May the reader please imagine a very large hall in an old Gothic university
building. Many of us gathered there early in our studies in order to listen
to the lectures of outstanding philosophers and scientists. We were herded
back there – under threat - the year before graduation in order to listen to
the indoctrination lectures which recently had been introduced.
Someone nobody knew appeared behind the lectern and informed us that he
would now be the professor. His speech was fluent, but there was nothing
scientific about it: he failed to distinguish between scientific and
ordinary concepts and treated borderline imaginings as though it were wisdom
that could not be doubted. For ninety minutes each week, he flooded us with
naive, presumptuous paralogistics and a pathological view of human reality.
We were treated with contempt and poorly controlled hatred. Since fun-poking
could entail dreadful consequences, we had to listen attentively and with
the utmost gravity.
The grapevine soon discovered this person’s origins. He had come from a
Cracow suburb and attended high school, although no one knew if he had
graduated. Anyway, this was the first time he had crossed university
portals, and as a professor, at that!
“You can’t convince anyone this way!” we whispered to each other.
actually propaganda directed against themselves.”
But after such
mind-torture, it took a long time for someone to break the silence.
We studied ourselves, since we felt something strange had taken over our
minds and something valuable was leaking away irretrievably. The world of
psychological reality and moral values seemed suspended as if in a chilly
fog. Our human feeling and student solidarity lost their meaning, as did
patriotism and our old established criteria. So we asked each other, “are
you going through this too”? Each of us experienced this worry about his own
personality and future in his own way. Some of us answered the questions
with silence. The depth of these experiences turned out to be different for
We thus wondered how to protect ourselves from the results of this
“indoctrination”. Teresa D. made the first suggestion: Let’s spend a weekend
in the mountains. It worked. Pleasant company, a bit of joking, then
exhaustion followed by deep sleep in a shelter, and our human personalities
returned, albeit with a certain remnant. Time also proved to create a kind
of psychological immunity, although not with everyone. Analyzing the
psychopathic characteristics of the “professor’s” personality proved another
excellent way of protecting one’s own psychological hygiene.
You can just imagine our worry, disappointment, and surprise when some
colleagues we knew well suddenly began to change their world view; their
thought-patterns furthermore reminded us of the “professor’s” chatter. Their
feelings, which had just recently been friendly, became noticeably cooler,
although not yet hostile. Benevolent or critical student arguments bounced
right of them. They gave the impression of possessing some secret knowledge;
we were only their former colleagues, still believing what those “professors
of old” had taught us. We had to be careful of what we said to them.
former colleagues soon joined the Party.
Who were they, what social groups did they come from, what kind of students
and people were they?
How and why did they change so much in less than a
Why did neither I nor a majority of my fellow students succumb to this
phenomenon and process?
Many such questions fluttered through our heads
then. It was in those times, from those questions, observations and
attitudes that the idea was born that this phenomenon could be objectively
studied and understood; an idea whose greater meaning crystallized with
Many of us newly graduated psychologists participated in the initial
observations and reflections, but most crumbled away in the face of material
or academic problems. Only a few of that group remained; so the author of
this book may be the last of the Mohicans.
It was relatively easy to determine the environments and origins of the
people who succumbed to this process, which I then called “transpersonification”.
They came from all social groups, including aristocratic and fervently
religious families, and caused a break in our student solidarity to the
order of some 6 %. The remaining majority suffered varying degrees of
personality disintegration which gave rise to individual searching for the
values necessary to find ourselves again; the results were varied and
Even then, we had no doubts as to the pathological nature of this
“transpersonification” process, which ran similar but not identical in all
cases. The duration of the results of this phenomenon also varied. Some of
these people later became zealots. Others later took advantage of various
circumstances to withdraw and re-establish their lost links to the society
of normal people. They were replaced. The only constant value of the new
social system was the magic number of 6 %.
We tried to evaluate the talent level of those colleagues who had succumbed
to this personality-transformation process, and reached the conclusion that,
on average, it was slightly lower than the average of the student
population. Their lesser resistance obviously resided in other
bio-psychological features which were most probably qualitatively
I found that I had to study subjects bordering on psychology and
psychopathology in order to answer the questions arising from our
observations; scientific neglect in these areas proved an obstacle difficult
to overcome. At the same time, someone guided by special knowledge
apparently vacated the libraries of anything we could have found on the
topic; books were indexed, but not physically present.
Analyzing these occurrences now in hindsight, we could say that the
“professor” was dangling bait over our heads, based on specific
psychological knowledge. He knew in advance that he would fish out amenable
individuals, and even how to do it, but the limited numbers disappointed
him. The transpersonification process generally took hold only when an
individual’s instinctive substratum was marked by pallor or certain
deficits. To a lesser extent, it also worked among people who manifested
other deficiencies in which the state provoked within them was partially
impermanent, being largely the result of psychopathological induction.
This knowledge about the existence of susceptible individuals and how to
work on them will continue being a tool for world conquest as long as it
remains the secret of such “professors”. When it becomes skillfully
popularized science, it will help nations to develop immunity. But none of
us knew this at the time.
Nevertheless, we must admit that in demonstrating the properties of this
process to us in such a way as to force us into in-depth experience, the
professor helped us understand the nature of the phenomenon in a larger
scope than many a true scientific researcher participating in this work in
other less direct ways.
As a youth, I read a book about a naturalist
wandering through the Amazon-basin wilderness. At some moment a small animal
fell from a tree onto the nape of his neck, clawing his skin painfully and
sucking his blood. The biologist cautiously removed it—without anger, since
that was its form of feeding—and proceeded to study it carefully. This story
stubbornly stuck in my mind during those very difficult times when a vampire
fell onto our necks, sucking the blood of an unhappy nation.
Maintaining the attitude of a naturalist, while attempting to track the
nature of macrosocial phenomenon in spite of all adversity, insures a
certain intellectual distance and better psychological hygiene in the face
of horrors that might otherwise be difficult to contemplate. Such an
attitude also slightly increases the feeling of safety and furnishes an
insight that this very method may help find a certain creative solution.
This requires strict control of the natural,
moralizing reflexes of revulsion, and other painful emotions that the
phenomenon provokes in any normal person when it deprives him of his joy of
life and personal safety, ruining his own future and that of his nation.
Scientific curiosity therefore becomes a loyal ally during such times.
Hopefully, my readers will forgive me for recounting here a youthful
reminiscence that will lead us directly into the subject. My uncle, a very
lonely man, would visit our house periodically. He had survived the great
Soviet Revolution in the depths of Russia, where he had been shipped out by
the Czarist police. For over a year he wandered from Siberia to Poland.
Whenever he met with an armed group during his
travels, he quickly tried to determine which ideology they represented,
white or red, and thereupon skillfully pretended to profess it. Had his ruse
been unsuccessful, he would have had his head blown off as a suspected enemy
sympathizer. It was safest to have a gun and belong to a gang. So he would
wander and war alongside either group, usually only until he found an
opportunity to desert westward toward his native Poland, a country which had
just regained its freedom.
When he finally reached his beloved homeland again, he managed to finish his
long-interrupted law studies, to become a decent person, and to achieve a
responsible position. However, he was never able to liberate himself from
his nightmarish memories. Women were frightened by his stories of the bad
old days and thought it would make no sense to bring a new life into an
uncertain future. Thus, he never started a family. Perhaps he would have
been unable to relate to his loved ones properly.
This uncle of mine would recapture his past by telling the children in my
family stories about what he had seen, experienced and taken part in; our
young imaginations were unable to come to terms with any of it. Nightmarish
terror shuddered in our bones. We would think of questions: why did people
lose all their humanity, what was the reason for all this? Some sort of
apprehensive premonition choked its way into our young minds; unfortunately,
it was to come true in the future.
If a collection were to be made of all those books which describe the
horrors of wars, the cruelties of revolutions, and the bloody deeds of
political leaders and their systems, many readers would avoid such a
library. Ancient works would be placed alongside books by contemporary
historians and reporters. The documentary treatises on German extermination
and concentration camps, and of the extermination of the Jewish Nation,
furnish approximate statistical data and describe the well-organized “labor”
of the destruction of human life, using a properly calm language, and
providing a concrete basis for the acknowledgement of the nature of evil.
The autobiography of Rudolf Hoess, the commander of camps in Oswiecim
(Auschwitz) and Brzezinka (Birkenau), is a classic example of how an
intelligent psychopathic individual with a deficit of human emotion thinks
Foremost among these would be books written by witnesses to criminal
insanity such as Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, from prewar Soviet
life; Smoke over Birkenau the personal memories of Severina Szmaglewska 5
from the Oswiecim German concentration camp for women; The Other World, the
Soviet memoires of Gustav Herling-Grudzinski 6;
and the Solzhenitsyn volumes turgid with human suffering.
The collection would include works on the philosophy of history discussing
the social and moral aspects of the genesis of evil, but they would also use
the half-mysterious laws of history to partly justify the blood-stained
Szmaglewska, Seweryna, 1916-92, writer; 1942-45 prisoner in Nazi
concentration camps; wrote Dymy nad Birkenau (Smoke over Birkenau, 1945);
witness at Nuremberg Trial; stories and novels mainly concerned with war and
occupation: Zapowiada sie piekny dzien (Looks Like a Beautiful Day, 1960),
Niewinni w Norymberdze (The Innocent at Nuremberg, 1972); novels for young
people; anthology of memoirs 1939-45: Wiezienna krata (Prison Bars, 1964).
6 Herling-Grudzinski, Gustav: Polish writer who
after WWII lived in Napoli, Italy. Married the daughter of well known
Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce. He wrote an account of his time in a
Soviet gulag: A World Apart. [Editor’s note.]
However, an alert reader would be able to detect a certain degree of
evolution in the authors’ attitudes, from an ancient affirmation of
primitive enslavement and murder of vanquished peoples, to the present-day
moralizing condemnation of such methods of behavior.
Such a library would nevertheless be missing a single work offering a
sufficient explanation of the causes and processes whereby such historical
dramas originate, of how and why human frailties and ambitions degenerate
into bloodthirsty madness. Upon reading the present volume, the reader will
realize that writing such a book was scientifically impossible until
The old questions would remain unanswered: what made this happen? Does
everyone carry the seeds of crime within, or is it only some of us?
matter how faithful and psychologically true, no literary description of
occurrences, such as those narrated by the above-mentioned authors, can
answer these questions, nor can they fully explain the origins of evil.
They are thus incapable of furnishing
sufficiently effective principles for counter-acting evil. The best literary
description of a disease cannot produce an understanding of its essential
etiology, and thus furnishes no principles for treatment. In the same way,
such descriptions of historical tragedies are unable to elaborate effective
measures for counteracting the genesis, existence, or spread of evil.
In using natural7 language to
circumscribe psychological, social, and moral concepts which cannot properly
be described within its sphere of utility, we produce a sort of surrogate
comprehension leading to a nagging suspicion of helplessness. Our natural
system of concepts and imaginings is not equipped with the necessary factual
content to permit reasoned comprehension of the quality of the factors
(particularly the psychological ones) which were active before the birth of,
and during, such inhumanly cruel times
Ordinary, everyday words which have various meanings, generally benign, and
often do not embrace a specific, scientific meaning. [Editor’s note.]
We must nevertheless point out that the authors of such literary
descriptions sensed that their language was insufficient and therefore
attempted to infuse their words with the proper scope of precision, almost
as though they foresaw that someone – at some point in time - might use
their works in order to explain what cannot be explained, not even in the
best literary language. Had these writers not been so precise and
descriptive in their language, this author would have been unable to use
their works for his own scientific purposes.
In general, most people are horrified by such literature; in hedonistic
societies particularly, people have the tendency to escape into ignorance or
naive doctrines. Some people even feel contempt for suffering persons. The
influence of such books can thus be partially harmful; we should counteract
that influence by indicating what the authors had to leave out because our
ordinary world of concepts and imaginings cannot contain it.
The reader will therefore find herein no bloodcurdling descriptions of
criminal behavior or human suffering. It is not the author’s job to present
a graphic return of material adduced by people who saw and suffered more
than he did, and whose literary talents are greater. Introducing such
descriptions into this work would run counter to its purpose: it would not
only focus attention on some occurrences to the exclusion of many others,
but would also distract the mind from the real heart of the matter, namely,
the general laws of the origin of evil.
In tracking the behavioral mechanisms of the genesis of evil, one must keep
both abhorrence and fear under control, submit to a passion for
epistemological science, and develop the calm outlook needed in natural
history. We must never lose sight of the objective: to trace the processes
of ponerogenesis; where they can lead and what threat they can pose to us in
This book therefore aims to take the reader by the hand into a world beyond
the concepts and imaginings he has relied on to describe his world since
childhood, in an overly egotistic way, probably because his parents,
surroundings, and the community of his country used concepts similar to his
own. Thereafter, we must show him an appropriate selection from the world of
factual concepts which have given birth to recent scientific thinking and
which will allow him an understanding of what has remained irrational in his
everyday system of concepts.
However, this tour of another reality will not be a psychological experiment
conducted upon readers’ minds for the sole purpose of exposing the weak
points and gaps in their natural world view. Rather, it an urgent necessity
due to our contemporary world’s pressing problems, which we can ignore only
at our peril.
It is important to realize that we cannot possibly distinguish the path to
nuclear catastrophe from the path to creative dedication unless we step
beyond this world of natural egotism and well known concepts. Then we can
come to the understanding that the path was chosen for us by powerful
forces, against which our nostalgia for homey, familiar human concepts can
be no match. We must step beyond this world of everyday, illusory thinking
for our own good and for the good of our loved ones.
The social sciences have already elaborated their own conventional language
which mediates between the ordinary man’s view and a fully objective
naturalistic view. It is useful to scientists in terms of communication and
cooperation, but it is still not the kind of conceptual structure which can
fully take into account the biological, psychological, and pathological
premises at issue in the second and fourth chapters of this book. In the
social sciences, the conventional terminology eliminates critical standards
and puts ethics on ice; in the political sciences, it leads to an underrated
evaluation of factors which describe the essence of political situations
when evil is at the core.
This social science language left the author and other investigators feeling
helpless and scientifically stranded early in our research on the mysterious
nature of this inhuman historical phenomenon which engulfed our nation, and
still fires his attempts to reach an objective understanding of it.
Ultimately, I had no choice but to resort to objective biological,
psychological, and psychopathological terminology in order to bring into
focus the true nature of the phenomenon, the heart of matter.
The nature of the phenomena under investigation as well as the needs of
readers, particularly those unfamiliar with psycho-pathology, dictate the
descriptive manner which must first introduce the data and concepts
necessary for further comprehension of psychologically and morally
We shall thus begin with human personality
questions, intentionally formulated in such a way as to coincide largely
with the experience of a practicing psychologist, passing then to selected
questions of societal psychology. In the “ponerology” chapter, we shall
familiarize ourselves with how evil is born with regard to each social
scale, emphasizing the actual role of some psychopathological phenomena in
the process of ponero-genesis.
This will facilitate the transition from natural
language to the necessary objective language of naturalistic, psychological,
and statistical science to the extent that is necessary and sufficient.
Hopefully, it will not be irksome for readers to discuss these matters in
In the author’s opinion, Ponerology reveals itself to be a new branch of
science born out of historical need and the most recent accomplishments of
medicine and psychology. In the light of objective naturalistic language, it
studies the causal components and processes of the genesis of evil,
regardless of the latter’s social scope. We may attempt to analyze these
ponerogenic processes which have given rise to human injustice, armed with
proper knowledge, particularly in the area of psychopathology. Again and
again, as the reader will discover, in such a study, we meet with the
effects of pathological factors whose carriers are people characterized by
some degree of various psychological deviations or defects.
Moral evil and psychobiological evil are, in effect, interlinked via so many
causal relationships and mutual influences that they can only be separated
by means of abstraction. However, the ability to distinguish them
qualitatively can help us to avoid a moralizing interpretation of the
pathological factors, an error to which we are all prone, and which poisons
the human mind in an insidious way, whenever social and moral affairs are at
The ponerogenesis of macrosocial phenomena - large scale evil - which
constitutes the most important object of this book, appears to be subject to
the same laws of nature that operate within human questions on an individual
or small-group level. The role of persons with various psychological defects
and anomalies of a clinically low level appears to be a perennial
characteristic of such phenomena. In the macrosocial phenomenon we shall
later call “pathocracy”, a certain hereditary anomaly isolated as “essential
psychopathy” is catalytically and causatively essential for the genesis and
survival of large scale social evil.
Our natural human world view actually creates a barrier to our understanding
of such questions, thus, it is necessary to be familiar with
psychopathological phenomena, such as those encountered in this field, in
order to breach that barrier. May then the readers please forgive the
author’s occasional lapses along this innovative path and fearlessly follow
his lead, familiarizing themselves rather systematically with the data
adduced in the first few chapters. Thus, we shall be able to accept the
truth of the nature of evil without reflex protests on the part of our
Specialists familiar with psychopathology will find the road less novel.
They will, however, notice some differences in interpreting several well
known phenomena, resulting in part from the anomalous situations under which
the research was done, but mostly from the more intensive penetration needed
to achieve the primary purpose. That is why this aspect of our work contains
certain theoretical values useful for psychopathology. Hopefully,
non-specialists will depend upon the author’s long experience in
distinguishing individual psychological anomalies found among people and
factored into the process of the genesis of evil.
It should be pointed out that considerable moral, intellectual, and
practical advantages can be gleaned from an understanding of the ponerogenic
processes thanks to the naturalistic objectivity required. The long-term
heritage of ethical questions is thereby not destroyed; quite the contrary,
it is reinforced, since modern scientific methods confirm the basic values
of moral teachings. However, ponerology forces some corrections upon many
Understanding the nature of macrosocial pathological phenomena permits us to
find a healthy attitude and perspective toward them, thus assisting us in
protecting our minds from being poisoned by their diseased contents and the
influence of their propaganda. The unceasing counter-propaganda resorted to
by some countries with a normal human system could easily be superseded by
straightforward information of a scientific and popular scientific nature on
The bottom line is that we can only conquer this huge,
contagious social cancer if we comprehend its essence and its etiological
causes. This would eliminate the mystery of this phenomenon as its primary
survival asset. Ignota nulla curatio morbid
Do not attempt to cure what you do not understand.
Such an understanding of the nature of the phenomena that this study brings
forward leads to the logical conclusion that the measures for healing and
reordering the world today should be completely different from the ones
heretofore used for solving international conflicts. Solutions to such
conflicts should function more like modern antibiotics, or, even better,
psychotherapy properly handled, rather than taking the approach of old-style
weapons such as clubs, swords, tanks or nuclear missiles.
Healing social problems should be the objective,
not destroying society. An analogy can be drawn between the archaic method
of bleeding a patient as opposed to the modern method of strengthening and
restoring the ill one in order to effect the cure.
With reference to phenomena of a ponerogenic nature, mere proper knowledge
alone can begin healing individual humans and helping their minds regain
Toward the end of this book, we shall be discussing how to use this
knowledge in order to arrive at the correct political decisions and apply it
to an overall therapy of the world.
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