlying their comfort
- Deny and dismiss unpleasant truths that might threaten their fantasy
Eventually, this widespread denial enables a slew of con artists to exploit the system to the degree that its creative potential is wasted and it devolves into “bad times” full of suffering.
Surviving those bad times requires tremendous wit and skill, particularly in recognizing and protecting against threats and against the widespread use of pathological tactics, such as paralogisms. Therefore, the system begins to re-develop psychological insight and wisdom and to once again value its exceptional members that display them. Finally, after enough suffering has taken place, and recognition of the authorities’ hypocrisy and incompetence becomes widespread, resistance strengthens. This resistance develops a language of the oppressed with which to communicate. The authorities become objects of ridicule. And weak spots are discovered in the power structure.
At this stage, Lobaczewski says that those normals who were personally dominated by deviant people experience a special burden and take on a special role. Because of their familiarity with the pathological, they are most able to identify the similar pattern playing out in the system at large and to decipher the pathocrats’ language. Therefore, they help awaken others to the reality of the situation and are strong advocates for the normals.
Eventually, the pathocratic regime is toppled, the system heals to a more peaceful state, and, if no fundamental change occurs, the cycle may begin again.
Lobaczewski says that, at any given time, a society’s place in this cycle is a crucial factor in determining its likelihood of becoming ponerogenic. And he offers some specific examples of how the cycle has played out in some major world events in recent human history.
- Explains the real, as opposed to the ostensible propagandized, reasons that war and expansionism are inevitably practiced by pathocracies. He describes their internal roles in providing a distraction for the normal population from its dreams of a return to a system of normal man, a symbolic cause to which people can ascribe their suffering and sacrifice and an excuse to assert greater control against domestic enemies. He also describes their external roles in eliminating outside threats and serially colonizing other systems in order to acquire goods to replenish the resource base that is perpetually depleted due to the pathocrats’ own technical incompetence.
- Explores the interplay between ponerology and religion. Lobaczewski believes that his findings are actually consistent with much of religious thought – as he interestingly shows through a discussion of the Bible as seen through the ponerologist’s eyes - and that religion can, if it accepts the reality of the threat, which it is more likely to do when the pathocracy in question happens to be anti-religious, sometimes contribute significantly to resisting ponerogenesis. However, he explains that, just as we turn to doctors, rather than prayer alone, to treat serious illness, religion is not, without the complementary contribution of science, able to provide the detailed “earthy” technical knowledge necessary to successfully resist pathocrats. Even more troubling, he explains how, in certain cases, religions themselves can be contaminated and hijacked as part of the ponerogenic process or even created by pathological people from the start as a mechanism for ponerogenesis.
Medical and Physical Analogies
Lobaczewski sees pathocracy as the crucial social disease of humanity. And time and again he relates its development to two of humanity’s other most common and perpetually threatening forms of disease process.
- Many of his medical references involve an infectious process-based metaphor. He invokes terminology including agents, contamination, doses, entry points and susceptibility and describes the somewhat contagious nature of paramoralisms and paralogistic tactics in explaining how pathology infiltrates and then spreads through systems. As we shall soon see, he returns to this metaphor in suggesting investigation into the potential for both natural and acquired psychological and social immunization to stimulate the development of antibodies that protect against the process.
- At other points, he relies on allusions to the stages of cancer, speaking of foreign material and metastases of pathology, which he believes can be diagnosed by strategically taking biopsy samples of human systems at various points in the process’s progression.
Implications and Suggested Responses
Like the bees in the earlier beehive analogy, we are faced with strange and extreme conditions for which we are not well adapted. In that example, if the worker bees continue to operate normally, even after the queen has been incapacitated, the hive will perish. Similarly, we cannot depend on the very natural worldview and instincts that are so poorly calibrated to guide our response to our current situation if we hope to escape our destructive cycle. We cannot, for example, continue to rely on familiar tactics based on a military metaphor of aggressive weaponry such as tanks and missiles. Lobaczewski equates such methods to impotent old style treatments like bleeding patients.
As in the beehive analogy, sustainability will require that someone conscious of the fundamental difference between our current predicament and the conditions to which we are adapted step in and take innovative action. As Lobaczewski puts it, the question now is “Can the human hive inhabiting our globe achieve sufficient comprehension of macrosocial pathological phenomenon which is so dangerous, abhorrent, and fascinating at the same time, before it is too late? At present, our individual and collective instincts and our natural psychological and moral world view cannot furnish all the answers upon which to base skillful counteractive measures.”
Lobaczewski believes that we need new approaches analogous to ingenious vaccines and antibiotics that can maintain or restore health to our systems in more targeted, modern and appropriate ways.
The deep scientific knowledge about the interaction between psychopathologies and social processes needed to take these innovative approaches is relatively quite new to us. It simply wasn’t available in such detail until the last several decades. But, now that it is, there is no longer any excuse for us or our institutions to continue acting as if we are still ignorant of it. This newfound awareness and paradigm has profound implications for all of our strategizing and policy-making in many areas.
The editor of Political Ponerology calls it a “survival guide” for those of us who are not psychopaths. Its aim is to help individuals and societies in their attempt to maintain critical thinking and become sustainably creative instead of perpetually traversing the boom and bust hysteroidal cycle. In a general sense, it is relevant to anyone who has felt the sting of injustice, oppression or abuse on any level and wondered why so much man-made disaster and cruelty continues to occur or why it is so difficult for so many people of great competence or conscience to succeed while many incompetent people of such low integrity rise even to positions of leadership. Political Ponerology helps explain that there are deeper answers to these questions and that these conditions can be studied and understood in a more objective fashion.
But Lobaczewski also shares many more detailed ideas in the book about the implications of this knowledge for specific sectors of society. In addition, as I read, I achieved many of my own such insights. The diversity of areas for which this information has relevance is a testament to the importance of Political Ponerology.
Here is a look at some of the changes that we should consider in a number of fields in order to respond to the threats posed by the pathological and the process of ponerogenesis.
Reform and Refocus the Mental Health FieldsIn no area are the implications of ponerology greater than in the mental health fields. In fact, they are so important in this area that Lobaczewski calls Chapter VII “Psychology and Psychiatry Under Pathocratic Rule” and devotes the entire chapter to discussing them at length.
“…my own experience convinces me that the study of ponerology on all scales should be introduced into the studies of psychology and become a part of the occupation of all psychotherapists.”Doing so would involve a number of important steps, including:
Expand Research and Training Regarding the Disorders that Underlie Ponerogenesis within the Mental Health Fields
Within psychology and psychiatry, greater emphasis should be placed on research and teaching regarding several relatively neglected issues, such as:
- The real prevalence and degree of influence of psychopathy and personality disorders in our world
- How to more accurately diagnose and prognose the various inherited and acquired forms of these disorders - This would include:
- Improving our use of technology to better analyze genetic and brain tissue markers to compare them with known locations and types of damage seen in particular disorders
- Focusing more intently on those with moderate, but still dangerous, levels of pathology - We tend to focus on the most extreme and obvious cases of pathology. But there are many who fall into a “sweet spot” where their disorder is significant enough to be detected if subjected to close analysis, but moderate enough that it is not recognized as pathological by the public at large, thus allowing them to do insidious harm indefinitely without being exposed to any form of mental health screening or treatment. We continue to neglect addressing the dangers of this group at our peril.
- Improving our use of technology to better analyze genetic and brain tissue markers to compare them with known locations and types of damage seen in particular disorders
There is a strong link between the mental health fields and the world of politics. The inexperienced may not recognize this. But the mental health system is a central ideological battleground to which pathocrats are always especially attuned. Therefore, it is always at great risk of being corrupted and misused.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Pathological people are expert in and have strong incentives for recognizing and manipulating any entity or activity that poses an existential threat to themselves. And they know well that free progress in the sciences of psychology and psychiatry, especially of certain kinds, poses perhaps the greatest threat of all, since these are the fields that promote the knowledge, awareness and healthy development that, if widespread, would allow them, their methods and their Trojan horse propaganda to be diagnosed for what they really are and more effectively opposed.
Unfortunately, the mental health systems within most societies, because of their nature, are extremely vulnerable to being hijacked and used as tools of whatever authorities dominate. Too often, mental health professionals adapt to their culture’s power structure, succumbing to the pressures to reify the norms preferred by those in power rather than adhering to objective standards of health. This, then, leads to a vicious cycle in which the population’s deteriorating mental health enables yet more abuses by those authorities. And it can be highly uncomfortable for mental health professionals to realize and admit that this is happening.
But, just as so much of mental health practice is about helping clients bring suppressed and repressed information to the surface, we need to do the same in regards to similar uncomfortable information about mental health systems themselves.
Some of the mental health systems’ conflicts of interest are enabled by inadequate focus on the relevant psychopathologies and can thus be partially addressed through improved research and training as mentioned above. (Though even in that area there is suppressed and repressed information, in the form of the earlier European work on psychopathology, which Lobaczewski recommends that we attempt to recapture since it had a well elaborated categorization scheme and terminology that could help us moving forward.) But even among those who have studied psychopathology and its impact in the world, there is prevalent naivete about its potential corrupting influence within the mental health system itself. Therefore, as Lobaczewski explains, not only do “We need to understand the nature of the macrosocial phenomenon,” but we need to understand “that basic relationship and controversy between the pathological system and those areas of science which describe psychological and psychopathological phenomena.”
This would include greater focus on:
- How, when they gain power and influence, pathological people may pervert the integrity of the mental health fields to their benefit. They may favor certain preferred theories in the face of contrary scientific evidence. They may even skew or change definitions of disorders so as to thwart those who threaten to identify the actual pathology of those in power. And through all of this, psychology and psychiatry are degraded, the quality of the system’s ability to promote mental health deteriorates and the population’s gullibility, and therefore vulnerability, increases.
- How pathocrats use their power to suppress and punish attempts from within the mental health fields to properly study the actual nature of pathology, develop a precise terminology for identifying and discussing it and potentially foment dissent. (In a brilliant analogy, Lobaczewski frames this as the mental health equivalent of a situation in which those with red-green color blindness patrolled to ensure that nobody else was able to distinguish between or discuss the differences between red and green either.) In doing so, they may employ a variety of tactics:
- They may, as Lobaczewski himself experienced in carrying out his research, monitor relevant scientific papers.
- They may blackmail or otherwise attempt to control experts or others who aim to carry out investigations.
- They may wield the very manufactured and doctored theories that they themselves developed to accuse and discredit those who they believe know too much and will not submit.
- When all else fails, they may even directly intimidate or even kill mental health professionals that disagree with their favored theories or that question the mental health of authorities. Lobaczewski mentions the story of a German professor who, after writing an analysis of Hitler’s psychopathology warning of the dangers posed by his leadership, was killed in a concentration camp – a story of the type that further intimidated Lobaczewski and his colleagues, forcing them to work in secret under great stress and making it much more difficult for them to attract more colleagues or support.
- They may, as Lobaczewski himself experienced in carrying out his research, monitor relevant scientific papers.
- How pathocrats wield their perverted notions of mental health to suppress and punish dissent in the system at large, as well
- How this combination of manipulation of data and control and intimidation ultimately promotes an anti-psychological or anti-psychotherapeutic sentiment, spreading hostility toward insight and wisdom and psychologically talented people throughout the system
- The fascinating perversions that occur when corrupt or pathological people themselves become or are planted within the system as mental health professionals. It was just this circumstance, in which an indoctrinating psychopath masqueraded as his professor during Lobaczewski’s psychological training, that ultimately spurred Lobaczewski to study what became ponerology. As he says, “A scientifically and morally degenerate psychiatrist becomes a tool easily used…” And not only does such a situation allow the pathological person to spread propaganda to the systems’ current and future mental health professionals. It also allows them to attain credentials and positions that lend them a false guise of objectivity - hiding their true connections to the leadership from the public - and grant them the authority to select for or against prospective students – the potential future mental health professionals – based on their willingness to toe the party line.
- Institute safeguards to better maintain a reasonable separation between agenda-driven politics and objective mental health science
- Protect professionals’ freedom to carry out unbiased investigation
- Build respect and value for psychological knowledge amongst the public
- Maintain and strengthen the quality of mental health services
- Require not only factual knowledge, but high levels of mental health, in order to earn credentials for sensitive mental health professional positions
Lobaczewski, as a clinician himself, actually applied his ponerologic worldview in the course of psychotherapy with clients. And he offers advice on how we can better apply mental health treatment to help those influenced by pathocracy, whether at the hands of an oppressive government or pathological parents who have caused longstanding developmental issues.
Before we can wisely offer such therapy, we first must understand:
- How these serious pathologies impact our overall political and economic systems as well as our family systems – Even those familiar with these disorders can benefit from books like Political Ponerology which help reveal sometimes previously unrecognized connections to many other realms
- How to distinguish the wounded but treatable victim of another pathological person from a primarily pathological person themselves – Unfortunately, too often, therapists who attempt to do the investigation of their clients’ past experiences with pathology that is necessary to make this distinction meet resistance or criticism even from within the mental health field.
- How to distinguish the wounded but treatable victim of a larger pathological system or culture from a primarily pathological person themselves – The importance of and difficulties involved in making this distinction were captured by Sigmund Freud when he said in Civilisation and its Discontents:
“There is one question which I can hardly ignore ... would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilisation, or epochs of it --possibly even the whole of humanity-- have become neurotic under the pressure of civilising trends? I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilised society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful...The diagnosis of collective neurosis, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting-point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment, which we assume to be ‘normal’. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way... In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilised communities.”
- Pinpoint, as best we can, the type of pathology that acted upon them – Lobaczewski says that there are characteristic patterns in those influenced by particular pathologies and that, through treating and studying such victims, we can learn more about these patterns.
- Identify which therapies work best for those influenced by which pathologies – Unfortunately, simply applying traditional therapies to victims of pathological forces can backfire. However, once proper, precisely targeted treatment is provided and the client understands pathology and how it influenced them, traditional measures may then play a supportive role.
- Reducing the shock brought on by an encounter with pathology
- Making the client conscious that they have been behaving under the influence of the pathological
- Bringing to the client’s consciousness suppressed information, thus diminishing their need to employ defense mechanisms in the future
- Breaking the unconscious spellbinding and enslaving hold that the pathological has, allowing the client to detach and regain their own creativity and identity
- Building the client’s courage to be honest and thus improving their chances of finding workable solutions in the future
Study How Mental Health Services Can Immunize People and Increase Their Resistance to Pathocracy
Through working with and studying more people that have encountered pathocracy – including those “positive deviants” who, for whatever reasons, prove most resistant to it - we can learn how to implement preventative measures that mitigate the impact of pathology on potential victims in the future. In addition, we can learn how to proactively intervene, either before or early on in a ponerogenic situation, to help people more strongly resist the process.
Of course, it is exactly these issues that powerful pathocrats wish to prevent their societies’ mental health professionals from addressing. They will pressure them in various ways not to do it and they will stigmatize looking outside the lines and trying to help people in novel ways that may lead to new insights about the nature of the system. It will, therefore, take courage and the strong support of the mental health community for them to take a stand by doing so even in the face of such pressures.
Refocus the Public Health FieldUltimately, the threats posed by psychopathologies are major – and many times the major – public health hazards. Yet the public health field has been absurdly negligent in responding to those threats. There are several steps the public health field should take in regards to the threat of ponerogenesis.
Institute Relevant Public Education about Psychopathology and Ponerology
Preparing people to recognize and respond optimally to the influence of the pathological is a case where knowledge and truth alone can be powerfully beneficial. The awareness that a field such as ponerology, which codifies our understanding of this phenomenon, even exists and the science itself serve as a form of medicine.
Public health professionals can take advantage of this fact by focusing on:
- Educating normals thoroughly and objectively about the nature of these disorders and how pathocracies, despite hiding behind widely disparate superficial ideological masks, nonetheless arise through common processes on all levels
- Rigorously educating the public in logic so that they are prepared to detect and respond appropriately to the manipulative tactics, such as paralogic, as well as projection, used by the pathological.
- Helping those already affected by an encounter with pathology to heal – Lobaczewski learned firsthand, both through his own experience and through working with clients, that, where people have already been directly affected by ponerogenesis, education can help them to heal. He saw how simply understanding the type of information mentioned above brings a healthier perspective of one’s past abuse at the hands of the pathological and the ability to better maintain mental hygiene in the future. While ignorant of the pathological influence upon them, normals reinterpret their experience in a way that leaves them enslaved to, and often even staunchly defensive of, those who abused them. But once they understand pathology’s role, much of the pathological’s psychological leverage is removed, freeing them.
- Enhancing any existing “natural immunity” with more lasting and transmissible “scientific immunity” – In keeping with his medical analogies, Lobaczewski explains that, just as our bodies may gain some immunity to a pathogen once we have had sufficient contact with it, in areas where ponerogenesis progresses to its later stages, the population may develop a certain “natural immunity” that mitigates the impact of subsequent brushes with pathology. Their own hard-earned insight may reduce the sense of shock and disempowerment that often accompanies such encounters and contributes to their detrimental impact and allow for more conscious, wise protective responses. This may, in turn, reduce the ability of the pathological to freely “infect” new victims or to retraumatize previous victims within the population in the future. For instance, Lobaczewski contrasts his utter shock and vulnerability during his first arrest by secret police with his quite competent self-defensive reaction years later, after attaining greater familiarity with the workings of the pathological, in a similar situation.
However, it seems that through a fuller conscious understanding of the biological nature of pathologies, which can only be gained through scientific education of the public on the subject, a population’s “natural immunity” can be reinforced with an even higher quality “scientifically-based” immunity that can better protect them from returning to the same ponerogenic cycles. This latter type of immunity appears to be more permanent. In addition, unlike its natural counterpart, it seems that this educationally-induced resistance can be transmitted beyond the particular region to other areas that may not have themselves yet experienced ponerogenesis directly.
As Lobaczewski says:
“If natural immunity lasts the life of the generation wherein it was produced, scientifically-based immunity can be transmitted further.”
- Granting immunity in populations that currently have none – Lobaczewski claims that, in areas whose population has not directly experienced ponerogenesis, education about ponerology and pathology can serve as a preemptive vaccine. While some may at first respond to being taught about these topics with protest, since they have no personal basis on which to validate the powerful information being disseminated, Lobaczewski says this protest will be short lived and followed by increased resistance to pathology.
Prevent and Reduce Psychopathology
If we want to reduce the risks posed by the pathological, there is perhaps no more obviously desirable goal than that of reducing the prevalence of pathology itself within the population. There are several measures that public health professionals can take in service of that goal:
- Improve prenatal and natal care to reduce the early traumas associated with some of the acquired characteropathies
- Promote awareness and safety in regards to brain injuries and disease processes linked to acquired pathologies
- Educate people, especially women, about the genetic component of psychopathology and the risk of inheritance if they choose to have children with a pathological partner
- Provide genetic counseling, as is done in the case of many other genetic disorders, to couples affected by inherited forms of psychopathology about the risks to their children
Reduce Psychopathology’s Burden on the Public
Despite all of the best public health measures, it is still unlikely that we will eliminate psychopathology in the near future. Therefore, public health professionals also have a responsibility to attempt to mitigate the harm done by the pathological among us, just as they do in the case of many other medical disorders that constitute public health hazards. This work could take many forms, ranging from providing public clinics to treat victims of the pathological to promoting special protective measures for children suspected of close contact with disordered individuals or groups.
Reform and Refocus Health Sciences in General and Science as a WholeMoving out in scope, we find that not only does Lobaczewski’s work have implications for mental health and public health, but for all health sciences and, in fact, for science as a whole. In these areas, we should aim to:
Protect the Integrity of the Health Sciences and Science as a Whole
Political Ponerology discusses how the authorities in pathological systems often suppress or abuse particular areas of science. Different regimes may differ greatly in which areas they suppress or abuse. But, in any case, their attempts to make bad science the law frequently lead to terrible consequences.
For instance, we learn about how the Soviet Communists, who disliked the notion of anything being biologically hardwired and fixed, opposed the study of genetics, thus contributing to devastating famines. Meanwhile, Hitler’s Nazis, who insisted that the exact opposite is true – that nearly everything important about people is unchangeably coded in their genes – attempted to use this claim to frame genocide as scientifically justified eugenics.
I have long felt that scientists – especially those in the health sciences and even more especially those in the mental health and public health systems – bear a greater responsibility than simply ensuring the physical health of individuals and families. They need to serve as our bulwark against this kind of biologically-based social evil driven by people with medical disorders affecting their empathy and ethics. Therefore, we must take special care not to let those fields themselves be infiltrated or co-opted by pathocrats.
Unfortunately, far too few such professionals like Lobaczewski seem willing to ask questions that truly challenge the society of which they are a part. Even fewer regularly reflect on their own potential for corruption or submission as pawns to the dominant mindset of those in power. This represents a potential crisis for the integrity of science about which we should be eternally wary. Thus, all of the types of measures discussed in terms of protecting the integrity of the mental health fields apply in the macrocosm to the health-related sciences and to science as a whole.
Include Relevant Information about Ponerology in Training Scientists
Just as we have discussed training mental health professionals about ponerology, all scientists, and especially those in health related fields, should be taught at least enough about ponerogenesis to recognize both its relevance and its dangers in terms of their work itself and in terms of the integrity of their fields.
Reform and Refocus Educational SystemsIn discussing the role of public education campaigns in combating ponerologic threats, we are also led to consider the implications for formal education systems. Many question the wisdom of such formal schooling, opting for alternatives such as homeschooling. These are certainly reasonable considerations. But, as long as students are receiving formal education, we should remain committed to several relevant goals, including:
Protect the Integrity of Material Taught in Educational Systems
Schooling has long been an area in which pathocrats seek to indoctrinate students by promoting certain regime-friendly material while covering up other, perhaps undesirably revealing, material. It is important to ensure that educators remain committed to teaching based on our best understanding of the truth and not based on any authority’s political agenda.
Ensure that Responsible People can Freely Serve as Educators
Another way that pathocrats seek to manipulate education is by obstructing the ability of certain people to serve as educators. This can be done in several ways including refusing them credentials or keeping them tied up in other meaningless work that poses no threat to those in power. We must ensure not only that we keep pathological influence out of the educational system, but that responsible people who wish to contribute can do so, regardless of whether their views are friendly to those in power.
Include Appropriate Teaching of Ponerology-Related Material within Educational Systems
Ponerology involves very practical and important applications of scientific information from a variety of fields, including biology, psychology and sociology. As such, it is very fitting and beneficial for our educational systems to teach, in age-appropriate ways, about pathologies and their potential consequences on all levels of human systems.
Reform the Legal SystemThe editor explains that, in too many situations, our legal system makes no clear distinction between normal and pathological people. In these instances, it fails to account for their fundamental differences and is, thus, out of touch with biological and psychological reality. As a result, the system does not do enough to appropriately defend against pathologicals’ tactics and they can frequently manipulate the system to leave normal people of conscience in no-win situations. Meanwhile, compassionate normals constantly humanize the measures taken in response to the pathological, while at the same time failing to institute effective proactive protective barriers. This is a recipe for disaster.
We need a seismic shift from an approach to law as a scheme of punishments to one based on a scientific understanding of the genetic and other biological underpinnings of pathology and of the unconscious factors that draw in many of those complicit with the pathological. This science should be taught as a part of legal training and should inform steps to close the systemic loopholes that pathological people currently exploit.
Apply and Improve our Ponerologic Perspective When Studying HistoryIn light of Lobaczewski’s message, historians and other students of history should:
Improve our Ability to Interpret History through the Lens of Ponerology
Important dynamics go unrecognized when we analyze history without an understanding of ponerology. One could even say that a ponerologic lens is necessary to fully make sense of history. We must realize that the pathological customize their tactics and messages for their particular time and place so that we can see through the superficial differences to the common patterns behind pathocracies throughout history.
Improve our Ability to Learn Lessons about Ponerology from History
Not only is ponerology helpful in understanding history. But, studying history is one of the best ways for us to bolster our knowledge of ponerology. Indeed, Lobaczewski developed his ideas on ponerology in the first place through noticing the patterns shared by his own oppressive society and many others that came before. The more we practice distinguishing the phases of ponerogenesis and the hysteroidal cycle in the stories of past human systems, the better we become at seeing them.
Apply a Ponerologic Perspective to Wisely Interpret and Respond to Current EventsJust as we should use our knowledge of ponerology to analyze the past, we should take steps to:
Interpret Current Events and Issues through the Lens of Ponerology
When we understand ponerology, we gain a clearer perspective on what is taking place in our world today. As an example, Lobaczewski explains that the criticisms leveled by society’s lower classes take on a new meaning when we understand them, even if the critics themselves consciously do not, as containing some anti-pathocratic motivation at some level.
Apply our Knowledge of Ponerology to Appropriately Assess and Optimally Respond to Systems at Various Stages of Ponerogenesis
In medicine, physicians learn to recognize the risk factors for and various stages of disease processes, such as infections or cancers, so that they can predict the likely course of events and decide on the optimal interventions at each of those various stages. Similarly, by understanding the risk factors for and stages of the process of ponerogenesis, we can move beyond emotional or moralizing responses and objectively strategize in order to:
- More accurately monitor for and recognize potentially ponerogenic factors in human systems
- Identify when systems are “immunosuppressed” and at greater susceptibility to ponerization
- Make predictions about systems’ next probable events
- Develop increasingly effective preventative and rehabilitative techniques
- Intervene with targeted precision at vulnerable developmental moments that allow for leverage (Note: It is just as important to recognize moments – such as the period Lobaczewski calls the “dissimulative phase” or times when a strong network of resistant normals is lacking - when systems are not currently amenable to intervention.)
- Recognize human systems that are already ponerized and potentially unable to healthily self-govern
Detect and Prevent Pathological Manipulation of Language and CategoriesAttempting to understand pathology using normal categories of thinking only leads to confusion. The pathological thrive on deceptive manipulation of terms and ideas. Thus, it is imperative that we understand how they do this and carefully develop language and categories that we can use in discussing them that are technically precise and accurate. In dealing with delicate matters, this will make it far more difficult for the pathological to provoke and evade behind a fog of propaganda and help us keep in touch with the reality underlying the illusions they attempt to portray.
There are several measures that we can take to these ends.
Expand the Study of and Application of Lessons about Patho-Semantics
Patho-Semantics is just one of the wonderful terms Lobaczewski introduces in this book. With it, he refers to the crafty use of language to mislead others and snare them in semantic traps – behavior so often demonstrated by the pathological as they distract us from focusing on their underlying pathology. We need to understand this behavior in order to protect ourselves and others from falling prey to this distraction. This involves recognizing the tip-offs that some message, whether in speech or writing and whether delivered by a parent, a politician or the media, is serving as a veil to hide pathological thinking. Such skill will then enable us to refuse to play by the terms of pathocrats, busting their monopoly on name-controlling and developing and employing our own more accurate terminology, which makes crucial distinctions that they would prefer not be made.
Develop More Accurate Categories for Assessing Ideologies
As we have seen, pathocrats depend on using ideologies as powerful tools of manipulation. So it is important that we develop a categorization system that not only distinguishes between peoples’ various stated ideologies and those ideologies’ comparative features, but that distinguishes between healthy vs. pathological uses of ideologies. In other words, our classification system must account not only for ideologies’ contents, but for the function they are serving in the particular systems in question. There is an enormous difference between a particular ideology legitimately driving activity in a non-ponerized system where healthy people truly believe in it and the very same ideology used by pathocrats in a ponerized system who do not actually believe it as a mask hiding their true deviant ideology. It is utterly pointless to debate on equal terms the relative merits of ideologies that are serving such completely different purposes.
This is a case of requiring a categorization system that focuses on causes rather than symptoms. Not coincidentally, we discover this same pressing need in our psychological and psychiatric classification systems. For instance, when dealing with a relatively healthy neurotic patient, we want to focus carefully on the contents of their stated beliefs. However, we must identify seriously delusional patients and approach them differently because we will become pointlessly distracted if our classification system encourages us to become too focused on the particular content of their delusions. Instead, we must accept that the delusions are simply indicators of underlying pathology and use categories that focus our attention and energies on identifying and addressing that pathology. Unfortunately, our mental health fields continue to focus far too heavily on symptoms, rather than origins, and are thus constantly requiring reclassifications to account for the apparent anomalies that endlessly arise.
In the same vein, our ideological classification scheme is too often failing us. We continue to discuss the ideologies of both healthy and pathological people in the same language, debating the stated ideals they put forth while failing to illuminate the very different functions those ideals are serving or pinpointing the processes that underlie them. Instead, when we encounter manipulative applications of ideology, our categories must not focus us too heavily on the ideology itself, but drive us to use the stated ideology as a guide to discover the origins and essence of the underlying pathology. When we do this, pathological people will no longer find it so easy to hide behind ideologies because the rest of us will be in the habit of recognizing and peering underneath such masks.
There is another benefit to a categorization scheme that distinguishes between ideology and function. It reminds us that any ideology, no matter how wise or beneficial in its own right, can be hijacked by pathocrats. Remembering this, we will be less likely to mistake the pathological use of a particular ideology for a statement on the actual merits of the ideology itself. We will recognize that, in fact, many ideologies are hijacked by pathocrats precisely because, in their original forms, they indeed have great merit. Just as hijackers wish to hijack a well-built and effective airplane, pathocrats wish to hijack ideologies that, on their own, are actually quite beneficial. This understanding will allow us to regain the benefits of certain ideologies by separating them from their association with exploitative pathocrats who, at some point, tarnished their names.
Finally, our categorization system should help us remember that, in pathological systems, positions are not necessarily tied to people’s officially stated ideological positions. The ostensible structure is not the important one as people’s true alliances take place behind the scenes and may be in sharp contrast to their publicly stated ideals. When our categories distinguish between the healthy and pathological use of ideology, we will be far less apt to accept the apparent political structure and far more likely to look behind the curtains for the real organization of the players.
Develop More Practical Categorization Regarding Other Aspects of Pathological Structures
Ideologies aren’t the only factors that have fundamentally different meanings in the context of a pathological system as opposed to a system of normal man. In truth, we require more accurate categorization schemes regarding many such factors. For instance, in a pathological system, the people who are supposedly in charge are often not the ones actually wielding power. Thus, it is an illusion that by negotiating with them or electing new faces to their offices we can change the structure. Only a different categorization scheme, which distinguishes between the meanings of certain positions in a pathological system, as opposed to a system of normal man, will make this clear to us.
Similarly, whereas normal systems may have meaningful stratifications based on measures such as wealth or talent, in a pathocracy these factors are overridden by a more central one – a person or group’s relationship to the pathocracy. Thus, while it is important to seek justice on the basis of economic status or developmental potential in a somewhat healthy system, it is futile to attempt to repair a pathocracy through this strategy.
With further study, we can learn to better categorize ponerogenic groups according to factors that truly matter, such as their size, actual goals and the demographics of the dominant pathologies in each. With these more relevant data in mind, we will be better able to effectively resist.
Adapt Activism to a World with PathologyFor years, I had been trying to get activists that I knew to understand that psychopathy and serious personality disorders are game-changers and that you simply cannot optimally stand up to injustices without an understanding of their role. Political Ponerology explained why brilliantly. In light of Lobaczewski’s message, there are several things activists - whether they are working to achieve more nurturing families, more responsible governments or any other goal involving healthier human systems - can do to become more effective.
Develop Strategies that Account for the Influence of the Pathological
In the most general sense, in the course of strategizing, activists simply must account for the existence of a significant contingent of pathological people and groups in almost any human system. Because pathological people do not feel as normal people feel or value what normal people value, they do not respond in the same ways that normal people would to particular incentives and disincentives. Therefore, very different approaches are necessary in order to respond effectively to their influence.
Support the Emergence of Strong Networks of Normals Specifically Around Resistance to Pathology
Activists working for change in different sectors of society often seek greater strength through cooperating and joining forces around areas of common concern. So, for instance, an environmental organization and a good government group may decide to work together to advocate for more transparency in the development of environmental legislation. The most important area of common concern for activists of all stripes, however, may be the overall threat posed by pathology. And, as a result, we could benefit greatly from coalitions of normals cooperating specifically around the issue of resisting pathological dominance.
Such strong networks of normals, educated about and committed to supporting each other in resisting pathology, represent one of the best possible safeguards against the emergence of pathocracy and a necessary step in challenging any existing pathocracy. The bond between activists who coalesce around this issue is even stronger than usual because the struggle between the normal and the pathological cuts across all typical gender, racial, ethnic and class divisions, touching the very core of our humanity.
There are steps that can be taken to create an environment conducive to the emergence of these networks of normals. Spreading immunity through education, as has been discussed at length, makes it far more likely that normals within a system, and even within different systems, will find each other and recognize their common interest. Furthermore, developing precise and accurate technical language facilitates activists in recognizing the common threats posed by pathology even when the particular pathological people and groups in their regions hide behind different ideologies.
The goal of these networks of normals should not be to aggressively or personally fight against anyone. It should simply be to unite around defending the importance of conscience itself and insisting that the normal majority maintain authority over their own lives.
Identify and Nurture those with Special Talent in Responding to Pathocrats
Normals cannot directly experience the world or think about it in exactly the ways that pathological people do. However, there are certainly variations in the degree of skill with which different normals communicate with and strategize in regards to the pathological. One specific goal that activist groups should prioritize is identifying those with uncommon talent at developing wise responses to the pathological. Those individuals have a special role to play in the quest to improve our world in all areas.
Apply Ponerologic Knowledge to Improve Leadership and GovernmentSome anarchists feel that, given the prevalence of pathology, it is irresponsible to maintain powerful centralized governments - which are always vulnerable to hijacking with potentially devastating consequences - at all. This is a case that can be debated. But, as long as we do maintain such governments, we should use our knowledge of ponerology to optimize them as best we can by striving to:
Educate Citizens/Voters about Pathology
Anyone who plays any role in choosing or supporting leaders needs to know about the pathological and the historical patterns by which they take over human systems. This will then allow them to better recognize and take into account the signs of pathology among leaders and candidates for office.
Protect Positions of Leadership from the Pathological
Because leaders in modern societies have access to such potent tools and technologies, it is crucial that we take all possible steps to safeguard those influential positions from being seized by those who lack empathy, conscience and responsibility.
Elevate Leaders Who Themselves Understand Ponerology and its Implications
Even more ideal than simply ensuring that normals hold positions of power is ensuring that our leaders are normals that also understand pathology and can, therefore, use that knowledge to guide them in their diplomacy and decision-making.
Develop Wise Policies and Structures to Facilitate an Optimal Relationship between Normals and the PathologicalIt is likely that we will always have pathological people among us and Lobaczewski makes it clear that they do have a right to exist. But normals and the pathological are fundamentally different and we cannot change either into the other. So we must find ways to sustainably coexist if we are to survive without massive turmoil.
How, then, should we apply our knowledge in order to best facilitate relations between normals and the pathological?
At present, in systems where this issue is dealt with at all, we tend to oscillate frustratingly between instituting severe punishments that many find distasteful and being repeatedly victimized by the pathological. With understanding, we can break out of the cycle and find a balance between humane treatment of those suffering from pathology and protection of the rest of the system from the imposition of their will.
Lobaczewski offers insight into how we can do this. Unlike dangerously utopian creative social visionaries, he refuses to promote any specific structure. He insists that those in each system will need to develop the specifics of a healthy sustainable order that best fits their circumstances. However, he does suggest that these pathocracy-resistant systems, if truly infused with the consciousness of pathology vs. normality, will likely share certain basic similarities. And he suggests that we consider these principles in developing our own solutions.
Lobaczewski says that we should:
- Be responsibly forgiving, since we now realize that the pathological are people with different genes, brain lesions and other biological abnormalities
- Refrain from moralizing as there is no benefit to unnecessarily demonizing the pathological
- Remain constructive
- Set up institutions in ways and with selection criteria that guard against pathological people – who refuse psychological insight or are unwilling to undergo positive disintegration when necessary – from coming to power. As analogies, Lobaczewski points to countries in which royals with hemophilia were seen as vulnerable and barred from the throne and to jobs requiring color vision from which the color blind are rightly excluded.
- Favor leadership by normals who themselves understand pathology and can thus advise and lead based on this wisdom rather than based on emotionality or mythology
- Structure systems in formations that reduce the likelihood of ponerization
- Hold the good of society as paramount when creating laws, rather than aiming primarily at punishment
- Use force protectively, rather than vengefully, when it is indeed necessary
- Promise, and keep our promise, to ensure tolerable living conditions and areas for pathological people as they readapt into society. Lobaczewski explains that part of the reason the pathological so aggressively seek power is that they are often quite poor at making a living in an everyday setting within a system of normal man. By purposely designing circumstances that allow them to live the best, most fulfilling life possible, while still protecting the rest of the system, we may at least mitigate their sense of desperation, leading to greater peace.
As for the pathocrats, Lobaczewski says that in the wake of these changes, they may experience some short term trauma. However, he claims it will be minor since, unlike many normals, they already recognize their position in relation to this fundamental split in humanity and therefore will not be offended by being treated differently, per se. In addition, he says that their skill at repressing uncomfortable material, which contributes to their danger when in power, will eventually serve to minimize their protests when living as part of a workable coexistence that respects them.
Integrate a Modern Scientific Approach with Traditional ApproachesWhile Lobaczewski strongly promotes increased scientific literacy, he is clear that there is still a place for traditional calls for morality. In fact, he believes that by combining the two we can develop an approach to pathology greater than the sum of its parts. As a main example, he suggests that we:
Infuse Religious Communities with a Modern Understanding of Pathology
As we have discussed, religion lies in a pivotal position in relation to ponerogenesis. On one hand, religious communities can serve as powerful seats of resistance. On the other hand, religious communities are extremely vulnerable to being hijacked and ponerized themselves or to facilitating ponerization through aggressively promoting ineffective moralizing and emotionalizing responses to it.
Lobaczewski is hopeful that if we can inject greater medical and scientific understanding of pathology into religious communities, they can then better police and protect themselves and commit to more effective responses to it. In addition, this could provide a basis for interfaith cooperation since pathology vs. health is the type of issue around which healthy people of various religions (and of no religion) might be able to find common ground.
Address and Preemptively Mitigate Potential BacklashEmploying constructive, but unfamiliar, approaches like these may, at first, provoke some anxiety and protest from certain corners. A number of groups may experience a level of disintegration when confronted with them, including:
- People that have knowingly supported pathocracy
- People that have resisted only with moralizing or literary endeavors who suddenly realize that, by doing so, in lieu of engaging in more scientifically justified responses, they have, in effect, been facilitating pathocracy
- People that do not perceive themselves as ever having been in a pathocracy and, doubting its existence, resent having their worldview shaken
- People whose jobs or positions are tied to their pre-ponerology worldview
Furthermore, there are ways to render the process easier and less painful:
- Lobaczewski speaks from experience when he explains how to fill the psychological void left by such a sudden awakening with solid information to preempt the anxiety that a more primitive reintegration might generate.
- By supporting resistant networks of normals, we create fertile ground for an objective viewpoint that will better prepare society for these changes. In fact, in systems with strong examples of such networks, the changes might feel long overdue.
The Result: LogocracyIf we take enough of these steps, Lobaczewski says that we can replace the potential for or reality of pathocracy with what he calls “Logocracy.” Logocracy, as used by Lobaczewski (in contrast to its use by some others), means a healthier system based on an actual understanding of the forces that motivate society, rather than based primarily on our emotional responses. Within a logocracy, we will have access to proactive and timely approaches that can reduce our reliance on force. And we will live in systems that conform to the laws of nature and evolution. As Lobaczewski asks, who can tell where the next iteration of our social evolution would take us from there?
Challenges to Political Ponerology
- I believe that Lobaczewski exhibits a bias towards individualism reminiscent of, though far less extreme than, Ayn Rand’s. This may be because, having experienced similar suffering under totalitarian regimes, he and Rand both write from a position of rebellion against collectivism and, at times, perhaps understandably, slide to the other extreme.
- While Political Ponerology impressed me by extending the scope of its analysis to the geopolitical level, it disappointed me in not extending it even further to provide an ecological perspective.
- I am skeptical that the “laws” governing ponerogenic processes are definite and binding enough to truly consider them analogous to the laws of physics.
- I find that Lobaczewski’s analyses of certain historical figures involve far too much speculation to be accepted without further verification.
- I find some of the editor’s assertions, such as the claim that second-hand smoke may stimulate immunity to psychopaths, highly suspect.
- I differ with some of Lobaczewski’s personal views of religion.
- Some may have doubts about Lobaczewski’s extremely dramatic story of how the book came to finally be published.
- Some may not care for or relate to the particular terminology he uses to describe various phenomena, strategies or tactics.
- Some may find the tone, especially in the editor’s notes, overly conspiratorial.
- Some may deem Lobaczewski’s belief that we could, even with the wisest possible strategy, ever sufficiently protect large nation-states and their governments from falling into the hands of pathocrats overly optimistic. They may believe, like some of those that I describe in my page on psychopathy, that in the context of such a high prevalence of devious pathological people and groups, it is simply unjustifiably risky to maintain such enormous and potent power structures based on the hope that they will always safely remain systems of normal man.
In addition, despite how thoroughly Political Ponerology details the various psychopathies and personality disorders, Lobaczewski’s descriptions of these conditions may not be the absolute best or most accurate ones available.
The publishers themselves acknowledge that the ideas in Political Ponerology and their applications have generated certain apprehensions and even added a dedicated section that attempts to address some of them, including:
- The concern expressed by some readers that it is dangerous in itself to divide humans into the normal and the pathological (though these readers don’t necessarily challenge the scientific veracity of this division)
- Fears aroused as certain unsavory groups, in denial of the pathological figures within their own movements and history, have hijacked Lobaczewski’s ideas and twisted them with paralogic and paramoralism to serve malicious ends – ironically exemplifying Lobaczewski’s own assertion that any ideology can be so exploited
Promoting the Scientific Discipline of Ponerology:
Lobaczewski’s Ultimate Legacy
Some of the challenges can be answered satisfactorily. For example, the publisher adeptly explains why dividing our view of humans along normal vs. pathological lines is a beneficial act that is fundamentally different from dividing it along many other less meaningful, more superficial lines, which often contributes to even greater strife.
Furthermore, many aspects of the book with which some may take issue are tangential to or even, for the most part, irrelevant to its most important takeaway.
- Lobaczewski’s personal views on religion provide interesting insight into the author’s beliefs. But even deep disagreement on the subject should not negate the greatest significance of Political Ponerology to its readers.
- As intriguing as Lobaczewski’s account of the history of its creation is, the book’s ultimate value does not depend whatsoever on the veracity of the story.
- However tedious the book’s writing style may be for some readers during the relatively short period actually reading it, this should not prevent anyone from giving its ideas, which have the potential for lifelong impact, fair and open consideration.
- While the editor’s notes are included to provoke additional thought about Lobaczewski’s material, readers should simply take what they like from them and disregard the rest. These notes can, at times, enhance Lobaczewski’s message, but in no case should they call into question the deeper meaning of his work.
- As we have seen, any ideology or belief system can be hijacked and misused for malicious purposes – even one that, in its original form, stands in explicit contradiction to those purposes. Thus, the fact that some groups have distorted Lobaczewski’s ideas to attempt to justify objectionable behavior cannot invalidate this book’s importance. If anything, such abuse only further reinforces why it is so necessary to spread word of Lobaczewski’s actual message.
But far more important than any of this is the fact that, as significant as it would be if his analyses of historical figures’ psychopathology or his specific data and descriptions or, especially, his main theses are accurate, I don’t believe Lobaczewski would even want us to simply accept his particular viewpoints as gospel and blindly follow his suggestions. Lobaczewski was a scientist, not a preacher. As such, I am highly doubtful that he desired to dictate to us ready-made answers that serve as endpoints. Instead, I believe he was concerned with stimulating us to ask certain questions as a starting point from which to drive a larger, crucial discussion about the causes and nature of suffering in our world. I believe that, through his work, despite losing much of his original data, he tried to serve as an example to guide all of us, and researchers in particular, in how to replicate some of his studies and develop new ones that apply the powerful tools and methods of science to seek answers to these questions.
- To what degree does the destructiveness in our world originate within, as opposed to outside of, humanity?
- Why are some moved to deep compassion by the suffering of others while some remain apathetic and still others seem to relish it?
- Why do some people and groups have an apparent predilection for harming others?
- How can we recognize those with such a predilection as early as possible?
- What steps, if any, should be taken when we identify those with risk factors for malicious activity?
The field of ponerology asks questions that, even for those who disagree with Lobaczewski’s own answers, are undeniably important to ask and for scientists, rather than only theologians and moralists - who lack certain required background knowledge and skills and too often bring with them their own agendas - to study.
Lobaczewski lived through one of the most destructive phases in human history and personally experienced not just one but two oppressive takeovers of his country. He risked his life, sacrificed greatly, was forced from his homeland and was repeatedly the target of suppression. And some of his colleagues suffered even worse fates. Even if you were to doubt Lobaczewski’s story, there is no doubt that millions did face such circumstances in the 20th century, as many around the world continue to today.
The best way that we can now honor Lobaczewski and his colleagues for overcoming such perils and challenges to present us with these questions and this paradigm is by answering the call to push the field of ponerology forward. We pay tribute to them by studying these questions, which are among the most crucial of our time, progressively honing our understanding of their answers and developing sound, effective strategies in response. Who will lead this charge? According to Lobaczewski, “It seems that, in the natural order of things, that those persons who have suffered the most from psychopaths or bearers of other mental anomalies, will be those called to do this work, to accept the burden.”
Lobaczewski himself said that not only should we study these subjects scientifically, but that he found doing so very fruitful and, luckily, he is being proven right. We’ve come a long way from the days when he encountered such a dearth of data about pathology and its impact and such dangerous obstacles to unearthing it. The fruits Lobaczewski alluded to are being born at an ever-increasing rate.
- The past several decades have brought a tremendous increase in relevant scientific knowledge.
- An ongoing and expanding discussion about the role of pathology in our world’s problems on all levels is increasingly taking place among researchers, thinkers and writers in diverse disciplines.
While, at first, I thought of ponerology as synonymous with Lobaczewski’s book, I came to understand that it is a broader field represented within a growing body of literature and film. Though most people, including even some of the authors and filmmakers themselves, remain unfamiliar with the actual term ponerology, many are producing or are familiar with works touching on issues that could be classified within that field.
Some of those works, like Snakes in Suits and Evil Genes and the work of Derrick Jensen, who often considers the role of pathology in our emerging ecological crisis, have deeply influenced my thinking.
I have found many others, including studies of the psychopathology of world leaders like Hitler: The Pathology of Evil by George Victor and Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, as well as The Corporation very interesting, as well.
Lobaczewski and the editor reference many other relevant books and studies throughout Political Ponerology and in a sizeable bibliography. The list includes some especially interesting titles involving the overlap between mental health and politics and demonstrates the diversity of sources from which Lobaczewski incorporated knowledge in producing the book.
Many of these works confirm Lobaczewski’s own conclusions. But, more importantly, they all confirm the importance of continued focus on the field of ponerology itself.
Greater exposure to these resources has inspired me to write more and more about related topics in recent years in pieces such as Publicizing the Threat of Personality Disorders Among Those in Positions of Power and my psychopathy page. It seems to have also inspired others, even in the mainstream media, to do the same, as evidenced by commentary such as that in the videos featured in my aforementioned blog piece.
As mentioned, we are at a pivotal point. As technological knowledge explodes in other areas, psychological ignorance becomes ever more dangerous as it leaves us vulnerable to even greater threats from the pathological – which is exactly why the pathological attempt to thwart our struggle for psychological knowledge. If we do not raise our consciousness about this issue, it is likely that pathocracy will continuously and cunningly rise up to dominate. We need to at least strive to understand the human propensity for evil the way we do medicine or physics. And, as our understanding has already grown far beyond past levels, we have no excuse, as individuals, families, organizations and nations, for continuing to respond as if we were relegated to a time when we lacked such understanding.
So let’s hope that Lobaczewski’s prediction continues to play out in the years to come and that we see a further explosion of work that builds on the legacy that he left us through Political Ponerology and the new scientific discipline that he helped to establish. And let’s hope that we see more applications of this knowledge in all areas of society. It can help us in developing humane yet effective solutions to so many social problems of which, without such knowledge, we simply cannot make sense. Finally accepting and incorporating this worldview may at first prompt psychological disintegration for some. But, in the long run, it is worth it.
Can we succeed in this task? It isn’t so far fetched. I’ve already described at least one culture that had internalized and acted upon this very understanding of the threats posed by pathology.
In Ishmael, Daniel Quinn advises us to be inventive so as to discover new ways to live that will allow evolution to continue its progression through our species. On Beyond Civilization’s title page, he quotes John Briggs and F. David Peat:
“What would happen if we intentionally forged our social solutions in the fires of creative chaos?”Lobaczewski has given us some of the most important engineering perspectives and data we need to guide our inventiveness and creativity. If we can grasp “that psychological matters are as important to the future as grand politics or powerful weapons” and develop well balanced social structures and institutions, modernized with built-in accedence and resistance to psychological variations, including pathologies, then systems of normal man can more often prevail – and Political Ponerology will have fulfilled its editor’s bold claim about its importance.
Other Resources Related to Political Ponerology
- My Borderline Personality Disorder Page
- My Narcissistic Personality Disorder Page
- My blog post Publicizing the Threat of Personality Disorders Among Those in Positions of Power
Main Writings & Creative Work Page