extracted from "The
Nature of Evil - Political Ponerology"
Ever since ancient times, philosophers and religious thinkers representing
various attitudes in different cultures have been searching for the truth
regarding moral values, attempting to find criteria for what is right, and
what constitutes good advice.
They have described the virtues of human
character at length and suggested these be acquired. They have created a
heritage containing centuries of experience and reflection.
In spite of the obvious differences of
originating cultures and attitudes, even though they worked in widely
divergent times and places, the similarity, or complementary nature, of the
conclusions reached by famous ancient philosophers are striking. It
demonstrates that whatever is valuable is conditioned and caused by the laws
of nature acting upon the personalities of both individual human beings and
It is equally thought-provoking to see how relatively little has been said
about the opposite side of the coin; the nature, causes, and genesis of
evil. These matters are usually cloaked behind the above generalized
conclusions with a certain amount of secrecy. Such a state of affairs can be
partially ascribed to the social conditions and historical circumstances
under which these thinkers worked; their modus operandi may have been
dictated at least in part by personal fate, inherited traditions, or even
After all, justice and virtue are the opposites
of force and perversity; the same applies to truthfulness vs. mendacity,
similarly like health is the opposite of an illness. It is also possible
that whatever they thought or said about the true nature of evil was later
expunged and hidden by those very forces they sought to expose.
The character and genesis of evil thus remained hidden in discreet shadows,
leaving it to literature to deal with the subject in highly expressive
language. But, expressive though the literary language might be, it has
never reached the primeval source of the phenomena. A certain cognitive
space remained as an uninvestigated thicket of moral questions which resist
understanding and philosophical generalizations.
Present-day philosophers developing meta-ethics are trying to push on along
the elastic space leading to an analysis of the language of ethics,
contributing bits and pieces toward eliminating the imperfections and habits
of natural conceptual language. Penetrating this ever-mysterious nucleus is
highly tempting to a scientist.
At the same time, active practitioners in social life and normal people
searching for their way are significantly conditioned by their trust in
certain authorities. Eternal temptations such as trivializing
insufficiently-proven moral values or disloyally taking advantage of naive
human respect for them, find no adequate counterweight within a rational
understanding of reality.
If physicians behaved like ethicists, i.e. relegated to the shadow of their
personal experience relatively un-esthetic disease phenomena because they
were primarily interested in studying questions of physical and mental
hygiene, there would be no such thing as modern medicine. Even the roots of
this health-maintenance science would be hidden in similar shadows. In spite
of the fact that the theory of hygiene has been linked to medicine since its
ancient beginnings, physicians were correct in their emphasis upon studying
disease above all.
They risked their own health and made sacrifices
in order to discover the causes and biological properties of illnesses and,
afterwards, to understand the patho-dynamics of the courses of these
illnesses. A comprehension of the nature of a disease, and the course it
runs, after all, enables the proper curative means to be elaborated.
While studying an organisms’ ability to fight off disease, scientists
invented vaccination, which allows organisms to become resistant to an
illness without passing through it in its full-blown manifestation. Thanks
to this, medicine conquers and prevents phenomena which, in its scope of
activity, are considered a type of evil.
The question thus arises: could some analogous modus operandi not be
used to study the causes and genesis of other kinds of evil scourging human
individuals, families, and societies, in spite of the fact that they appear
even more insulting to our moral feelings than do diseases?
taught the author that evil is similar to disease in nature, although
possibly more complex and elusive to our understanding. Its genesis reveals
many factors, pathological, especially psychopathological, in character,
whose essence medicine and psychology have already studied, or whose
understanding demands further investigation in these realms.
Parallel to the traditional approach, problems commonly perceived to be
moral may also be treated on the basis of data provided by biology,
medicine, and psychology, as factors of this kind are simultaneously present
in the question as a whole. Experience teaches us that a comprehension of
the essence and genesis of evil generally makes use of data from these
Philosophical reflection alone is insufficient.
Philosophical thought may have engendered all the scientific disciplines,
but the other scientific disciplines did not mature until they became
independent, based on detailed data and a relationship to other disciplines
supplying such data.
Encouraged by the often “coincidental” discovery of these naturalistic
aspects of evil, the author has imitated the methodology of medicine; a
clinical psychologist and medical co-worker by profession, he had such
tendencies anyway. As is the case with physicians and disease, he took the
risks of close contact with evil and suffered the consequences. His purpose
was to ascertain the possibilities of understanding the nature of evil, its
etiological factors and to track its pathodynamics.
The developments of biology, medicine, and psychology opened so many avenues
that the above mentioned behavior turned out to be not only feasible, but
Personal experience and refined methods in clinical psychology permitted
reaching ever more accurate conclusions.
There was a major difficulty: insufficient data, especially in the area of
the science of psychopathies. This problem had to be overcome based on my
own investigations. This insufficiency was caused by neglect of these areas,
theoretical difficulties facing researchers, and the unpopular nature of
This work in general, and this chapter in
particular, contain references to research conclusions the author was either
prevented from publishing or unwilling to publish for reasons of personal
safety. Sadly, it is lost now and age prevents any attempts at recovery. It
is hoped that my descriptions, observations, and experience, here condensed
from memory, will provide a platform for a new effort to produce the data
needed to confirm again what was confirmed then.
Nevertheless, based on the work of myself and others in that past tragic
time, a new discipline arose that became our beacon; two Greek philologists
- monks baptized it “PONEROLOGY” from the Greek poneros = evil.
of the genesis of evil was called, correspondingly, “ponerogenesis”. I hope
that these modest beginnings will grow so as to enable us to overcome evil
through an understanding of its nature, causes, and development.
From among 5000 psychotic, neurotic, and healthy patients, the author
selected 384 adults who behaved in a manner which had seriously hurt others.
They came from all circles of Polish society, but mostly from a large
industrial center characterized by poor working conditions and substantial
air pollution. They represented various moral, social, and political
attitudes. Some 30 of them had been subjected to penal measures which were
often excessively harsh. Once freed from jail or other penalty, these people
attempted to readapt to social life, which made them tend to be sincere in
speaking to me - the psychologist.
Others had escaped punishment; still others had
hurt their fellows in a manner which does not qualify for judicial treatment
under legal theory or practice. Some were protected by a political system
which is in itself a ponerogenic derivate. The author had the further
advantage of speaking to persons whose neuroses were caused by some abuse
they had experienced.
All the above-mentioned people were given psychological tests and subjected
to detailed anamnesis33 so as
to determine their overall mental skills, thereby either excluding or
detecting possible brain tissue lesions and evaluating them in relation to
one another.34 Other methods
were also used in accordance with the patient’s actual needs in order to
create a sufficiently accurate picture of the psychological condition.
most of these cases the author had access to the results of medical
examinations and laboratory tests performed in medical facilities.
history: the case history of a medical patient as recalled by the patient.
34 My basic test battery resembled more those
used in Great Britain as opposed to the American versions. I used in
addition two tests: one was an old British performance test re-standarized
for clinical purposes. The other was completely elaborated by myself.
Unfortunately, when I was expelled from Poland, it made it impossible for me
to transferring any of my many results to other psychologists because I was
deprived of all my research papers in addition to almost everything else.
A psychologist can glean many valuable observations, such as those used in
this work, when he himself is subjected to abuse, as long as cognitive
interest overcomes his natural human emotional reactions. If not, he must
utilize his professional skills to rescue himself first. The author never
lacked for such opportunities since his unhappy country is replete with
examples of human injustice to which he was, himself, subjected on numerous
Analysis of their personalities and the genesis of their behavior revealed
that only 14 to 16 per cent of the 384 persons who hurt others failed to
exhibit any psychopathological factors which would have influenced their
behavior. Regarding this statistic, it should be pointed out that a
psychologist’s non-discovery of such factors does not prove their
non-existence. In a significant part of this group of cases, the lack of
proof was rather the result of insufficient interview possibilities,
imperfection of testing methods, and deficiency of skills on the part of the
Thus, natural reality appeared different in principle from everyday
attitudes, which interpret evil in a moralizing way, and from juridical
practices, which only in a small part of the cases adjudicate a commutation
of a sentence by taking the criminal’s pathological characteristics into
We may often reason by means of the exclusionary hypothesis, e.g. pondering
what would happen if the genesis of a particular wrongdoing did not have
some pathological component. We then usually reach the conclusion that the
deed would not have taken place either since the pathological factor sealed
its occurrence or became an indispensable component in its origin.
The hypothesis thus suggests itself that such factors are commonly active in
the genesis of evil. The conviction that pathological factors generally
participate in ponerogenic processes appears even more likely if we also
take into account the conviction of many scholars in ethics that evil in
this world represents a kind of web or continuum of mutual conditioning.
Within this interlocking structure, one kind of
evil feeds and opens doors for others regardless of any individual or
doctrinal motivations. It does not respect the boundaries of individual
cases, social groups, and nations. Since pathological factors are present
within the synthesis of most instances of evil, they are also present in
Further deliberations on the observations thus obtained considered only a
part of the above-mentioned variegated cases, especially those which did not
generate doubt by colliding with natural moral attitudes, and those which
did not reveal practical difficulties for further analysis (such as absence
of further contact with the patient). The statistical approach furnished
only general guidelines. Intuitive penetration into each individual problem,
and a similar synthesis of the whole, proved the most productive method in
The role of pathological factors in a process of the origin of evil can be
played by any known, or not yet sufficiently researched, psychopathological
phenomenon, and also by some pathological matters medical practice does not
include within psychopathology. However, their activity in a ponerogenic
process is dependent on features other than the obviousness or intensity of
the condition. Quite the contrary, the greatest ponerogenic activity is
reached by pathological factors at an intensity which generally permits
detection with the help of clinical methods, although they are not yet
considered pathological by the opinion of the social environment.
Such a factor can then covertly limit the
bearer’s ability to control his conduct, or have an effect upon other
persons, traumatizing their psyches, fascinating them, causing their
personalities to develop improperly, or inciting vindictive emotions or a
lust for punishing. A moralistic interpretation of such agents and their
legacy works against humankind’s ability to see the causes of evil and to
utilize common sense to combat it. This is why identifying such pathological
factors and revealing their activities can so often stifle their ponerogenic
In the process of the origin of evil, pathological factors can act from
within an individual who has committed a hurtful act; such activity is
relatively easily acknowledged by public opinion and the courts.
Consideration is given much less frequently to how outside influences
emitted by their carriers act upon individuals or groups.
however, play a substantial role in the overall genesis of evil. In order
for such influence to be active, the pathological characteristic in question
must be interpreted in a moralistic manner, i.e. differently from its true
nature. There are many possibilities for such activities. For the moment,
let us indicate the most damaging.
Every person in the span of his life, and particularly during childhood and
youth, assimilates psychological material from others through mental
resonance, identification, imitation, and other communicative means,
thereupon transforming it to build his own personality and world view. If
such material is contaminated by pathological factors and deformities,
personality development shall also be deformed. The product will be a person
unable to understand correctly either himself and others, normal human
relations and morals; he develops into a person who commits evil acts with a
poor feeling of being faulty. Is he really at fault?
Man’s age-old, familiar moral weaknesses and
intelligence deficiencies, proper reasoning, and knowledge combine with the
activity of various pathological factors to create a complex network of
causation which frequently contains feedback relationships or closed causal
structures. Practically speaking, cause and effect are often widely
separated in time, which makes it more difficult to track the links.
If our scope of observation is expansive enough,
the ponerogenic processes are reminiscent of complex chemical synthesis,
wherein modifying a single factor causes the entire process to change.
Botanists are aware of the law of the minimum, wherein plant growth is
limited by contents of the component which is in deficiency in the soil.
Similarly, eliminating (or at least limiting) the activity of one of the
above-mentioned factors or deficiencies should cause a corresponding
reduction in the entire process of the genesis of evil.
For centuries, moralists have been advising us to develop ethics and human
values; they have been searching for the proper intellectual criteria. They
have also respected correctness of reasoning, whose value in this area is
unquestionable. In spite of all their efforts, however, they have been
unable to overcome the many kinds of evil that have scourged humanity for
ages and that are presently taking on unheard-of proportions.
By no means does a ponerologist wish to belittle the role of moral values
and knowledge in this area; rather, he wants to buttress it with
hitherto-underrated scientific knowledge in order to round out the picture
as a whole and adapt it better to reality, thereby making more effective
action possible in moral, psychological, social, and political practice.
This new discipline is thus primarily interested in the role of pathological
factors in the origin of evil, especially since conscious control and
monitoring of them on the scientific, social, and individual levels could
effectively stifle or disarm these processes. Something which has been
impossible for centuries is now feasible in practice thanks to progress in
naturalistic cognizance. Methodological refinements are dependent upon
further progress in detailed data and upon the conviction that such behavior
For instance, in the course of psychotherapy, we may inform a patient that
in the genesis of his personality and behavior we find the results of
influences from some person who revealed psychopathological characteristics.
We thereby carry out an intervention that is
painful for the patient, which demands we proceed with tact and skill. As a
result of this interaction, however, the patient develops a kind of
self-analysis which will liberate him from the results of these influences
and enable him to develop some critical distance in dealing with other
factors of a similar nature. Rehabilitation will depend on improving his
ability to understand himself and others.
Thanks to this, he will be able to overcome his
internal and interpersonal difficulties more easily and to avoid mistakes
which hurt him and his immediate environment.
Let us now attempt a concise description of some examples of those
pathological factors which have proved to be the most active in ponerogenic
processes. Selection of these examples resulted from the author’s own
experience, instead of exhaustive statistical tallies, and may thus differ
from other specialists’ evaluations. Much depends on particular situation.
A small amount of statistical data concerning
these phenomena has been borrowed from other works or are approximate
evaluations elaborated under conditions which did not allow the entire front
of research to be developed. Again, may the reader please consider the
conditions under which the author worked, and the time and place.
Mention should also be made of some historical figures, people whose
pathological characteristics contributed to the process of the genesis of
evil on a large social scale, imprinting their mark upon the fate of
nations. It is not an easy task to establish diagnosis for people whose
psychological anomalies and diseases died together with them.
The results of such clinical analyses are open
to question even by persons lacking knowledge or experience in this area,
only because recognizing such a state of mind does not correspond to their
historical or literary way of thought. While this is done on the basis of
the legacy of natural and often moralizing language, I can only assert that
I always based my findings on comparisons of data acquired through numerous
observations I made by studying many similar patients with the help of the
objective methods of contemporary clinical psychology. I took the critical
approach herein as far as possible.
The opinions of specialists elaborated in a
similar way nevertheless remain valuable.
Brain tissue is very limited in its regenerative ability. If it is damaged
and the change subsequently heals, a process of rehabilitation can take
place wherein the neighboring healthy tissue takes over the function of the
damaged portion. This substitution is never quite perfect; thus some
deficits in skill and proper psychological processes can be detected in even
cases of very small damage by using the appropriate tests.
Specialists are aware of the variegated causes
for the origin of such damage, including trauma and infections. We should
point out here that the psychological results of such changes, as we can
observe many years later, are more heavily dependent upon the location of
the damage itself in the brain mass, whether on the surface or within, than
they are upon the cause which brought them about.
The quality of these consequences also depends
upon when they occurred in the person’s lifetime. Regarding pathological
factors of ponerogenic processes, perinatal or early infant damages have
more active results than damages which occurred later.
In societies with highly developed medical care, we find among the lower
grades of elementary school (when tests can be applied), that 5 to 7 per
cent of children have suffered brain tissue lesions which cause certain
academic or behavioral difficulties. This percentage increases with age.
Modern medical care has contributed to a quantitative decrease in such
phenomena, but in certain relatively uncivilized countries and during
historical times, indications of difficulties caused by such changes are and
have been more frequent.
Epilepsy and its many variations constitute the oldest known results of such
lesions; it is observed in a relatively small number of persons suffering
such damage. Researchers in these matters are more or less unanimous in
believing that Julius Caesar, and then later Napoleon Bonaparte, had
epileptic seizures. Those were probably instances of vegetative epilepsy
caused by lesions lying deep within the brain, near the vegetative centers.
This variety does not cause subsequent dementia.
The extent to which these hidden ailments had
negative effects upon their characters and historical decision-making, or
played a ponerogenic role, can be the subject of a separate study and
evaluation of great interest. In most cases, however, epilepsy is an evident
ailment, which limits its role as a ponerogenic factor.
In a much larger segment of the bearers of brain tissue damage, the negative
deformation of their characters grows in the course of time. It takes on
variegated mental pictures, depending upon the properties and localization
of these changes, their time of origin, and also the life conditions of the
individual after their occurrence.
We will call such character disorders – characteropathies.
Some characteropathies play an outstanding role as
pathological agents in the processes of the genesis of evil. Let us thus
characterize these most active ones.
Characteropathies reveal a certain similar quality, if the clinical picture
is not dimmed by the coexistence of other mental anomalies (usually
inherited), which sometimes occur in practice. Undamaged brain tissue
retains our species’ natural psychological properties. This is particularly
evident in instinctive and affective responses, which are natural, albeit
often insufficiently controlled.
The experience of people with such anomalies
grows in the medium of the normal human world to which they belong by
nature. Thus their different way of thinking, their emotional violence, and
their egotism find relatively easy entry into other people’s minds and are
perceived within the categories of the everyday world.
Such behavior on the
part of persons with such character disorders traumatizes the minds and
feelings of normal people, gradually diminishing the ability of the normal
person to use their common sense. In spite of their resistance, victims of
the characteropath become used to the rigid habits of pathological thinking
If the victims are young people, the result is
that the personality suffers abnormal development leading to its
malformation. Characteropaths and their victims thus represent pathological,
ponerogenic factors which, by their covert activity, easily engender new
phases in the eternal genesis of evil, opening the door to a later
activation of other factors which thereupon take over the main role.
A relatively well-documented example of such an influence of a
characteropathic personality on a macrosocial scale is the last German
emperor, Wilhelm II.35 He was
subjected to brain trauma at birth. During and after his entire reign, his
physical and psychological handicap was hidden from public knowledge. The
motor abilities of the upper left portion of his body were handicapped.
35 The eldest
grandchild of Queen Victoria, Wilhelm symbolized his era and the nouveaux
riche aspects of the German empire. The kaiser suffered from a birth defect
that left his left arm withered and useless. It was claimed that he overcame
this handicap, but the effort to do so left its mark, and despite efforts of
his parents to give him a liberal education, the prince became imbued with
religious mysticism, militarism, anti-semitism, the glorification of power
Some have claimed that his personality
displayed elements of a narcissistic personality disorder. Bombastic, vain,
insensitive, and possessed with grandiose notions of divine right rule, his
personality traits paralleled those of the new Germany: strong, but off
balance; vain, but insecure; intelligent, but narrow; self-centered yet
longing for acceptance. [Editor’s note.]
As a boy, he had difficulty learning grammar,
geometry, and drawing, which constitute the typical triad of academic
difficulties caused by minor brain lesions. He developed a personality with
infantile features and insufficient control over his emotions, and also a
somewhat paranoid way of thinking which easily sidestepped the heart of some
important issues in the process of dodging problems.
Militaristic poses and a general’s uniform overcompensated for his feelings
of inferiority and effectively cloaked his shortcomings. Politically, his
insufficient control of emotions and factors of personal rancor came into
view. The old Iron Chancellor had to go, that cunning and ruthless
politician who had been loyal to the monarchy and had built up Prussian
power. After all, he was too knowledgeable about the prince’s defects and
had worked against his coronation.
A similar fate met other overly critical
people, who were replaced by persons with lesser brains, more subservience,
and, sometimes, discreet psychological deviations. Negative selection took
Since the common people are prone to identify with the emperor, and through
the emperor, with a system of government, the characteropathic material
emanating from the Kaiser resulted in many Germans being progressively
deprived of their ability to use their common sense. An entire generation
grew up with psychological deformities regarding feeling and understanding
moral, psychological, social and political realities.
It is extremely typical that in many German families having a member who was
psychologically not quite normal, it became a matter of honor (even excusing
nefarious conduct) to hide this fact from public opinion, and even from the
awareness of close friends and relatives. Large portions of German society
ingested psychopathological material, together with that unrealistic way of
thinking wherein slogans take on the power of arguments and real data are
subjected to subconscious selection.
This occurred during a time when a wave of hysteria was growing throughout
Europe, including a tendency for emotions to dominate and for human behavior
to contain an element of histrionics. How individual sober thought can be
terrorized by a behavior colored with such material was evidenced
particularly by women. This progressively took over three empires and other
countries on the mainland.
To what extent did Wilhelm II contribute to this, along with two other
emperors whose minds also were incapable of taking in the actual facts of
history and government? To what extent were they themselves influenced by an
intensification of hysteria during their reigns? That would make an
interesting topic of discussion among historians and ponerologists.
International tensions increased; Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in
Sarajevo. Unfortunately, neither the Kaiser nor any other governmental
authority in his country were in possession of their reason. What dominated
the subsequent events was Wilhelm’s emotional attitude and the stereotypes
of thought and action inherited from the past. War broke out. General war
plans that had been prepared earlier, and which had lost their relevance
under the new conditions, unfolded more like military maneuvers.
Even those historians familiar with the genesis
and character of the Prussian state, including its ideological subjugation
of individuals to the authority of king and emperor, and its tradition of
bloody expansionism, intuit that these situations contained some activity of
an uncomprehended fatality which eludes an analysis in terms of historical
36 An interesting
comparison is the regime of George W. Bush and the Neo-conservatives. It
follows, almost point by point, the history of the Kaiser in Germany.
Many thoughtful persons keep asking the same anxious question: how could the
German nation have chosen for a Fuehrer a clownish psychopath who made no
bones about his pathological vision of superman rule?
Under his leadership,
Germany then unleashed a second criminal and politically absurd war. During
the second half of this war, highly-trained army officers honorably
performed inhuman orders, senseless from the political and military point of
view, issued by a man whose psychological state corresponded to the routine
criteria for being forcibly committed to a psychiatric hospital.
Any attempt to explain the things that occurred during the first half of our
century by means of categories generally accepted in historical thought
leaves behind a nagging feeling of inadequacy. Only a ponerological approach
can compensate for this deficit in our comprehension, as it does justice to
the role of various pathological factors in the genesis of evil at every
The German nation, fed for a generation on pathologically altered
psychological material, fell into a state comparable to what we see in
certain individuals raised by persons who are both characteropathic and
hysterical. Psychologists know from experience how often such people then
let themselves commit acts which seriously hurt others. A psychotherapist
needs a good deal of persistent work, skill, and prudence in order to enable
such a person to regain his ability to comprehend psychological problems
with more naturalistic realism and to utilize his healthy critical faculties
in relation to his own behavior.
The Germans inflicted and suffered enormous damage and pain during the first
World War; they thus felt no substantial guilt and even thought that they
were the ones who had been wronged. This is not surprising as they were
behaving in accordance with their customary habit, without being aware of
its pathological causes.
The need for this pathological state to be
concealed in heroic garb after a war in order to avoid bitter disintegration
became all too common. A mysterious craving arose, as if the social organism
had managed to become addicted to some drug. The hunger was for more
pathologically modified psychological material, a phenomenon known to
psychotherapeutic experience. This hunger could only be satisfied by another
similarly pathological personality and system of government. A
characteropathic personality opened the door for leadership by a
psychopathic individual. We shall return later in our deliberations to this
pathological personality sequence, as it appears a general regularity in
A ponerological approach facilitates our understanding of a person who
succumbs to the influence of a characteropathic personality, as well as
comprehension of macrosocial phenomena caused by the contribution of such
factors. Unfortunately, relatively few such individuals can be served by
appropriate psychotherapy. Such behavior cannot be ascribed to nations
proudly defending their sovereignty without extreme reactions.
may consider the solution of such problems by means of the proper knowledge
as a vision for the future.
Paranoid character disorders
It is characteristic of paranoid behavior for
people to be capable of relatively correct reasoning and discussion as long
as the conversation involves minor differences of opinion. This stops
abruptly when the partner’s arguments begin to undermine their overvalued
ideas, crush their long-held stereotypes of reasoning, or forces them to
accept a conclusion they had subconsciously rejected before. Such a stimulus
unleashes upon the partner a torrent of pseudo-logical, largely paramoralistic, often insulting utterances which always contain some degree
Utterances like these inspire aversion among cultivated and logical people,
who then tend to avoid the paranoid types. However, the power of the
paranoid lies in the fact that they easily enslave less critical minds, e.g.
people with other kinds of psychological deficiencies, who have been victims
of the egotistical influence of individuals with character disorders, and,
in particular, a large segment of young people.
A proletarian may perceive this power to enslave to be a kind of victory
over higher-class people and thus take the paranoid person’s side. However,
this is not the normal reaction among the common people, where perception of
psychological reality occurs no less often than among intellectuals.
In sum then, the response of accepting paranoid argumentation is
qualitatively more frequent in reverse proportion to the civilization level
of the community in question, although it never approaches the majority.
Nevertheless, paranoid individuals become aware of their enslaving influence
through experience and attempt to take advantage of it in a pathologically
We know today that the psychological mechanism of paranoid phenomena is
twofold: one is caused by damage to the brain tissue, the other is
functional or behavioral. Within the above-mentioned process of
rehabilitation, any brain-tissue lesion causes a certain slackening of
accurate thinking and, as a consequence, of the personality structure.
Most typical are those cases caused by an
aggression in the diencephalon37
by various pathological factors, resulting in its permanently decreased
tonal ability, and similarly of the tonus of inhibition in the brain cortex.
Particularly during sleepless nights, runaway thoughts give rise to a
paranoid changed view of human reality, as well as to ideas which can be
either gently naive or violently revolutionary. Let us call this kind
37 The posterior
division of the forebrain; connects the cerebral hemispheres with the
mesencephalon; the region of the brain that includes the epithalamus,
thalamus, and hypothalamus. [Editor’s note.]
In persons free of brain tissue lesions, such phenomena most frequently
occur as a result of being reared by people with paranoid characteropathia,
along with the psychological terror of their childhood. Such psychological
material is then assimilated creating the rigid stereotypes of abnormal
This makes it difficult for thought and world
view to develop normally, and the terror-blocked contents become transformed
into permanent, functional, congestive centers.
Ivan Pavlov comprehended all kinds of paranoid states in a manner similar to
this functional model without being aware of this basic and primary cause.
He nevertheless provided a vivid description of paranoid characters and the
above-mentioned ease with which paranoid individuals suddenly tear away from
factual discipline and proper thought-processes.
Those readers of his work on the subject who are
sufficiently familiar with Soviet conditions glean yet another historical
meaning from his little book. Its intent appears obvious. The author
dedicated his work, with no word of inscription, of course, to the chief
model of a paranoid personality: the revolutionary leader Lenin, whom the
scientist knew well. As a good psychologist, Pavlov could predict that he
would not be the object of revenge, since the paranoid mind will block out
the egocentric associations. He was thus able to die a natural death.
Lenin should nevertheless be included with the first and most characteristic
kind of paranoid personality, i.e. most probably due to diencephalic brain
Vassily Grossman 38
describes him more or less as follows:
Lenin was always tactful, gentle, and
polite, but simultaneously characterized Asthenization, by an
excessively sharp, ruthless, and fixation and stereotypia brutal
attitude to political opponents. He never allowed any possibility that
they might be even minimally right, nor that he might be even minimally
wrong. He would often call his opponents hucksters, lackeys,
servant-boys, mercenaries, agents, or Judases bribed for thirty pieces
of silver. He made no attempt to persuade his opponents during a
dispute. He communicated not with them, but rather with those witnessing
the dispute, in order to ridicule and compromise his adversaries.
Sometimes such witnesses were just a few people, sometimes thousands of
delegates to a congress, sometimes millions worth throngs of newspaper
Grossman was a Soviet citizen, a Ukrainian Jew born in 1905. A Communist, he
became a war correspondent, working for the army paper Red Star - a job
which took him to the front lines of Stalingrad and ultimately to Berlin. He
was among the first to see the results of the death camps, and published the
first account of a death camp - Treblinka - in any language. After the war,
he seems to have lost his faith. He wrote his immense novel, Life and Fate (Zhizn
i Sudba) in the 1950s and - in the period of the Khrushchev thaw, which had
seen Alexander Solzhenitsyn allowed to publish A Day on the Life of Ivan
Denisovich - he submitted the manuscript to a literary journal in 1960 for
But Solzhenitsyn was one thing, Grossman
another: his manuscript was confiscated, as were the sheets of carbon paper
and typewriter ribbons he had used to write it. Suslov, the Politbureau
member in charge of ideology, is reported as having said it could not be
published for 200 years. However, it was smuggled out on microfilm to the
west by Vladimir Voinovich, and published, first in France in 1980, then in
English in 1985.
Why the 200 year ban? Because Life and Fate commits what was still, in a
‘liberal’ environment, the unthinkable sin of arguing for the moral
equivalence of Nazism and Soviet communism. [Editor’s note.]
The frontal areas of the cerebral cortex
(10A and B acc. to the Brodmann division) are virtually present in no
creature except man; they are composed of the phylogenetically youngest
nervous tissue. Their cyto-architecture is similar to the much older
visual projection areas on the opposite pole of the brain. This suggests
some functional similarity.
The author has found a relatively easy way
to test this psychological function, which enables us to grasp a certain
number of imaginary elements in our field of consciousness and subject
them to internal contemplation. The capacity of this act of internal
projection varies greatly from one person to another, manifesting a
statistical correlation with similar variegation in the anatomical
extent of such areas. The correlation between this capacity and general
intelligence is much lower.
As described by researchers (Luria et al.),
the functions of these areas, thought-process acceleration and
coordination, seem to result from this basic function.
Damage to this area occurred rather frequently:
at or near birth, especially for premature infants, and later in life as a
result of various causes. The number of such perinatal brain tissue lesions
has been significantly reduced due to improved medical care for pregnant
women and newborns. The spectacular ponerogenic role which results from
character disorders caused by this can thus be considered somewhat
characteristic of past generations and primitive cultures.
Brain cortex damage in these areas selectively impairs the above mentioned
function without impairing memory, associative capacity, or, in particular,
such instinct-based feelings and functions as, for instance, the ability to
intuit a psychological situation. The general intelligence of an individual
is thus not greatly reduced. Children with such a defect are almost normal
students; difficulties emerge suddenly in upper grades and affect
principally these parts of the curriculum which place burden on the above
The pathological character of such people, generally containing a component
of hysteria, develops through the years. The non-damaged psychological
functions become overdeveloped to compensate, which means that instinctive
and affective reactions predominate. Relatively vital people become
belligerent, risk-happy, and brutal in both word and deed.
Persons with an innate talent for intuiting psychological situations tend to
take advantage of this gift in an egotistical and ruthless fashion. In the
thought process of such people, a short cut way develops which bypasses the
handicapped function, thus leading from associations directly to words,
deeds, and decisions which are not subject to any dissuasion.
individuals interpret their talent for intuiting situations and making
split-second oversimplified decisions as a sign of their superiority
compared to normal people, who need to think for long time, experiencing
self-doubt and conflicting motivations. The fate of such creatures does not
deserve to be pondered long.
Such “Stalinistic characters” traumatize and actively spellbind others, and
their influence finds it exceptionally easy to bypass the controls of common
sense. A large proportion of people tend to credit such individuals with
special powers, thereby succumbing to their egotistic beliefs. If a parent
manifests such a defect, no matter how minimal, all the children in the
family evidence anomalies in personality development.
The author studied an entire generation of older, educated, people wherein
the source of such influence was the eldest sister who suffered perinatal
damage of the frontal centers.
From early childhood, her four younger brothers
exposed to and assimilated pathologically altered psychological material,
including their sister’s growing component of hysteria. They retained well
into their sixties the deformities of personality and world view, as well as
the hysterical features thus caused, whose intensity diminished in
proportion to the greater difference in age.
Subconscious selection of information made it impossible for these men to
apprehend any critical comments regarding their sister’s character; also,
any such comments were considered to be an offense to the family honor.
The brothers accepted as real their sister’s pathological delusions and
complaints about her “bad” husband (who was actually a decent person) and
her son, in whom she found a scapegoat to avenge her failures. They thereby
participated in a world of vengeful emotions, considering their sister a
completely normal person whom they were prepared to defend by the most
unsavory methods, if need be, against any suggestion of her abnormality.
They thought normal woman were insipid and naive, good for nothing but
sexual conquest. Not one among the brothers ever created a healthy family or
developed even average wisdom of life.
The character development of these people also included many other factors
that were dependent upon the time and place in which they were reared: the
turn of the century, with a patriotic Polish father and German mother who
obeyed contemporary custom by formally accepting her husband’s nationality,
but who still remained an advocate of the militarism, and customary
acceptance of the intensified hysteria which covered Europe at the time.
That was the Europe of the three Emperors: the
splendor of three people with limited intelligence, two of whom revealed
pathological traits. The concept of “honor” sanctified triumph. Staring at
someone too long was sufficient pretext for a duel. These brothers were thus
raised to be valiant duelists covered with saber-scars; however, the slashes
they inflicted upon their opponents were more frequent and much worse.
When people with a humanistic education pondered the personalities of this
family, they concluded that the causes for this formation should be sought
in contemporary time and customs. If, however, the sister had not suffered
brain damage and the pathological factor had not existed (exclusionary
hypothesis), their personalities would have developed more normally even
during those times. They would have become more critical and more amenable
to the values of healthy reasoning and humanistic contents. They would have
founded better families and received more sensible advice from wives more
wisely chosen. As for the evil they sowed too liberally during their lives,
it would either not have existed at all, or else would have been reduced to
a scope conditioned by more remote pathological factors.
Comparative considerations also led the author to conclude that Iosif
Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, also known as Stalin, should be included in the
list of this particular ponerogenic characteropathy, which developed against
the backdrop of perinatal damage to his brain’s prefrontal fields.
Literature and news about him abounds in indications: brutal, charismatic,
snake-charming; issuing of irrevocable decisions; inhuman ruthlessness,
pathologic revengefulness directed at anyone who got in his way; and
egotistical belief in his own genius on the part of a person whose mind was,
in fact, only average. This state explains as well his psychological
dependence on a psychopath like Beria 39.
Some photographs reveal the typical deformation
of his forehead which appears in people who suffered very early damage to
the areas mentioned above.
39 L.P. Beria
(1899–1953), Soviet Communist leader, b. Georgia. He rose to prominence in
the Cheka (secret police) in Georgia and the Transcaucasus, became party
secretary in these areas, and in 1938 became head of the secret police. As
commissar (later minister) of internal affairs, Beria wielded great power,
and he was the first in this post to become (1946) a member of the
politburo. After Stalin’s death (Mar., 1953), Beria was made first deputy
premier under Premier Malenkov, but the alliance was shaky; in the ensuing
struggle for power Beria was arrested (July) on charges of conspiracy. He
and six alleged accomplices were tried secretly and shot in Dec., 1953.
His typical irrevocable decisions his daughter
describes as follows:
~~~ Whenever he threw out of his heart
someone whom he had known for a long time, classifying him among his
“enemies” in his soul, it was impossible to talk to him about that
person. The reverse process became impossible for him, namely persuasion
that he was not his enemy, and any attempts in that direction made him
fly into a rage. Redens, Uncle Pavlusha, and A.S. Svanidze were
incapable of doing anything about it; all they accomplished was to have
my father break off contacts and withdraw his trust. After seeing any of
them for the last time, he said goodbye as if to a potential foe, one of
~~~ We know the effect of being “thrown out
of his heart”, as it is documented by the history of those times.
When we contemplate the scope of the evil Stalin helped to bring about,
we should always take this most ponerogenic characteropathy into account
and attribute the proper portion of the “blame” to it; unfortunately, it
has not yet been sufficiently studied. We have to consider many other
pathologic deviations as they played essential roles in this macrosocial
phenomenon. Disregarding the pathologic aspects of those occurrences and
limiting interpretation thereof by historiographic and moral
considerations opens the door to an activity of further ponero-genic
factors; such reasoning should be thus regarded as not only
scientifically insufficient but immoral as well.
~~~ Drug-induced characteropathies: During
the last few decades, medicine has begun using a series of drugs with
serious side effects: they attack the nervous system, leaving permanent
damage behind. These generally discreet handicaps sometimes give rise to
personality changes which are often very harmful socially. Streptomycin41
proved a very dangerous drug; as a result, some countries have limited
its use, whereas others have taken it off the list of drugs whose use is
40 Svetlana Alliluieva - Twenty Letters to a
41 Streptomycin acts by inhibiting protein synthesis and damaging cell
membranes in susceptible microorganisms. Possible side effects include
the kidneys and nerve damage that can result in dizziness and deafness.
The cytostatic drugs42 used
in treating neoplastic43
diseases often attack the phylogenetically oldest brain tissue, the primary
carrier of our instinctive substratum and basic feelings.44
Persons treated with such drugs progressively tend to lose their emotional
color and their ability to intuit a psychological situation.
42 Most drugs
that are used to treat cancer kill the cancer cells. The word cytotoxic
means toxic to cells, or cell-killing. Chemotherapy is properly called
“cytotoxic therapy”. There are other treatments that do not kill cancer
cells. They work by stopping the cancer cells from multiplying. These
treatments are called “cytostatic”. The hormone therapies used to treat
breast cancer could be called cytostatic therapy. [Editor’s note.]
43 Neoplasia (literally: new growth) is
abnormal, disorganized growth in a tissue or organ, usually forming a
distinct mass. Such a growth is called a neoplasm, also known as a tumor.
Neoplasia refers to both benign and malignant growths, while “cancer” refers
specifically to malignant neoplasia. [Editor’s note.]
44 Chemo Head is the name given by cancer
patients to one of the side-effects of chemotherapy. It has been described
as an inability to concentrate, reduced memory, or finding it difficult to
think clearly. This could be simply attributed to general fatigue, however
it seems that there are some very specific triggers and results. Some people
get flustered by loud noises and activity around them. Others find that they
cannot find the right words to express themselves. One patient described the
feeling as “everything seems distant ... it takes me a few seconds longer to
think or answer questions. The mental process slows down tremendously.” The
symptoms are similar to those of Attention Deficit Disorder. New research
concludes “chemo head” continued in up to 50% of survivors as long as 10
years following the end of systemic chemotherapy treatment. [Editor’s note.]
They retain their intellectual functions but
become praise-craving egocentrics, easily ruled by people who know how to
take advantage of this. They become indifferent to other people’s feelings
and the harm they are inflicting upon them; any criticism of their own
person or behavior is repaid with a vengeance. Such a change of character in
a person who until recently enjoyed respect on the part of his environment
or community, which perseveres in human minds, becomes a pathological
phenomenon causing often tragic results.
Could this have been a factor in the case of the Shah of Iran?
diagnosing dead people is problematic, and the author lacks detailed data.
However, this possibility should be accepted as a probability. The genesis
of that county’s present tragedy also doubtless contains pathological
factors which play ponerologically active roles.45
Results similar to the above in the psychological picture may be caused by
endogenous toxins46 or
viruses. When, on occasion, the mumps proceeds with a brain reaction, it
leaves in its wake a discrete pallor or dullness of feelings and a slight
decrease in mental efficiency. Similar phenomena are witnessed after a
difficult bout with diphtheria.
reminder that this book was written in 1985.
46 Current Western medical opinion states:
Endogenous toxins include heavy metals, pesticides, food additives, and
industrial and household chemicals. These can damage the liver and kidneys;
they can also cross the blood-brainbarrier and damage brain cells. Workers
exposed to high levels of inhaled manganese showed concentrated levels in
the basal ganglia, and exhibited Parkinson’s-like syndrome. Observational
studies have also shown increased levels of aluminum, mercury, copper, and
iron in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) of Parkinson’s patients. It is not
fully determined whether these minerals found in the brain have any clinical
significance. (Mitchell J. Ghen, D.O., Ph.D., and Maureen Melindrez, N.D.)
Finally, polio attacks the brain, more often the
higher part of the anterior horns, which was affected by the process. People
with leg paresis rarely manifest these effects, but those with paresis of
the neck and/or shoulders must count themselves lucky if they do not. In
addition to affective pallor, persons manifesting these effects usually
evidence naiveté and an inability to comprehend the crux of a matter.
We rather doubt that President F.D. Roosevelt manifested some of this latter
features, since the polio virus which attacked him when he was forty caused
paresis to his legs. After overcoming this, years of creative activity
followed. However, it is possible that his naive attitude toward Soviet
policy during his last term of office had a pathological component related
to his deteriorating health.
Character anomalies developing as a result of brain-tissue damage behave
like insidious ponerogenic factors. As a result of the above-described
features, especially the above-mentioned naiveté and an inability to
comprehend the crux of a matter, their influence easily anchors in human
minds, traumatizing our psyches, impoverishing and deforming our thoughts
and feelings, and limiting individuals’ and societies’ ability to use common
sense and to read a psychological or moral situation accurately.
This opens the door to the influence of other
pathological characters who most frequently carry some inherited
psychological deviations; they then push the charac-teropathic individuals
into the shadows and proceed with their ponerogenic work. That is why
various types of characteropathy participate during the initial periods of
the genesis of evil, both on the macrosocial scale and on the individual
scale of human families.
An improved social system of the future should thus protect individuals and
societies by preventing persons with the above deviations, or certain
characteristics to be discussed below, from any societal functions wherein
the fate of other people would depend upon their behavior. This of course
applies primarily to top governmental positions. Such questions should be
dealt with by an appropriate institution composed of people with a
reputation for wisdom and with medical and psychological training.
The features of brain-tissue lesions and their character disorder results
are much easier to detect than certain inherited anomalies. Thus, stifling
ponerogenic processes by removing these factors from the process of the
synthesis of evil is effective during the early phases of such genesis, and
much easier in practice.
Science already protects societies from the results of some physiological
anomalies which are accompanied by certain psychological weaknesses. The
tragic role played by hereditary hemophilia among European royalty is well
known. Responsible people in countries where the system of monarchy still
survives, are anxious not to allow a carrier of such a gene to become queen.
Any society exercising so much concern over
individuals with blood-coagulation insufficiency or other serious and
life-threatening pathology would protest if a man afflicted with such a
condition were appointed to a high office bearing responsibility for many
people. This behavior model should be extended to many pathologies,
including inherited psychological anomalies.
Daltonists, men with an impaired ability to distinguish red and green colors
from grey, are now barred from professions in which this could cause a
catastrophe. We also know that this anomaly is often accompanied by a
decrease in esthetic experience, emotions, and the feeling of linkage to
people who can see colors normally. Industrial psychologists are thus
cautious whether such a person should be entrusted with work requiring
dependence upon an autonomic sense of responsibility, as workers safety is
contingent upon this sense.
It was discovered long ago that these two above-mentioned anomalies –
hemophilia and color blindness - are inherited by means of a gene located in
the X chromosome, and tracking their transmission through many generations
is not difficult. Geneticists have similarly studied the inheritance of many
other features of human organisms, but they have paid scant attention to the
anomalies interesting us here. Many features of human character have a
hereditary bases in genes located in the same X chromosome; although it is
not a rule. Something similar could apply to the majority of the
psychological anomalies to be discussed below.
Significant progress has recently been made in cognition of a series of
chromosomal anomalies resulting from defective division of the reproductive
cells and their phenotypic psychological symptoms. This state of affairs
enables us to initiate studies on their ponerogenetic role and to introduce
conclusions which are theoretically valuable, something which is in effect
already being done. In practice, however, the majority of chromosomal
anomalies are not transferred to the next generation; furthermore, their
carriers constitute a very small proportion of the population at large, and
their general intelligence is lower than the social average, so their
ponerological role is even smaller than their statistical distribution.
Most problems are caused by the XYY karyotype47
which produces men who are tall, strong, and emotionally violent, with an
inclination to collide with the law. These engendered tests and discussions,
but their role at the level studied herein is also very small.
Sandberg, A. A.; Koepf, G. F.; Ishihara, T.; Hauschka, T. S. (August 26,
1961) “An XYY human male”. Lancet 2, 488-9.
Much more numerous are those psychological deviations which play a
correspondingly greater role as pathological factors in the ponerological
processes; they are most probably transmitted through normal heredity.
However, this realm of genetics in particular is faced with manifold
biological and psychological difficulties as far as recognizing these
phenomena. People studying their psychopathology lack biological isolation
criteria. Biologists lack clear psychological differentiation of such
phenomena which would permit studies of heredity mechanics and some other
At the time most of the observations on which this book is based were being
done, the works of many researchers who have since shed light upon many
aspects of the matters discussed herein, during the latter half of the
sixties, were either nonexistent or unavailable. Scientists studying the
phenomena described below were hacking their way through a thicket of
symptoms based on previous works and on their own efforts.
An understanding of the essence of some of these
hereditary anomalies and their ponerogenic role proved a necessary
precondition for reaching the primary goal. Results were gleaned which
served as a basis for further reasoning. For the sake of the overall
picture, and because the manner elaborated also brings in certain
theoretical values, I decided to retain the methodology of description for
such anomalies which emerged from my own work and from that of others at the
Numerous scientists during the above-mentioned fertile era, and some
subsequent scientists, such as R. Jenkins, H. Cleckley, S.K. Ehrlich, K.C.
Gray, H.C. Hutchison, F. Kraupl Taylor, and others did cast more
stereoscopic light upon the matter.
They were clinicians, concentrating their
attention upon the more demonstrative cases which play a lesser role in the
processes of the genesis of evil, in accordance with the above-mentioned
general rule of ponerology. We therefore need to differentiate those
analogic states which are less intense or contain less of a psychological
Equally valuable for ponerology are inquiries concerning the nature
of the phenomena under discussion, which facilitate differentiation of their
essence and analysis of their role as pathological factors in the genesis of
Schizoidia, or schizoidal psychopathy, was isolated by the very
first of the famous creators of modern psy-chiatry.48
From the beginning, it was treated as a lighter form of the same hereditary
taint which is the cause of susceptibility to schizophrenia.
latter connection could neither be confirmed nor denied with the help of
statistical analysis, and no biological test was then found which would have
been able to solve this dilemma. For practical reasons, we shall discuss schizoidia with no further reference to this traditional relationship.
48 Emil Kraepelin
(1856- 1926): German psychiatrist who attempted to create a synthesis of the
hundreds of mental disorders, grouping diseases together based on
classification of common patterns of symptoms, rather than by simple
similarity of major symptoms in the manner of his predecessors. In fact, it
was precisely because of the demonstrated inadequacy of the older methods
that Kraepelin developed his new diagnostic system. Kraepelin also
demonstrated specific patterns in the genetics of these disorders and
specific and characteristic patterns in their course and outcome.
Generally speaking, there tend to be more
schizophrenics among the relatives of schizophrenic patients than in the
general population, while manic-depression is more frequent in the relatives
of manic-depressives. Kraepelin should be credited with being the founder of
modern scientific psychiatry, psychopharmacology and psychiatric genetics,
according to the eminent psychologist H. J. Eysenck in his Encyclopedia of
Psychology. Kraepelin postulated that psychiatric diseases are principally
caused by biological and genetic disorders. His psychiatric theories
dominated the field of psychiatry at the beginning of the twentieth century.
He vigorously opposed the approach of Freud who regarded and treated
psychiatric disorders as caused by psychological factors. (Wikipedia)
Literature provides us with descriptions of several varieties of this
anomaly, whose existence can be attributed either to changes in the genetic
factor or to differences in other individual characteristics of a
non-pathological nature. Let us thus sketch these sub-species’ common
Carriers of this anomaly are hypersensitive and distrustful, while, at the
same time, pay little attention to the feelings of others. They tend to
assume extreme positions, and are eager to retaliate for minor offenses.
Sometimes they are eccentric and odd. Their poor sense of psychological
situation and reality leads them to superimpose erroneous, pejorative
interpretations upon other people’s intentions. They easily become involved
in activities which are ostensibly moral, but which actually inflict damage
upon themselves and others.
Their impoverished psychological worldview makes
them typically pessimistic regarding human nature. We frequently find
expressions of their characteristic attitudes in their statements and
writings: “Human nature is so bad that order in human society can only be
maintained by a strong power created by highly qualified individuals in the
name of some higher idea.” Let us call this typical expression the “schizoid
Human nature does in fact tend to be naughty, especially when the schizoids
embitter other people’s lives. When they become wrapped up in situations of
serious stress, however, the schizoid’s failings cause them to collapse
easily. The capacity for thought is thereupon characteristically stifled,
and frequently the schizoids fall into reactive psychotic states so similar
in appearance to schizophrenia that they lead to misdiagnoses.
The common factor in the varieties of this anomaly is a dull pallor of
emotion and lack of feeling for the psychological realities, an essential
factor in basic intelligence. This can be attributed to some incomplete
quality of the instinctive substratum, which works as though founded on
shifting sand. Low emotional pressure enables them to develop proper
speculative reasoning, which is useful in non-humanistic spheres of
activity, but because of their one-sidedness, they tend to consider
themselves intellectually superior to “ordinary” people.
The quantitative frequency of this anomaly varies among races and nations:
low among Blacks, the highest among Jews. Estimates of this frequency range
from negligible up to 3 %. In Poland it may be estimated as 0.7 % of
population. My observations suggest this anomaly is autosomally hereditary.49
A schizoid’s ponerological activity should be evaluated in two aspects. On
the small scale, such people cause their families trouble, easily turn into
tools of intrigue in the hands of clever and unscrupulous individuals, and
generally do a poor job of raising children.
49 Autosomal: the
disease is due to a DNA error in one of the 22 pairs that are not sex
chromosomes. Both boys and girls can then inherit this error. If the error
is in a sex chromosome, the inheritance is said to be sex-linked. [Editor’s
Their tendency to see human reality in the doctrinaire and simplistic manner
they consider “proper” – i.e. “black or white” - transforms their frequently
good intentions into bad results. However, their ponerogenic role can have
macrosocial implications if their attitude toward human reality and their
tendency to invent great doctrines are put to paper and duplicated in large
In spite of their typical deficits, or even an openly schizoi-dal
declaration, their readers do not realize what the authors’ characters are
really like. Ignorant of the true condition of the author, such uninformed
readers thed to interpret such works in a manner corresponding to their own
nature. The minds of normal people tend toward corrective interpretation due
to the participation of their own richer, psychological world view.
At the same time, many other readers critically reject such works with moral
disgust but without being aware of the specific cause.
An analysis of the role played by Karl Marx’s works easily reveals all the
above-mentioned types of apperception and the social reactions which
engendered animosity between large groups of people.
When reading any of those disturbingly divisive works, we should examine
them carefully for any of these characteristic deficits, or even an openly
formulated schizoid declaration. Such a process will enable us to gain a
proper critical distance from the contents and make it easier to dig the
potentially valuable elements out of the doctrinaire material. If this is
done by two or more people who represent greatly divergent interpretations,
their methods of perception will come closer together, and the causes of
dissent will dissipate.
Such a project might be attempted as a psychological
experiment and for purposes of proper mental hygiene.
Within the framework of the above assumptions, let us
characterize another heredity-transmitted anomaly whose role in ponerogenic
processes on any social scale appears exceptionally great. We should also
underscore that the need to isolate this phenomenon and examine it in detail
became quickly and profoundly evident to those researchers – including the
author - who were interested in the macrosocial scale of the genesis of
evil, because they witnessed it. I acknowledge my debt to Kazimierz
Dabrowski 50 in doing this and
calling this anomaly an “essential psychopathy”.
Biologically speaking, the phenomenon is similar to colorblindness but
occurs with about ten times lower frequency (slightly above ½%),51
except that, unlike color blindness, it affects both sexes. Its intensity
also varies in scope from a level barely perceptive to an experienced
observer to an obvious pathological deficiency.
Like color blindness, this anomaly also appears to represent a deficit in
stimulus transformation, albeit occurring not on the sensory but on the
Psychiatrist of the old school used to call such individuals “Daltonists of
human feelings and socio-moral values”.
The psychological picture shows clear deficits among men only; among women
it is generally toned down, as by the effect of a second normal allele. This
suggests that the anomaly is also inherited via the X chromosome, but
through a semi-dominating gene. However, the author was unable to confirm
this by excluding inheritance from father to son.
Kazimierz Dabrowski (1902-1980):Polish psychologist, psychiatrist,
physician, and poet. Dabrowski developed the theory of Positive
Disintegration, a novel approach to personality development, over his
lifetime of clinical and academic work. [Editor’s note.]
51 Recent research by Robert Hare, then Martha
Stout, and finally Salekin, Trobst, Krioukova, have tended to increase the
probably rate of occurrence in a given population. The latter researchers,
in “Construct Validity of Psycho pathy in a Community Sample: A Nomological
Net Approach”, Salekin, Trobst, Krioukova, Journal of Personality Disorders,
15(5), 425-441, 2001), suggest the prevalence of psychopathy to be perhaps
5% or more, although the vast majority of those will be male (more than 1/10
males versus approximately 1/100 females). [Editor’s note.]
52 Current day research suggests that many of
the characteristics displayed by psychopaths are closely associated with a
profound lack of ability to construct an empathic mental and emotional
“facsimile” of another person. They seem completely unable to “get into the
skin” of others, except in a purely intellectual sense. [Editor’s note.]
Analysis of the different experiential manner demonstrated by these
individuals caused us to conclude that their instinctive substratum is also
defective, containing certain gaps and lacking the natural syntonic
responses commonly evidenced by members of the species Homo Sapiens.53
Our species instinct is our first teacher; it stays with us everywhere
throughout our lives. Upon this defective instinctive substratum, the
deficits of higher feelings and the deformities and impoverishments in
psychological, moral, and social concepts develop in correspondence with
53 What’s missing
in psychopaths are the qualities that people depend on for living in social
harmony. [Editor’s note.]
Our natural world of concepts – based upon species instincts as described in
an earlier chapter - strikes the psychopath as a nearly incomprehensible
convention with no justification in their own psychological experience. They
think that customs and principles of decency are a foreign convention
invented and imposed by someone else, (“probably by priests”) silly,
onerous, sometimes even ridiculous. At the same time, however, they easily
perceive the deficiencies and weaknesses of our natural language of
psychological and moral concepts in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the
attitude of a contemporary psychologist—except in caricature.
The average intelligence of the psychopath, especially if measured via
commonly used tests, is somewhat lower than that of normal people, albeit
similarly variegated. Despite the wide variety of intelligence and
interests, this group does not contain examples of the highest intelligence,
nor do we find technical or craftsmanship talents among them.
The most gifted members of this kind may thus
achieve accomplishments in those sciences which do not require a correct
humanistic world view or practical skills. (Academic decency is another
matter, however.) Whenever we attempt to construct special tests to measure
“life wisdom” or “socio-moral imagination”, even if the difficulties of
psychometric evaluation are taken into account, individuals of this type
indicate a deficit disproportionate to their personal IQ.
In spite of their deficiencies in normal psychological and moral knowledge,
they develop and then have at their disposal a knowledge of their own,
something lacked by people with a natural world view. They learn to
recognize each other in a crowd as early as childhood, and they develop an
awareness of the existence of other individuals similar to them.
They also become conscious of being different
from the world of those other people surrounding them. They view us from a
certain distance, like a para-specific variety. Natural human reactions
- which often fail to elicit interest to normal people because they are
considered self-evident - strike the psychopath as strange and, interesting,
and even comical.
They therefore observe us, deriving conclusions,
forming their different world of concepts. They become experts in our
weaknesses and sometimes effect heartless experiments. The suffering and
injustice they cause inspire no guilt within them, since such reactions from
others are simply a result of their being different and apply only to “those
other” people they perceive to be not quite conspecific. Neither a normal
person nor our natural world view can fully conceive nor properly evaluate
the existence of this world of different concepts.
A researcher into such phenomena can glimpse the deviant knowledge of the
psychopath through long-term studies of the personalities of such people,
using it with some difficulty, like a foreign language. As we shall see
below, such practical skill becomes rather widespread in nations afflicted
by that macro-social pathological phenomenon wherein this anomaly plays the
A normal person can learn to speak their conceptual language even somewhat
proficiently, but the psychopath is never able to incorporate the world view
of a normal person, although they often try to do so all their lives. The
product of their efforts is only a role and a mask behind which they hide
their deviant reality.
Another myth and role they often play, albeit containing a grain of truth in
relation to the “special psychological knowledge” that the psychopath
acquires regarding normal people, would be the psychopaths’ brilliant mind
or psychological genius; some of them actually believe in this and attempt
to insinuate this belief to others.
In speaking of the mask of psychological normality worn by such individuals
(and by similar deviants to a lesser extent), we should mention the book
The Mask of
Sanity by Hervey Cleckley, who made this very phenomenon the crux
of his reflections.
Let us remember that his typical behavior
defeats what appear to be his own aims. Is it not he himself who is most
deeply deceived by his apparent normality? Although he deliberately
cheats others and is quite conscious of his lies, he appears unable to
distinguish adequately between his own pseudointentions, pseudoremorse,
pseudolove, etc., and the genuine responses of a normal person.
His monumental lack of insight indicates how
little he appreciates the nature of his disorder. When others fail to
accept immediately his “word of honor as a gentleman”, his amazement, I
believe, is often genuine. His subjective experience is so bleached of
deep emotion that he is invincibly ignorant of what life means to
His awareness of hypocrisy’s opposite is so insubstantially theoretical
that it becomes questionable if what we chiefly mean by hypocrisy should
be attributed to him. Having no major value himself, can he be said to
realize adequately the nature and quality of the outrages his conduct
inflicts upon others? A young child who has no impressive memory of
severe pain may have been told by his mother it is wrong to cut off the
dog’s tail. Knowing it is wrong he may proceed with the operation.
We need not totally absolve him of
responsibility if we say he realizes less what he did than an adult who,
in full appreciation of physical agony, so uses a knife. Can a person
experience the deeper levels of sorrow without considerable knowledge of
happiness? Can he achieve evil intention in the full sense without real
awareness of evil’s opposite? I have no final answer to these questions.54
All researchers into psychopathy underline three
qualities primarily with regard to this most typical variety: The absence of
a sense of guilt for antisocial actions, the inability to love truly, and
the tendency to be garrulous in a way which easily deviates from reality.55
Cleckley: The Mask of Sanity, 1976; C.V. Mosby Co., p. 386.
55 In their paper, “Construct Validity of
Psychopathy in a Community Sample: A Nomological Net Approach,” (op cit.)
Salekin, Trobst, and Krioukova, write: “Psychopathy, as originally conceived
by Cleckley (1941), is not limited to engagement in illegal activities, but
rather encompasses such personality characteristics as manipulativeness,
insincerity, egocentricity, and lack of guilt - characteristics clearly
present in criminals but also in spouses, parents, bosses, attorneys,
politicians, and CEOs, to name but a few. (Bursten, 1973; Stewart, 1991)....
As such, psychopathy may be characterized ...
as involving a tendency towards both dominance and coldness. Wiggins (1995)
in summarizing numerous previous findings... indicates that such individuals
are prone to anger and irritation and are willing to exploit others. They
are arrogant, manipulative, cynical, exhibitionistic, sensation-seeking,
Machiavellian, vindictive, and out for their own gain.
With respect to their patterns of social
exchange (Foa & Foa, 1974), they attribute love and status to themselves,
seeing themselves as highly worthy and important, but prescribe neither love
nor status to others, seeing them as unworthy and insignificant. This
characterization is clearly consistent with the essence of psychopathy as
commonly described. ...
What is clear from our findings is that,
(a) psychopathy measures have converged on a prototype of psychopathy that
involves a combination of dominant and cold interpersonal characteristics;
(b) psychopathy does occur in the community and at what might be a higher
than expected rate; and
(c) psychopathy appears to have little overlap
with personality disorders aside from Antisocial Personality Disorder.”
A neurotic patient is generally taciturn and has trouble explaining what
hurts him most. A psychologist must know how to overcome these obstacles
with the help of non-painful interactions. Neurotics are also prone to
excessive guilt about actions which are easily forgiven. Such patients are
capable of decent and enduring love, although they have difficulty
expressing it or achieving their dreams. A psychopath’s behavior constitutes
the antipode of such phenomena and difficulties.
Our first contact with the psychopath is characterized by a talkative stream
which flows with ease and avoids truly important matters with equal ease if
they are uncomfortable for the speaker.
His train of thought also avoids those abstract
matters of human feelings and values whose representation is absent in the
psychopathic world view unless, of course, he is being deliberately
deceptive, in which case he will use many “feeling” words which careful
scrutiny will reveal that he does not understand those words the same way
normal people do. We then also feel we are dealing with an imitation of the
thought patterns of normal people, in which something else is, in fact,
From the logical point of view, the flow of
thought is ostensibly correct, albeit perhaps removed from commonly accepted
criteria. A more detailed formal analysis, however, evidences the use of
many suggestive paralogisms.56
unintentionally invalid argument. [Editor’s note.]
Individuals with the psychopathy referred to herein are virtually unfamiliar
with the enduring emotions of love for another person, particularly the
marriage partner; it constitutes a fairytale from that “other” human world.
Love, for the psychopath, is an ephemeral phenomenon aimed at sexual
adventure. Many psychopathic Don Juans are able to play the lover’s role
well enough for their partners to accept it in good faith. After the
wedding, feelings which really never existed are replaced by egoism,
egotism, and hedonism. Religion, which teaches love for one’s neighbor, also
strikes them as a similar fairytale good only for children and those
One would expect them to feel guilty as a consequence of their many
antisocial acts, however their lack of guilt is the result of all their
deficits, which we have been discussing here.57
The world of normal people whom they hurt is incomprehensible and hostile to
them, and life for the psychopath is the pursuit of its immediate
attractions, moments of pleasure, and temporary feelings of power. They
often meet with failure along this road, along with force and moral
condemnation from the society of those other incomprehensible people.
57 Robert Hare
says, “What I thought was most interesting was that for the first time ever,
as far as I know, we found that there was no activation of the appropriate
areas for emotional arousal, but there was over-activation in other parts of
the brain, including parts of the brain that are ordinarily devoted to
language. Those parts were active, as if they were saying, ‘Hey, isn’t that
interesting.’ So they seem to be analyzing emotional material in terms of
its linguistic or dictionary meaning. There are anomalies in the way
psychopaths process information. It may be more general than just emotional
information. In another functional MRI study, we looked at the parts of the
brain that are used to process concrete and abstract words. Non-psychopathic
individuals showed increased activation of the right anterior/superior
temporal cortex. For the psychopaths, that didn’t happen.”
In their book Psychopathy and Delinquency, W. and J. McCord
say the following about them:
Hare and his colleagues then conducted an
fMRI study using pictures of neutral scenes and unpleasant homicide
scenes. “Non-psychopathic offenders show lots of activation in the
amygdala [to unpleasant scenes], compared with neutral pictures,” he
points out. “In the psychopath, there was nothing. No difference. But
there was overactivation in the same regions of the brain that were
overactive during the presentation of emotional words. It’s like they’re
analyzing emotional material in extra-limbic regions.”
(Psychopathy vs. Antisocial Personality
Disorder and Sociopathy: A Discussion by Robert Hare; crimelibrary.com)
The psychopath feels little, if any, guilt. He
can commit the most appalling acts, yet view them without remorse. The
Psychopath has a warped capacity for love. His emotional relationships, when
they exist, are meager, fleeting, and designed to satisfy his own desires.
These last two traits, guiltlessness and lovelessness, conspicuously mark
the psychopath as different from other men.58
58 McCord, W. &
McCord, J. Psychopathy and Delinquency. New York: Grune & Stratton, 1956.
The problem of a psychopath’s moral and legal responsibility thus remains
open and subject to various solutions, frequently summary or emotional, in
various countries and circumstances.
It remains a subject of discussion
whose solution does not appear possible within the framework of the
presently accepted principles of legal thought.
The cases of essential psychopathy seem similar enough
to each other to permit them to be classified as qualitatively homogenous.
However, we can also include within psychopathic categories a somewhat
indeterminate number of anomalies with a hereditary substratum, whose
symptoms are approximate to this most typical phenomenon.
We also meet difficult individuals with a tendency to behave in a manner
hurtful to other people, for whom tests do not indicate existing damage to
brain tissue and anamnesis does not indicate abnormal childhood experiences
which could explain their state. The fact that such cases are repeated
within families would suggest a hereditary substratum, but we must also take
into account the possibility that harmful factors participated in the fetal
stage. This is an area of medicine and psychology warranting more study, as
there is more to learn than we already know concretely.
Such people also attempt to mask their different world of experience and to
play a role of normal people to varying degrees, although this is no longer
the characteristic “Cleckley mask”. Some are notable by demonstrations of
their strangeness. These people participate in the genesis of evil in very
different ways, whether taking part openly or, to a lesser extent, when they
have managed to adapt to proper ways of living.
These psychopathic and related phenomena may, quantitatively speaking, be
summarily estimated at two or three times the number of cases of essential
psychopathy, i.e. at less than two per cent of the population.
This type of person finds it easier to adjust to social life. The lesser
cases in particular adapt to the demands of the society of normal people,
taking advantage of its understanding for the arts and other areas with
similar traditions. Their literary creativity is often disturbing if
conceived in ideational categories alone; they insinuate to their readers
that their world of concepts and experiences is self-evident; also it
contains characteristic deformities.59
59 A number of
researchers at present are suggesting that Asperger’s Syndrome belongs under
the classification of psychopathy. Asperger’s Syndrome describes children
who: “lack basic social and motor skills, seem unable to decode body
language and sense the feelings of others, avoid eye contact, and frequently
launch into monologues about narrowly defined - and often highly technical -
interests. Even when very young, these children become obsessed with order,
arranging their toys in a regimented fashion on the floor and flying into
tantrums when their routines are disturbed. As teenagers, they’re prone to
getting into trouble with teachers and other figures of authority, partly
because the subtle cues that define societal hierarchies are invisible to
them.” ( Steve Silberman, “The Geek Syndrome”: wired.com) [Editor’s note.]
The most frequently indicated and long-known of these is the asthenic
psychopathy, which appears in every conceivable intensity, from barely
perceptible to an obvious pathologic deficiency.
These people, asthenic and hypersensitive, do not indicate the same glaring
deficit in moral feeling and ability to sense a psychological situation as
do essential psychopaths. They are somewhat idealistic and tend to have
superficial pangs of conscience as a result of their faulty behavior.
On the average, they are also less intelligent than normal people, and their
mind avoids consistency and accuracy in reasoning. Their psychological world
view is clearly falsified, so their options about people can never be
trusted. A kind of mask cloaks the world of their personal aspirations,
which is at variance with what they are actually capable of doing. Their
behavior towards people who do not notice their faults is urbane, even
friendly; however, the same people manifest a preemptive hostility and
aggression against persons who have a talent for psychology, or demonstrate
knowledge in this field.
The asthenic psychopath is relatively less vital sexually and is therefore
amenable to accepting celibacy; that is why some Catholic monks and priests
often represent lesser or minor cases of this anomaly. Such individuals may
very likely have inspired the anti-psychological attitude traditional in
The more severe cases are more brutally
anti-psychological and contemptuous of normal people; they tend to be active
in the processes of the genesis of evil on a larger scale. Their dreams are
composed of a certain idealism similar to the ideas of normal people. They
would like to reform the world to their liking but are unable to foresee
more far-reaching implications and results. Spiced by deviance, their
visions may influence naive rebels or people who have suffered injustice.
Existing social injustice may look like a justification for a radicalized
world view and the assimilation of such visions.
The following is an example of the thought-pattern of a person who displays
a typical and severe case of asthenic psychopathy:
“If I had to start life all over again,
I’d do exactly the same: it’s organic
necessity, nor the dictates of duty.
A feeling of being different.
I have one thing which keeps me going
and bids me be serene even when
things are so very sad.
The shallow nostalgia
characteristic of this psychopathy.
That is an unshakable faith in people.
Conditions will change and evil will cease to reign, and man will be
a brother to man, not a wolf as is the case today.
Vision of a new world.
My forbearance derives not from my
fancy, but rather from my clear vision of the cause which give rise
Different psychological knowledge.
Those words were written in prison on December 15, 1913 by Felix
Dzerzhinsky, a descendant of Polish gentry who was soon to originate the
Cherezvichayka60 in the
Soviet Union and to become the greatest idealist among these most famous
murderers. Psychopathies surface in all nations.61
If the time ever comes, when “conditions will change” and “evil will no
longer rule”, it could be because progress in the study of pathological
phenomena and their ponerogenic role will make it possible for societies to
calmly accept the existence of these phenomena and comprehend them as
categories of nature. The vision of a new, just structure of society can
then be realized within the framework and under the control of normal
Having reconciled ourselves to the fact that such people are
different and have a limited capacity for social adjustment, we should
create a system of permanent protection for them within the framework of
reason and proper knowledge, a system which will partially make their dreams
For our purposes, we should also draw attention to types with deviant
features; these were isolated relatively long ago by Edward Brzezicki62
and accepted by Ernst Kretschmer63
as characteristic of eastern Europe in particular. Skirtoids64
are vital, egotistical, and thick-skinned individuals who make good soldiers
because of their endurance and psychological resistance.
however, they are incapable of understanding life’s subtler matters or
rearing children prudently. They are happy in primitive surroundings; a
comfortable environment easily causes hysterization within them. They are
rigidly conservative in all areas and supportive of governments that rule
with a heavy hand.
Cheka was the first secret police set up under Bolshevik rule. Dzerzhinsky
was its first Commissar. [Editor’s note]
61 Dzerzhinsky is an interesting case. It is
said of him that “His honest and incorruptible character, combined with his
complete devotion to the cause, gained him swift recognition and the
nickname Iron Felix.” His monument in the center of Warsaw in “Dzerzhinsky
square”, was hated by the population of the Polish capital as a symbol of
soviet oppression and was toppled down in 1989, as soon as the PZPR started
losing power, the square’s name was soon changed to its pre-second world war
name “Plac Bankowy” (Bank square). According to a popular joke of that late
People’s Republic of Poland-era “Dzerzhinsky deserved a monument for being
the Pole to kill the largest number of communists”.
62 My professor of psychiatry – Yagiellonian
University – Cracow (a friend of Kretschmer).
63 Ernst Kretschmer is remembered for his
correlation of build and physical constitution with personality
characteristics and mental illness. In 1933 Krestchmer resigned as president
of the German society of Psychotherapy in protest against the Nazi takeover
of the government. But unlike other prominent German psychologists he
remained in Germany during World War II. Kretschmer further developed new
methods of psychotherapy and hypnosis, and studied compulsive criminality,
recommending adequate provision be made for the psychiatric treatment of
prisoners. [Editor’s note.]
64 Greek root skirtaô: to rebel, to jump.
Kretschmer was of the opinion that this anomaly was a biodynamic phenomenon
caused by the crossing of two widely separated ethnic groups, which is
frequent in that area of Europe. If that were the case, North America should
be full of skirtoids, a hypothesis that deserves observation. We may assume
that skirtoidism is inherited normally; not sex-linked. This anomaly should
be taken into consideration if we wish to understand the history of Russia,
as well as the history of Poland, to a lesser extent.
Another interesting question suggests itself: what kind of people are the
so-called “jackals”, hired as professional and mercenary killers by various
groups, and who so quickly and easily take up arms as a means of political
struggle? They offer themselves as specialists who perform the duty as
accepted; no human feelings interfere with their nefarious plans. They are
most certainly not normal people, but none of the deviations described
herein fits this picture. As a rule, essential psychopaths are talkative and
incapable of such carefully planned activity.
Perhaps, we should assume this type to be the product of a cross between
lesser taints of various deviations. Even if we accept the statistical
probability of the appearance of such hybrids, taking into account the
quantitative data, they should be an extremely rare phenomena. However,
mate-selection psychology produces pairings which bilaterally represent
Carriers of two or even three lesser deviational factors
should thus be more frequent. A jackal could then be imagined as the carrier
of schizoidal traits in combination with some other psychopathy, e.g.
essential psychopathy or skirtoidism. More frequent instances of such
hybrids are a large part of a society’s pool of hereditary pathological
The above characterizations are selected examples of pathological factors
which participate in ponerogenic processes. The ever-increasing literature
in this area furnishes interested readers with a wider range of data and
sometimes colorful descriptions of such phenomena. The current state of
knowledge in this area is nevertheless still insufficient to produce
practical solutions for the many problems human beings face, particularly
those on the individual and family scale. Studies on the biological nature
of these phenomena are needed for this purpose.
I would like to warn those readers lacking knowledge and experience of their
own in this area not to fall prey to the impression that the world
surrounding them is dominated by individuals with pathological deviations,
whether described herein or not; it is not.
The following graphic representation in circle
form approximates the presence of individuals with various psychological
anomalies within a society
as described in
approximate proportion of their appearance
The fact that deviant individuals are a minority should be emphasized all
the more since there have been theories on the exceptionally creative role
of abnormal individuals, even an identification of human genius with the
psychology of abnormality.
However, the one-sidedness of these theories
appears to be derived from people who were searching for an affirmation of
their own personalities by means of such a world view. Outstanding thinkers,
discoverers, and artists have also been specimens of psychological
normality, qualitatively speaking.
After all, psychologically normal people constitute both the great
statistical majority and the real base of societal life in each community.
According to natural law, they should thus be the ones to set the pace;
moral law is derived from their nature. Power should be in the hands of
normal people. A ponerologist only demands that such authority be endowed
with an appropriate understanding of these less-normal people, and that the
law be based upon such understanding.
The quantitative and qualitative composition of
this biopsy-chologically deficient fraction of the population certainly
varies in time and space on our planet. This may be represented by a
single-digit percentage in some nations, in the teens in others. Said
quantitative and qualitative structure influence the entire psychological
and moral climate of the country in question. That is why this problem
should be the subject of conscious concern.
However it should also be noted
that evidence suggests that the dreams of power so frequently present in
these circles do not always and necessarily manifest fully in countries
where this percentile has been very high. Other historical circumstances
were decisive as well.
In any society in this world, psychopathic individuals and some of the other
deviant types create a ponerogenically active network of common collusions,
partially estranged from the community of normal people. An inspirational
role of essential psychopathy in this network appears to be a common
phenomenon. They are aware of being different as they obtain their
life-experiences and become familiar with different ways of fighting for
Their world is forever divided into “us and
them”; their little world with its own laws and customs and that other
foreign world of normal people that they see as full of presumptuous ideas
and customs by which they are condemned morally. Their sense of honor bids
them to cheat and revile that other human world and its values at every
opportunity. In contradiction to the customs of normal people, they feel
that breaking their promises is appropriate behavior.
One of the most disturbing things about psychopaths that normal people must
deal with is the fact that they very early learn how their personalities can
have traumatizing effects on the personalities of those normal people, and
how to take advantage of this root of terror for purposes of reaching their
goals. This dichotomy of worlds is permanent and does not disappear even if
they succeed in realizing their youthful dream of gaining power over the
society of normal people.
This strongly suggests that the separation is
In the psychopath, a dream emerges like some Utopia of a “happy” world and a
social system which does not reject them or force them to submit to laws and
customs whose meaning is incomprehensible to them. They dream of a world in
which their simple and radical way of experiencing and perceiving reality
would dominate65; where they
would, of course, be assured safety and prosperity.
In this Utopian dream, they imagine that those
“others”, different, but also more technically skillful than they are,
should be put to work to achieve this goal for the psychopaths and others of
“We”, they say, “after all, will create a
new government, one of justice” 66
They are prepared to fight and to suffer for the
sake of such a brave new world, and also, of course, to inflict suffering
upon others. Such a vision justifies killing people, whose suffering does
not move them to compassion because “they” are not quite con-specific. They
do not realize that they will consequently meet with opposition which can
last for generations67.
Subordinating a normal person to psychologically abnormal individuals has
severe and deforming effects on his or her personality: it engenders trauma
and neurosis. This is accomplished in a manner which generally evades
conscious controls. Such a situation deprives the person of his natural
rights: to practice his own mental hygiene, develop a sufficiently
autonomous personality, and utilize his common sense.
Lying, cheating, destroying, using others, etc. [Editor’s note.]
66 For psychopaths only; injustice for everyone
else. [Editor’s note.]
67 “Kill them all; God will know his own,”
seems to be the method advocated by psychopaths. [Editor’s note.]
In the light of natural law, it thus constitutes
a kind of crime - which can appear at any social scale, in any context -
although it is not mentioned in any code of law.
We have already discussed the nature of some pathological personalities,
e.g. frontal characteropathy, and how they can deform the personalities of
those with whom they interact. Essential psychopathy has exceptionally
intense effects in this manner. Something mysterious gnaws into the
personality of an individual at the mercy of the psychopath and is then
fought like a demon.
His emotions become chilled, his sense of
psychological reality is stifled. This leads to de-criterialization of
thought and a feeling of helplessness, culminating in depressive reactions
which can be so severe that psychiatrists sometimes misdiagnose them as a
manic-depressive psychosis. Many people rebel against a psychopathic
domination much earlier than such a crisis point and start searching for
some way of liberating themselves from such an influence.
Many life-situations involve far less mysterious results of other
psychological anomalies upon normal people (which are always unpleasant and
destructive) and their carriers’ unscrupulous drives to dominate and take
advantage of others. Governed by unpleasant experiences and feelings, as
well as natural egoism, societies thus have good reason to reject such
people, helping to push them into marginal positions in social life,
including poverty and criminality.
It is unfortunately almost the rule that such behavior is amenable to
moralizing justification in our natural world view categories. Most members
of society feel entitled to protect their own persons and property and enact
legislation for that purpose. Being based on natural perception of
phenomena, and on emotional motivations instead of an objective
understanding of the problems, such laws in no way serve to safeguard the
kind of order and safety we would like; psychopaths and other deviants
merely perceive such laws as a force which needs to be battled.
To individuals with various psychological deviations, the social structure
dominated by normal people and their conceptual world appears to be a
“system of force and oppression”. Psychopaths reach such a conclusion as a
rule. If, at the same time, a good deal of injustice does in fact exist in a
given society, pathological feelings of unfairness and suggestive statements
emanating from deviants can resonate among those who have truly been treated
Revolutionary doctrines may then be easily
propagated among both groups, although each group has completely different
reasons for favoring such ideas.
The presence of pathogenic bacteria in our environment is a common
phenomenon; however, it is not the single decisive factor that determines
whether an individual or a society becomes ill, since natural and artificial
immunity as well as medical assistance may play a role as well. Similarly,
psychopathological factors alone do not – themselves - decide about the
spread of evil. Other factors have parallel importance: socio-economic
conditions, and moral and intellectual deficits.
Individuals and nations that are able to endure injustice in the name of
moral values can more easily find a way out of such difficulties without
resorting to violent means. A rich moral tradition contains the experience
and reflections of centuries in this regard. This book describes the role of
these additional factors in the genesis of evil, which have been
insufficiently understood for centuries; such explication is essential for
completing the overall picture and permitting more effective practical
measures to be formulated.
Thus, emphasizing the role of pathological factors in the genesis of evil
does not minimize the responsibility of social moral failings and
intellectual deficits in contributing to the situation. Real moral deficits
and a grossly inadequate conception of human reality and psychological and
moral situations are frequently caused by some earlier or contemporary
activity on the part of pathological factors.
However, we must also acknowledge the constant, biologically determined
presence within every human society of this small minority of individuals
who are carriers of qualitatively diverse, but ponerologically active,
pathological factors. Any discussion on what came first in the process of
the genesis of evil, moral failings or the activities of pathological
factors, can thus be considered academic speculation. On the other hand, the
Bible is worth re-reading through the eyes of a ponerologist.
Detailed analysis of the personality of the average normal person nearly
always reveals conditions and difficulties caused by the effects upon him of
some kind of pathological factor. If the activity was far removed in time or
space, or the factor relatively obvious, healthy common sense is generally
sufficient to correct such effects. If the pathological factor remains
incomprehensible, the person has difficulty understanding the cause of his
problems; he sometimes appears to remain a lifelong slave of imaginings and
patterns of behavioral response which originated under the influence of
This is what occurred in the above-mentioned
family, where the source of pathological induction was the eldest sister
with perinatal damage of the prefrontal fields of her brain cortex. Even
when she obviously abused her youngest child, her brothers attempted to
interpret this in a paramoralistic manner, a sacrifice in the name of
Such matters should be taught to everyone in order to facilitate
auto-pedagogical self-monitoring. Certain outstanding psychopathologists
became convinced that developing a healthy functional view of human reality
is impossible without factoring in psychopathological findings, are correct,
a conclusion difficult to accept by people who believe they have attained a
mature world view without such burdensome studies. The older egotistical
defenders of the natural world view have tradition, belles-lettres, even
philosophy on their side.
They do not realize that during the present
time, their manner of comprehending life’s questions renders the battle with
evil more problematic. However, the younger generation is more familiar with
biology and psychology, and is thus more amenable to an objective
understanding of the role of pathological phenomena in the processes of the
genesis of evil.
Parallax 68, often even a wide
gap, frequently occurs between human and social reality, which is biological
by nature and frequently influenced by the above-mentioned refusal to factor
in psychopathological elements, as well as the traditional perceptions of
reality as taught by philosophy, ethics, and secular and canon law.
difference in appearance or position of an object when viewed from two
different locations. [Editor’s note.]
This gap is easily discernible to those people whose psychological world
view was formed in a manner different from the natural way of a normal
Many of them consciously and subconsciously take advantage of this
weakness in order to force themselves into it, along with their
myopically-determined activities characterized by egoistical concepts of
self-interest. Still people, whether pathologically indifferent to other
peoples’ or nations’ hurts, or lacking in knowledge as to what is human and
decent, then find an open gate to bulldoze their different way of life
through unobliging societies.
Will we ever be able to overcome this age-old problem of humanity sometime
in the yet undetermined future, with the assistance of the biological and
psychological sciences making progress in the study of various pathological
factors participating in ponerogenic processes? That will depend on the
support of the societies in question. Scientific and societal awareness of
the role played by the above-mentioned factors in the genesis of evil will
help public opinion to elaborate an appropriate position against evil, which
will then cease to be so fascinatingly mysterious. If properly modified
based on an understanding of the nature of phenomena, the law will permit
prophylactic countermeasures to the origin of evil.
Over the centuries, every society has been subjected to natural eugenic
processes which cause defective individuals, including those with
above-mentioned features, to drop out of reproductive competition or reduce
their birth rate. These processes are rarely seen as such, often being
screened by the accompanying evil or some other conditions apparently
relegating them to the background.
Conscious comprehension of these matters based
on proper knowledge and approximate moral criteria could render these
processes less stormy in form, not so full of bitter experience. If human
consciousness and conscience are properly formed and good advice in these
matters is heeded, the balance of these processes could be tipped markedly
in the positive direction.
After a number of generations, society’s burden
of inherited pathological factors would be reduced below a certain critical
level, and their participation in ponerogenic processes would begin to fade
seems to be referring to war and other physical conflicts and suggesting
that, if normal people would refuse to get involved and allow only the
deviants to fight, they would eventually kill each other off. [Editor’s
Ponerogenic Phenomena and Processes
Following the real space-time network of qualitatively complex causative
links as occur in ponerogenic processes requires the proper approach and
experience. The fact that psychologists daily face multiple cases of dealing
with such deviants or their victims means that they are becoming
progressively more skilled in understanding and describing the many
components of psychological causation.
They are observing feedback on closed causative
structures. However, this skill sometimes proves insufficient in overcoming
our human tendency to concentrate upon some facts while ignoring others,
provoking an unpleasant sensation that our mind’s capacity of understanding
the reality surrounding us is inefficient. This explains the temptation to
use the natural world view in order to simplify complexity and its
implications, a phenomenon as common as the “old sage” known to India’s
philosophical psychology. Such oversimplification of the causative picture
as regards the genesis of evil, often to a single easily understood cause or
one perpetrator, itself becomes, itself, a cause in this genesis.
With great respect for the shortcomings of our human reason, let us
consciously take the middle road and use the abstraction process, first
describing selected phenomena, then the causative chains characteristic for
ponerogenic processes. Such chains can then be linked into more complex
structures ever more sufficient for grasping the full picture of the real
At first the holes in the net will be so large
that a school of sprats can swim through undetected, although large fish
will be caught. However, this world’s evil represents a kind of continuum,
where minor species of human evil effectively add up to the genesis of large
evil. Making this net denser and filling in the details of the picture
appear to be easier, since ponerogenic laws are analogous regardless of the
scale of occurrences.
Our common sense thus commits minor errors at the level of minor matters.
In attempting closer observation of these psychological processes and
phenomena which lead one man or one nation to hurt another, let us select
phenomena as characteristic as possible. We shall see that the participation
of various pathological factors in these processes is the rule; the
situation where such participation is not noticeable tends to be the
The second chapter sketched the human instinctive substratum’s role in our
personality development, the formation of the natural world view, and
societal links and structures. We also indicated that our social,
psychological, and moral concepts, as well as our natural forms of reaction,
are not adequate for every situation with which life confronts us.
We generally wind up hurting someone if we act
according to our natural concepts and reactive archetypes in situations
which seem to be appropriate to our imaginings, although they are in fact
essentially different. As a rule, such different situations allowing para-appropriate
reactions occur because some pathological factor difficult to understand has
entered the picture. Thus, the practical value of our natural world view
generally ends where psychopathology begins.
Familiarity with this common weakness of human nature and the normal
person’s “naïveté” is part of the specific knowledge we find in many
psychopathic individuals, as well some characteropaths. Spellbinders of
various schools attempt to provoke such para-appropriate reactions from
other people in the name of their specific goals, or in the service of their
reigning ideologies. That hard-to-understand pathological factor is located
within the spellbinder himself.
We call egotism the attitude, subconsciously conditioned as a rule,
to which we attribute excessive value to our instinctive reflexes, early
acquired imaginings and habits, and individual world view.
Egotism hampers a personality’s normal evolution
because it fosters the domination of subconscious life and makes it
difficult to accept disintegrative states which can be very helpful for
growth and development. This egotism and rejection of disintegration70
in turn favors the appearance of para-appropriate reactions as described
above. An egotist measures other people by his own yardstick, treating his
concepts and experiential manner as objective criteria.
70 See footnote
p. 128. Kazimierz Dabrowski developed the theory of Positive Disintegration
which posits that individuals with strong developmental potential tend to
experience frequent and intense crises (positive disintegrations) that
create opportunities for the development of an autonomous, self-crafted
personality. Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative populations tend to
exhibit increased levels of developmental potential and thus may be
predisposed to experience the process of positive disintegration. (A Brief
Overview Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration by William Tillier
Calgary, Alberta, Canada) [Editor’s note.]
He would like to force other people to feel and
think very much the same way he does. Egotist nations have the subconscious
goal of teaching or forcing other nations to think in their own categories,
which makes them incapable of understanding other people and nations or
becoming familiar with the values of their cultures.
Proper rearing and self-rearing thus always aims at de-egotizing a young
person or adult, thereby opening the door for his mind and character to
develop. Practicing psychologists nevertheless commonly believe that a
certain measure of egotism is useful as a factor stabilizing the
personality, protecting it from overly facile neurotic disintegration, and
thereby making it possible to overcome life’s difficulties. However rather
exceptional people exist whose personality is very well integrated even
though they are almost totally devoid of egotism; this allows them to
understand others very easily.
The kind of excessive egotism which hampers the development of human values
and leads to misjudgment and terrorizing of others well deserves the title
“king of human faults”. Difficulties, disputes, serious problems, and
neurotic reactions sprout up in everyone around such an egotist like
mushrooms after a rainfall. Egotist nations start wasting money and effort
in order to achieve goals derived from their erroneous reasoning and overly
emotional reactions. Their inability to acknowledge other nations’ values
and dissimilarities, derived from other cultural traditions, leads to
conflict and war.
We can differentiate between primary and secondary egotism. The former comes
from a more natural process, namely the child’s natural egotism and
child-rearing errors that tend to perpetuate this childish egotism.
The secondary one occurs when a personality that
has overcome his childish egotism regresses to this state under stress,
which leads to an artificial attitude characterized by greater aggression
and social noxiousness. Excessive egotism is a constant property of the
whether their hysteria be primary or secondary. That is why the increase in
a nations’ egotism should be attributed to the above described hysterical
cycle before anything else.
71 A personality
disorder marked by immaturity, dependence, self-centeredness, and vanity,
with a craving for attention, activity, or excitement, and behavior that is
markedly unstable or manipulative. (The American Heritage Stedman’s Medical
Dictionary, 2nd Edition 2004; Houghton Mifflin Company) [Editor’s note.]
If we analyze the development of excessively egotistical personalities, we
often find some non-pathological causes, such as having been raised in a
constricted and overly routine environment or by persons less intelligent
than the child. However, the main reason for the development of an overly
egotistical personality in a normal person is contamination, through
psychological induction, by excessively egotistical or hysterical persons
who, themselves, developed this characteristic under the influence of
various pathological causes. Most of the above-described genetic deviations
cause the development of pathologically egotistical personalities, among
Many people with various hereditary deviations and acquired defects develop
pathological egotism. For such people, forcing others in their environment,
whole social groups, and, if possible, entire nations, to feel and think
like themselves becomes an internal necessity, a ruling concept. A game that
a normal person would not take seriously can become a lifelong goal for
them, the object of effort, sacrifices, and cunning psychological strategy.
Pathological egotism derives from repressing from one’s field of
consciousness any objectionable, self-critical associations referring to
one’s own nature or normality. Dramatic question such as “who is abnormal
here, me or this world of people who feel and think differently?” are
answered in the world’s disfavor. Such egotism is always linked to a
dissimulative attitude, with a Cleckley mask over some pathological quality
being hidden from consciousness, both one’s own and that of other people.
The greatest intensity of such egotism can be found in the prefrontal characteropathy described above.
The importance of the contribution of this kind of egotism to the genesis of
evil thus hardly needs elaboration. It is a primarily societal influence,
egotizing or traumatizing others, which in turn causes further difficulties.
Pathological egotism is a constant component of variegated states wherein
someone who appears to be normal (although he is in fact not quite so) is
driven by motivations or battles for goals a normal person considers
unrealistic or unlikely.
The average person might ask:
“What could he
expect to gain by that?”.
Environmental opinion, however, often interprets
such a situation in accordance with “common sense” and is thus prone to
accept a “more likely” version of the situation and events. Such
interpretation often results in human tragedy.
We should thus always remember that the
principle of law cui prodest becomes illusory whenever some
pathological factor enters the picture.
The tendency to impart a moralizing
interpretation upon essentially pathological phenomena is an aspect of human
nature whose discernable substratum is encoded in our specific instinct;
namely humans normally fail to differentiate between moral and biological
evil. Moralizing always surfaces, albeit to varying degrees, within the
natural psychological and moral world view, which is why we should consider
this tendency a permanent error of public opinion.
We may curb it with increased self-knowledge,
but overcoming it requires specific knowledge in the psychopathological
area. Young people and less cultured circles always tend toward such
interpretations (although it characterizes traditional esthetes too), which
intensifies whenever our natural reflexes take over control from reason,
i.e. in hysterical states, and in direct proportion to the intensity of
What or who does it advance? Who does it serve? What’s the point?
We close the door to a causative comprehension of phenomena and open it to
vengeful emotions and psychological error whenever we impose a moralistic
interpretation upon faults and errors in human behavior, which are in fact
largely derived from the various influences of pathological factors, whether
mentioned above or not, which are often obscured from minds untrained in
this area. We thereby also permit these factors to continue their
ponerogenic activities, both within ourselves and others. Nothing poisons
the human soul and deprives us of our capacity to understand reality more
objectively than this very obedience to that common human tendency to take a
moralistic view of human behavior.
Practically speaking, to say the least, each instance of behavior that
seriously hurts some other person contains within its psychological genesis
the influence of some pathological factors, among other things, of course.
Therefore, any interpretation of the causes of evil which would limit itself
to moral categories is an inappropriate perception of reality. This can
lead, generally speaking, to erroneous behavior, limiting our capacity for
counteraction of the causative factors of evil and opening the door for lust
This frequently starts a new fire in the
ponerogenic processes. We shall therefore consider a unilaterally moral
interpretation of the origins of evil to be wrong and immoral at all times.
The idea of overcoming this common human inclination and its results can be
considered a moral motive intertwined throughout ponerology.
If we analyze the reasons why some people frequently overuse such
emotionally-loaded interpretations, often indignantly rejecting a more
correct interpretation, we shall of course also discover pathological
factors acting within them. Intensification of this tendency in such cases
is caused by repressing from the field of consciousness any self-critical
concepts concerning their own behavior and its internal reasons.
The influence of such people causes this
tendency to intensify in others.
The conviction that moral values exist and that
some actions violate moral rules is so common and ancient a phenomenon that
it seems to have some substratum at man’s instinctive endowment level
(although it is certainly not totally adequate for moral truth), and that it
does not only represent centuries’ of experience, culture, religion, and
Thus, any insinuation framed in moral slogans is always
suggestive, even if the “moral” criteria used are just an “ad hoc”
invention. Any act can thus be proved to be immoral or moral by means of
such paramoralisms utilized as active suggestion, and people whose minds
will succumb to such reasoning can always be found.
In searching for an example of an evil act whose negative value would not
elicit doubt in any social situation, ethics scholars frequently mention
child abuse. However, psychologists often meet with paramoral affirmations
of such behavior in their practice, such as in the above-mentioned family
with the prefrontal field damage in the eldest sister.
Her younger brothers emphatically insisted that
their sister’s sadistic treatment of her son was due to her exceptionally
high moral qualifications, and they believed this by auto-suggestion.
Paramoral-ism somehow cunningly evades the control of our common sense,
sometimes leading to acceptance or approval of behavior that is openly
73 Many examples
of recent years include children beaten to death by their parents for
“religious reasons”. The parents may claim that the child is demon
possessed, or that they have behaved so loosely that only beating them will
“straighten them out”. Another example is circumcision, both for boys and
girls by certain ethnic groups. The Indian custom of suttee, where the wife
climbs on the funeral pyre of her husband; or in Muslim cultures where, if a
woman is raped, it is the duty of her male family members to kill her to
wipe away the shame from the family name. All of these acts are claimed to
be “moral”, but they are not, they are pathological and criminal. [Editor’s
Paramoralistic statements and suggestions so often accompany various kinds
of evil that they seem quite irreplaceable. Unfortunately, it has become a
frequent phenomenon for individuals, oppressive groups, or patho-political
systems to invent ever-new moral criteria for someone’s convenience. Such
suggestions often partially deprive people of their moral reasoning and
deform its development in youngsters. Paramoralism factories have been
founded worldwide, and a ponerologist finds it hard to believe that they are
managed by psychologically normal people.
The conversive74 features in
the genesis of paramoralisms seem to prove they are derived from mostly
subconscious rejection (and repression from the field of consciousness) of
something completely different, which we call the voice of conscience.
74 See note p.
A ponerologist can nevertheless indicate many observations supporting the
opinion that various pathological factors participate in the tendency to use
paramoralisms. This was the case in the above-mentioned family. When it
occurs with a moralizing interpretation, this tendency intensifies in
egotists and hysterics, and its causes are similar.
Like all conversive
phenomena, the tendency to use paramoralisms is psychologically contagious.
That explains why we observe it among people raised by individuals in whom
it was developed alongside pathological factors.
This may be a good place to reflect that true moral law is born and exists
independently of our judgments in this regard, and even of our ability to
recognize it. Thus, the attitude required for such understanding is
scientific, not creative: we must humbly subordinate our mind to the
That is when we discover the truth about man,
both his weaknesses and values, which shows us what is decent and proper
with respect to other people and other societies.
Emphatically insisting upon something which is
the opposite of the truth blocks the average person’s mind from perceiving
the truth. In accordance with the dictates of healthy common sense, he
starts searching for meaning in the “golden mean” between the truth and its
opposite, winding up with some satisfactory counterfeit.
People who think like this do not realize that
this effect is precisely the intent of the person who subjects them to this
method. If the counterfeit of the truth is the opposite of a moral truth, at
the same time, it simultaneously represents an extreme paramoralism, and
bears its peculiar suggestiveness.
We rarely see this method being used by normal people; even if raised by the
people who abused it; they usually only indicate its results in their
characteristic difficulties in apprehending reality properly. Use of this
method can be included within the above-mentioned special psychological
knowledge developed by psychopaths concerning the weaknesses of human nature
and the art of leading others into error.
Where they are in rule, this method is used with
virtuosity, and to an extent conterminous with their power.
Information selection and substitution
The existence of psychological phenomena known
to pre-Freudian philosophical students of the subconscious bears repeating.
Unconscious psychological processes outstrip conscious reasoning, both in
time and in scope, which makes many psychological phenomena possible:
including those generally described as conversive, such as subconscious
blocking out of conclusions, the selection, and, also, substitution of
seemingly uncomfortable premises.
We speak of blocking out conclusions if the inferential process was proper
in principle and has almost arrived at a conclusion and final comprehension
within the act of internal projection, but becomes stymied by a preceding
directive from the subconscious, which considers it inexpedient or
disturbing. This is primitive prevention of personality disintegration,
which may seem advantageous; however, it also prevents all the advantages
which could be derived from consciously elaborated conclusion and
A conclusion thus rejected remains in our
subconscious and in a more unconscious way causes the next blocking and
selection of this kind. This can be extremely harmful, progressively
enslaving a person to his own subconscious, and is often accompanied by a
feeling of tension and bitterness.
We speak of selection of premises whenever the feedback goes deeper into the
resulting reasoning and from its database thus deletes and represses into
the subconscious just that piece of information which was responsible for
arriving at the uncomfortable conclusion. Our subconscious then permits
further logical reasoning, except that the outcome will be erroneous in
direct proportion to the actual significance of the repressed data. An
ever-greater number of such repressed information is collected in our
subconscious memory. Finally, a kind of habit seems to take over: similar
material is treated the same way even if reasoning would have reached an
outcome quite advantageous to the person.
The most complex process of this type is substitution of premises thus
eliminated by other data, ensuring an ostensibly more comfortable
conclusion. Our associative ability rapidly elaborates a new item to replace
the removed one, but it is one leading to a comfortable conclusion. This
operation takes the most time, and it is unlikely to be exclusively
subconscious. Such substitutions are often effected collectively, in certain
groups of people, through the use of verbal communication. That is why they
best qualify for the moralizing epithet “hypocrisy” than either of the
The above examples of conversive phenomena do not exhaust a problem richly
illustrated in psychoanalytical works. Our subconscious may carry the roots
of human genius within, but its operation is not perfect; sometimes it is
reminiscent of a blind computer, especially whenever we allow it to be
cluttered with anxiously rejected material. This explains why conscious
monitoring, even at the price of courageously accepting disintegrative
states, is likewise necessary to our nature, not to mention our individual
and social good.
There is no such thing as a person whose perfect self-knowledge allows him
to eliminate all tendencies toward conversive thinking, but some people are
relatively close to this state, while others remain slaves to these
processes. Those people who use conversive operations too often for the
purpose of finding convenient conclusions, or constructing some cunning
paralogistic or paramoralistic statements, eventually begin to undertake
such behavior for ever more trivial reasons, losing the capacity for
conscious control over their thought process altogether. This necessarily
leads to behavior errors which must be paid for by others as well as
People who have lost their psychological hygiene and capacity of proper
thought along this road also lose their natural critical faculties with
regard to the statements and behavior of individuals whose abnormal thought
processes were formed on a substratum of pathological anomalies, whether
inherited or acquired. Hypocrites stop differentiating between pathological
and normal individuals, thus opening an “infection entry” for the
ponerologic role of pathological factors.
Generally, each community contains people in whom similar methods of
thinking were developed on a large scale, with their various deviations as a
backdrop. We find this both in characteropathic and psychopathic
personalities. Some have even been influenced by others to grow accustomed
to such “reasoning”, since conversion thinking is highly contagious and can
spread throughout an entire society.
In “happy times” especially, the tendency for
conversion thinking generally intensifies. It appears accompanied by a
rising wave of hysteria in said society. Those who try to maintain common
sense and proper reasoning finally wind up in the minority, feeling wronged
because their human right to maintain psychological hygiene is violated by
pressure from all sides. This means that unhappy times are not far away.
We should point out that the erroneous thought processes described herein
also, as a rule, violate the laws of logic with characteristic treachery.
Educating people in the art of proper reasoning can thus serve to counteract
such tendencies; it has a hallowed age-old tradition which seems to have
been insufficiently effective for centuries.
As an example: according to the
laws of logic, a question containing an erroneous or unconfirmed suggestion
has no answer. Nevertheless, not only does operating with such questions
become epidemic among people with a tendency to conversion thinking, and a
source of terror when used by psychopathical individuals; it also occurs
among people who think normally, or even those who have studied logic.
This decreasing tendency in a society’s capacity for proper thought should
be counteracted, since it also lowers its immunity to ponerogenic processes.
An effective measure would be teaching both proper thought and skillful
detection of errors in thought.
The front of such education should be expanded,
including psychology, psychopathology, and the science described herein, for
the purpose of raising people who can easily detect any paralogism.
In order to comprehend ponerogenic pathways of contagion, especially those
acting in a wider social context, let us observe the roles and personalities
of individuals we shall call “spellbinders”, who are highly active in this
area in spite of their statistically negligible number.
Spellbinders are generally the carriers of various pathological factors,
some characteropathies, and some inherited anomalies. Individuals with
malformations of their personalities frequently play similar roles, although
the social scale of influence remains small (family or neighborhood) and
does not cross certain boundaries of decency.
Spellbinders are characterized by pathological egotism. Such a person is
forced by some internal causes to make an early choice between two
possibilities: the first is forcing other people to think and experience
things in a manner similar to his own; the second is a feeling of being
lonely and different, a pathological misfit in social life. Sometimes the
choice is either snake-charming or suicide.
Triumphant repression of self-critical or unpleasant concepts from the field
of consciousness gradually gives rise to the phenomena of conversion
thinking, or paralogistics, paramoralisms, and the use of reversion
blockades. They stream so profusely from the mind and mouth of the
spellbinder that they flood the average person’s mind.
subordinated to the spellbinder’s over-compensatory conviction that they are
exceptional, sometimes even messianic. An ideology emerges from this
conviction, true in part, whose value is supposedly superior. However, if we
analyze the exact functions of such an ideology in the spellbinder’s
personality, we perceive that it is a nothing other than a means of
self-charming, useful for repressing those tormenting self-critical
associations into the subconscious.
The ideology’s instrumental role in
influencing other people also serves the spellbinder’s needs.
The spellbinder believes that he will always find converts to his ideology,
and most often, they are right. However, they feel shock (or even paramoral
indignation) when it turns out that their influence extends to only a
limited minority, while most people’s attitude to their activities remains
critical, pained and disturbed. The spellbinder is thus confronted with a
choice: either withdraw back into his void or strengthen his position by
improving the effectiveness of his activities.
The spellbinder places on a high moral plane anyone who has succumbed to his
influence and incorporated the experiential method he imposes. He showers
such people with attention and property, if possible. Critics are met with
“moral” outrage. It can even be proclaimed that the compliant minority is in
fact the moral majority, since it professes the best ideology and honors a
leader whose qualities are above average.
Such activity is always necessarily characterized by the inability to
foresee its final results, something obvious from the psychological point of
view because its substratum contains pathological phenomena, and both
spellbinding and self-charming make it impossible to perceive reality
accurately enough to foresee results logically. However, spellbinders
nurture great optimism and harbor visions of future triumphs similar to
those they enjoyed over their own crippled souls. It is also possible for
optimism to be a pathological symptom.
In a healthy society, the activities of spellbinders meet with criticism
effective enough to stifle them quickly. However, when they are preceded by
conditions operating destructively upon common sense and social order; such
as social injustice, cultural backwardness, or intellectually limited rulers
sometimes manifesting pathological traits, spellbinders’ activities have led
entire societies into large-scale human tragedy.
Such an individual fishes an environment or society for people amenable to
his influence, deepening their psychological weaknesses until they finally
join together in a ponerogenic union. On the other hand, people who have
maintained their healthy critical faculties intact, based upon their own
common sense and moral criteria, attempt to counteract the spellbinders’
activities and their results. In the resulting polarization of social
attitudes, each side justifies itself by means of moral categories. That is
why such commonsense resistance is always accompanied by some feeling of
helplessness and deficiency of criteria.
The awareness that a spellbinder is always a pathological individual should
protect us from the known results of a moralizing interpretation of
pathological phenomena, ensuring us an objective criteria for more effective
action. Explaining what kind of pathological substratum is hidden behind a
given instance of spellbinding activities should enable a modern solution to
It is a characteristic phenomenon that a high IQ generally helps a person to
be more immune to spellbinding activities only to a moderate degree. Actual
differences in the formation of human attitudes to the influence of such
activities should be attributed to other properties of human nature. The
most decisive factor in assuming a critical attitude is good basic
intelligence, which conditions our perception of psychological reality. We
can also observe how a spellbinder’s activities “husk out” amenable
individuals with an astonishing regularity.
We shall later return to the specific relations that occur among the
spellbinder’s personality, the ideology he expounds, and the choices made by
those who easily succumb.
More exhaustive clarification thereof would
require separate study within the framework of general ponerology, a work
intended for specialists, in order to explain some of those interesting
phenomena which are still not properly understood today.
We shall give the name “ponerogenic association” to any group of people
characterized by ponerogenic processes of above-average social intensity,
wherein the carriers of various pathological factors function as inspirers,
spellbinders, and leaders, and where a proper pathological social structure
generates. Smaller, less permanent associations may be called “groups” or
Such an association gives birth to evil which hurts other people as well as
its own members. We could list various names ascribed to such organizations
by linguistic tradition: gangs, criminal mobs, mafias, cliques, and
coteries, which cunningly avoid collision with the law while seeking to gain
their own advantage. Such unions frequently aspire to political power in
order to impose their expedient legislation upon societies in the name of a
suitably prepared ideology, deriving advantages in the form of
disproportionate prosperity and the satisfaction of their craving for power.
A description and classification of such associations with a view of their
numbers, goals, officially promulgated ideologies, and internal
organizations would of course be scientifically valuable. Such a
description, effected by a perceptive observer, could help a ponerologist
determine some of the properties of such unions, which cannot be determined
by means of natural conceptual language.
A description of this kind, however, ought not to cloak the more factual
phenomena and psychological dependencies operating within these unions.
Failure to heed this warning can easily cause such a sociological
description to indicate properties which are of secondary importance, or
even made “for show” to impress the uninitiated, thereby overshadowing the
actual phenomena which decide the quality, role, and fate of the union.
Particularly if such a description is colorful literature, it can furnish
merely illusory or ersatz knowledge, thus rendering a naturalistic
perception and causative comprehension of phenomena more difficult.
One phenomenon all ponerogenic groups and associations have in common is the
fact that their members lose (or have already lost) the capacity to perceive
pathological individuals as such, interpreting their behavior in a
fascinated, heroic, or melodramatic ways. The opinions, ideas, and judgments
of people carrying various psychological deficits are endowed with an
importance at least equal to that of outstanding individuals among normal
The atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological
individuals becomes an opening to their activities, and, at the same time, a
criterion for recognizing the association in concern as ponerogenic. Let us
call this the first criterion of ponerogenesis.
Another phenomenon all ponerogenic associations have in common is their
statistically high concentration of individuals with various psychological
anomalies. Their qualitative composition is crucially important in the
formation of the entire union’s character, activities, development, or
Groups dominated by various kinds of characteropathic individuals will
develop relatively primitive activities, proving rather easy for a society
of normal people to break. However, things are quite different when such
unions are inspired by psychopathic individuals. Let us adduce the following
example illustrating the roles of two different anomalies, selected from
among actual events studied by the author.
In felonious youth gangs, a specific role is played by boys (and
occasionally girls) that carry a characteristic deficit that is sometimes
left behind by an inflammation of the parotid glands (the mumps). This
disease entails brain reactions in some cases, leaving behind a discreet but
permanent bleaching of feelings and a slight decrease in general mental
skills. Similar results are sometimes left behind after diphtheria. As a
result, such people easily succumb to the suggestions and manipulations of a
more clever individuals.
When drawn into a felonious group, these constitutionally weakened
individuals become faint-critical helpers and executors of the leader’s
intentions, tools in the hands of more treacherous, usually psychopathic,
Once arrested, they submit to their leaders’ insinuated
explanations that the higher (paramoral) group ideal demands that they
become scapegoats, taking the majority of blame upon themselves. In court,
the same leaders who initiated the delinquencies mercilessly dump all the
blame onto their less crafty colleagues. Sometimes a judge actually accepts
Individuals with the above mentioned post-mumps and post-diphtheria traits
constitute less than 1.0 % of the population as a whole, but their share
reaches ¼ of juvenile delinquent groups. This represents an inspissation75
of the order of 30-fold, requiring no further methods of statistical
When studying the contents of ponerogenic unions
skillfully enough, we often meet with an inspissation of other psychological
anomalies which also speak for themselves.
thicken by either evaporation or absorption of fluid. Diminished fluidity,
increased thickness. A concentration. [Editor’s note.]
Two basic types of the above-mentioned unions
should be differentiated: Primary ponerogenic and secondary ponerogenic. Let
us describe as primarily ponerogenic a union whose abnormal members were
active from the very beginning, playing the role of crystallizing catalysts
as early as the process of creation of the group occurred.
We shall call
secondarily ponerogenic a union which was founded in the name of some idea
with an independent social meaning, generally comprehensible within the
categories of the natural world view, but which later succumbed to a certain
moral degeneration. This in turn opened the door to infection and activation
of the pathological factors within, and later to a ponerization of the group
as a whole, or often of its fraction.
From the very outset, a primarily ponerogenic union is a foreign body within
the organism of society, its character colliding with the moral values held
or respected by the majority. The activities of such groups provoke
opposition and disgust and are considered immoral; as a rule, therefore,
such groups do not spread large, nor do they metastasize into numerous
unions; they finally lose their battle with society.
In order to have a chance to develop into a large ponerogenic association,
however, it suffices that some human organization, characterized by social
or political goals and an ideology with some creative value, be accepted by
a larger number of normal people before it succumbs to a process of
The primary tradition and ideological values of
such a society may then, for a long time, protect a union which has
succumbed to the ponerization process from the awareness of society,
especially its less critical components.
When the ponerogenic process
touches such a human organization, which originally emerged and acted in the
name of political or social goals, and whose causes were conditioned in
history and the social situation, the original group’s primary values will
nourish and protect such a union, in spite of the fact that those primary
values succumb to characteristic degeneration, the practical function
becoming completely different from the primary one, because the names and
symbols are retained.
This is where the weaknesses of individual and
social “common sense” are revealed.76
because a group operates under the banner of “communism” or “socialism” or
“democracy” or “conservatism” or “republicanism”, doesn’t mean that, in
practice, their functions are anything close to the original ideology.
This is reminiscent of a situation psychopathologists know well: a person
who enjoyed trust and respect in their circles starts behaving with
preposterous arrogance and hurting others, allegedly in the name of his
already known, decent and accepted convictions, which have – in the meantime
- deteriorated due to some psychological process rendering them primitive
but emotionally dynamic. However, his old acquaintances – having known him
for long as the person he was - do not believe the injured parties who
complain about his new, or even hidden, behavior, and are prepared to
denigrate them and consider them liars.
This adds insult to their injury and gives
encouragement and license to the individual whose personality is undergoing
deterioration, to commit further hurtful acts; as a rule, such a situation
lasts until the person’s madness becomes obvious.
Ponerogenic unions of the primary variety are mainly of interest to
criminology; our main concern will be associations that succumb to a
secondary process of poneric malignancy. First, however, let us sketch a few
properties of such associations which have already surrendered to this
Within each ponerogenic union, a psychological structure is created which
can be considered a counterpart or caricature of the normal structure of
society or a normal societal organization. In a normal social organization,
individuals with various psychological strengths and weaknesses complement
each other’s talents and characteristics. This structure is subjected to
with regard to changes in the character of the association as whole. The
same is true of a ponerogenic union. Individuals with various psychological
aberrations also complement each other’s talents and characteristics.
77 Over time;
employing a chronological perspective. [Editor’s note.]
The earlier phase of a ponerogenic union’s activity is usually dominated by
characteropathic, particularly paranoid, individuals, who often play an
inspirational or spellbinding role in the ponerization process. Recall here
the power of the paranoid characteropath lies in the fact that they easily
enslave less critical minds, e.g. people with other kinds of psychological
deficiencies, or who have been victims of individuals with character
disorders, and, in particular, a large segment of young people.
At this point in time, the union still exhibits certain romantic features
and is not yet characterized by excessively brutal behavior.78
Soon, however, the more normal members are pushed into fringe functions and
are excluded from organizational secrets; some of them thereupon leave such
Individuals with inherited deviations then progressively take over the
inspirational and leadership positions. The role of essential psychopaths
gradually grows, although they like to remain ostensibly in the shadows
(e.g. directing small groups), setting the pace as an éminence grise.79
In ponerogenic unions on the largest social scales, the leadership role is
generally played by a different kind of individual, one more easily
digestible and representative.
Examples include frontal characteropathy, or
some more discreet complex of lesser taints.
78 An example
would be a paranoid character who believes himself to be a Robin Hood type
character with a “mission” to “rob from the rich and give to the poor”. This
can easily transform to “rob from anyone to gain for the self” under the
cover of “social injustice against us makes it right”. [Editor’s note.]
79 A powerful advisor or decision-maker who
operates secretly or otherwise unofficially. This phrase originally referred
to Cardinal Richelieu’s right-hand man, François Leclerc du Tremblay, a
Capuchin priest who wore gray robes. [Editor’s note.]
A spellbinder at first simultaneously plays the role of leader in a
ponerogenic group. Later there appears another kind of “leadership talent”,
a more vital individual who often joined the organization later, once it has
already succumbed to ponerization. The spellbinding individual, being
weaker, is forced to come to terms with being shunted into the shadows and
recognizing the new leader’s “genius”, or accept the threat of total
failure. Roles are parceled out.
The spellbinder needs support from the primitive
but decisive leader, who in turn needs the spellbinder to uphold the
association’s ideology, so essential in maintaining the proper attitude on
the part of those members of the rank and file who betray a tendency to
criticism and doubt of the moral variety.
The spellbinder’s job then becomes to repackage the ideology appropriately,
sliding new contents in under old titles, so that it can continue fulfilling
its propaganda function under ever-changing conditions. He also has to
uphold the leader’s mystique inside and outside the association. Complete
trust cannot exist between the two, however, since the leader secretly has
contempt for the spellbinder and his ideology, whereas the spellbinder
despises the leader for being such a coarse individual. A showdown is always
probable; whoever is weaker becomes the loser.
The structure of such a union undergoes further variegation and
specialization. A chasm opens between the somewhat more normal members and
the elite initiates who are, as a rule, more pathological.
This later subgroup becomes ever more dominated
by hereditary pathological factors, the former by the after-effects of
various diseases affecting the brain, less typically psychopathic
individuals, and people whose malformed personalities were caused by early
deprivation or brutal child-rearing methods on the part of pathological
individuals. It soon develops that there is less and less room for normal
people in the group at all. The leaders’ secrets and intentions are kept
hidden from the union’s proletariat; the products of the spellbinders’ work
must suffice for this segment.
An observer watching such a union’s activities from the outside and using
the natural psychological world view will always tend to overestimate the
role of the leader and his allegedly autocratic function. The spellbinders
and the propaganda apparatus are mobilized to maintain this erroneous
outside opinion. The leader, however, is dependent upon the interests of the
union, especially the elite initiates, to an extent greater than he himself
knows. He wages a constant position-jockeying battle; he is an actor with a
In macrosocial unions, this position is
generally occupied by a more representative individual not deprived of
certain critical faculties; initiating him into all those plans and criminal
calculations would be counterproductive. In conjunction with part of the
elite, a group of psychopathic individuals hiding behind the scenes steers
the leader, the way Borman and his clique steered Hitler. If the leader does
not fulfill his assigned role, he generally knows that the clique
representing the elite of the union is in a position to kill or otherwise
We have sketched the properties of unions in which the ponerogenic process
has transformed their original generally benevolent content into a
pathological counterpart thereof and modified its structure and its later
changes, in a manner sufficiently wide-scale to encompass the greatest
possible scope of this kind of phenomena, from the smallest to the largest
The general rules governing those phenomena
appear to be at least analogous, independent of the quantitative, social,
and historical scale of such a phenomenon.
It is a common phenomenon for a ponerogenic association or group to contain
a particular ideology which always justifies its activities and furnishes
motivational propaganda. Even a small-time gang of hoodlums has its own
melodramatic ideology and pathological romanticism. Human nature demands
that vile matters be haloed by an over-compensatory mystique in order to
silence one’s conscience and to deceive consciousness and critical
faculties, whether one’s own or those of others.
If such a ponerogenic union could be stripped of its ideology, nothing would
remain except psychological and moral pathology, naked and unattractive.
Such stripping would of course provoke “moral outrage”, and not only among
the members of the union. The fact is, even normal people, who condemn this
kind of union along with its ideologies, feel hurt and deprived of something
constituting part of their own romanticism, their way of perceiving reality
when a widely idealized group is exposed as little more than a gang of
Perhaps even some of the readers of this book
will resent the author’s stripping evil so unceremoniously of all its
literary motifs. The job of effecting such a “strip-tease” may thus turn out
to be much more difficult and dangerous than expected.
A primary ponerogenic union is formed at the
same time as its ideology, perhaps even somewhat earlier. A normal person
perceives such ideology to be different from the world of human concepts,
obviously suggestive, and even primitively comical to a degree.
An ideology of a secondarily ponerogenic association is formed by gradual
adaptation of the primary ideology to functions and goals other than the
original formative ones. A certain kind of layering or schizophrenia of
ideology takes place during the ponerization process. The outer layer
closest to the original content is used for the group’s propaganda purposes,
especially regarding the outside world, although it can in part also be used
inside with regard to disbelieving lower-echelon members.
The second layer presents the elite with no
problems of comprehension: it is more hermetic, generally composed by
slipping a different meaning into the same names. Since identical names
signify different contents depending on the layer in question, understanding
this “doubletalk” requires simultaneous fluency in both languages.
Average people succumb to the first layer’s suggestive insinuations for a
long time before they learn to understand the second one as well. Anyone
with certain psychological deviations, especially if he is wearing the mask
of normality with which we are already familiar, immediately perceives the
second layer to be attractive and significant; after all, it was built by
people like him.
Comprehending this doubletalk is therefore a vexatious
task, provoking quite understandable psychological resistance; this very
duality of language, however, is a pathog-nomonic80
symptom indicating that the human union in question is touched by the
ponerogenic process to an advanced degree.
characteristics of a disease. [Editor’s note.]
The ideology of unions affected by such degeneration has certain constant
factors regardless of their quality, quantity, or scope of action: namely,
the motivations of a wronged group, radical righting of the wrong, and the
higher values of the individuals who have joined the organization. These
motivations facilitate sublimation of the feeling of being wronged and
different, caused by one’s own psychological failings, and appear to
liberate the individual from the need to abide by uncomfortable moral
In the world full of real injustice and human humiliation, making it
conducive to the formation of an ideology containing the above elements, a
union of its converts may easily succumb to degradation. When this happens,
those people with a tendency to accept the better version of the ideology
will tend to justify such ideological duality.
The ideology of the proletariat,81
which aimed at revolutionary restructuring of the world, was already
contaminated by a schizoid deficit in the understanding of, and trust for,
human nature; small wonder, then, that it easily succumbed to a process of
typical degeneration in order to nourish and disguise a macrosocial
phenomenon whose basic essence is completely different.82
the Communist Manifesto: “By proletariat [is meant] the class of modern wage
laborers, who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to
selling their labor-power in order to live.” [Editor’s note.]
82 Fascism seems to be the diametric opposite
of Communism and Marxism, both in a philosophic and political sense, and
also opposed democratic capitalist economics along with socialism and
liberal democracy. It viewed the state as an organic entity in a positive
light rather than as an institution de signed to protect collective and
individual rights, or as one that should be held in check. Fascism is also
typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects
of life: political, social, cultural, and economic which accurately
describes what was passed off under the name of Communism.
The fascist state regulates and controls (as opposed to nationalizing) the
means of production. Fascism exalts the nation, state, or race as superior
to the individuals, institutions, or groups composing it. Fascism uses
explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past
greatness; and demands loyalty to a single leader, often to the point of a
cult of personality.
Again, we see that Fascism was passed off as Communism. So, what actually
seems to have happened is that the original ideals of the proletariat were
cleverly subsumed to State corporatism. Most people in the west are not
aware of this because of the Western propaganda against Communism. The word
“Fascist” has become a slur throughout the world since the stunning failure
of the Axis powers in World War II. In contemporary political discourse,
adherents of some political ideologies tend to associate fascism with their
enemies, or define it as the opposite of their own views. There are no major
self-described fascist parties or organizations anywhere in the world.
However, at the present time, in the U.S., the system is far more fascist
than democratic, which probably explains the existence of the years of
anti-Communist propaganda. That would demonstrate an early process of
ponerization of Western democracy which, at present, has almost completed
the transformation to full-blown fascism. [Editor’s note.]
For future reference, let us remember: ideologies do not need spellbinders.
Spellbinders need ideologies in order to subject them to their own deviant
On the other hand, the fact that some ideology degenerated along with its
corollary social movement, later succumbing to this schizophrenia and
serving goals which the originators of the ideology would have abhorred,
does not prove that it was worthless, false, and fallacious from the start.
Quite the contrary: it rather appears that under
certain historical conditions, the ideology of any social movement, even if
it is sacred truth, can yield to the ponerization process.
A given ideology may have contained weak spots, created by the errors of
human thought and emotion within; or it may, during the course of its
history, become infiltrated by more primitive foreign material which can
contain ponerogenic factors. Such material destroys an ideology’s internal
homogeny. The source of such infection by foreign ideological material may
be the ruling social system with its laws and customs based on a more
primitive tradition, or an imperialistic system of rule. It may be, of
course, simply another philosophical movement often contaminated by the
eccentricities of its founder, who considers the facts to blame for not
conforming to his dialectical construct.
The Roman Empire, including its legal system and paucity of psychological
concepts, similarly contaminated the primary homogeneous idea of
Christianity. Christianity had to adapt to coexistence with a social system
wherein “dura lex sed lex” 83,
rather than an understanding of human beings, decided a person’s fate; this
then led to the corruption of attempting to reach the goals of the “Kingdom
of God” by means of Roman imperialistic methods.
83 The law [is]
harsh, but [it is] the law.
The greater and truer the original ideology, the longer it may be capable of
nourishing and disguising from human criticism that phenomenon which is the
product of the specific degenerative process. In a great and valuable
ideology, the danger for small minds is hidden; they can become the factors
of such preliminary degeneration, which opens the door to invasion by
Thus, if we intend to understand the secondary ponerization process and the
kinds of human associations which succumb to it, we must take great care to
separate the original ideology from its counterpart, or even caricature,
created by the ponerogenic process.
Abstracting from any ideology, we must, by
analogy, understand the essence of the process itself, which has its own
etiological causes which are potentially present in every society, as well
as characteristic developmental patho-dynamics.
The Ponerization Process
Observation of the ponerization processes of various human unions throughout
history easily leads to the conclusion that the initial step is a moral
warping of the group’s ideational contents. In analyzing the contamination
of a group’s ideology, we note first of all an infiltration of foreign,
simplistic, and doctrinaire contents, thereby depriving it of any healthy
support for, and trust in, the necessity of understanding of human nature.
This opens the way for invasion by pathological factors and the ponerogenic
role of their carriers.
The example of the Roman legal system vis a vis early Christianity mentioned
above, is a case in point. The Roman imperial and legal civilization was
overly attached to matter and law, and created a legal system that was too
rigid to accommodate any real aspects of psychological and spiritual life.
This “earthy” foreign element infiltrated Christianity resulting in the
Catholic church adopting Imperial strategies to enforce its system on others
This fact could justify the conviction of moralists that maintaining a
union’s ethical discipline and ideational purity is sufficient protection
against derailing or hurtling into an insufficiently comprehended world of
error. Such a conviction strikes a ponerologist as a unilateral
oversimplification of an eternal reality which is more complex. After all,
the loosening of ethical and intellectual controls is sometimes a
consequence of the direct or indirect influence of the omnipresent factors
of the existence of deviants in any social group, along with some other
non-pathological human weaknesses.
Sometime during life, every human organism undergoes periods during which
physiological and psychological resistance declines, facilitating
development of bacteriological infection within. Similarly, a human
association or social movement undergoes periods of crisis which weaken its
ideational and moral cohesion.
This may be caused by pressure on the part of
other groups, a general spiritual crisis in the environment, or
intensification of its hysterical condition. Just as more stringent sanitary
measures are an obvious medical indication for a weakened organism, the
development of conscious control over the activity of pathological factors
is a ponerological indication. This is a crucial factor for prevention of
tragedy during a society’s periods of moral crisis.
For centuries, individuals exhibiting various psychological anomalies have
had the tendency to participate in the activities of human unions. This is
made possible on the one hand by such group’s weaknesses, i.e. failure in
adequate psychological knowledge; on the other hand, it deepens the moral
failings and stifles the possibilities of utilizing healthy common sense and
understanding matters objectively.
In spite of the resulting tragedies and
unhappiness, humanity has shown a certain progress, especially in the
cognitive area; therefore, a ponerologist may be cautiously optimistic.
After all, by detecting and describing these aspects of the ponerization
process of human groups, which could not be understood until recently, we
shall be able to counteract such processes earlier and more effectively.
Again, depth and breadth of knowledge of human psychological variations is
Any human group affected by the process described herein is characterized by
its increasing regression from natural common sense and the ability to
perceive psychological reality. Someone considering this in terms of
traditional categories might consider it an instance of “turning into
half-wits” or the development of intellectual deficiencies and moral
failings. A ponerological analysis of this process, however, indicates that
pressure is being applied to the more normal part of the association by
pathological factors present in certain individuals who have been allowed to
participate in the group because the lack of good psychological knowledge
has not mandated their exclusion.
Thus, whenever we observe some group member being treated with no critical
distance, although he betrays one of the psychological anomalies familiar to
us, and his opinions being treated as at least equal to those of normal
people, although they are based on a characteristically different view of
human matters, we must derive the conclusion that this human group is
affected by a ponerogenic process and if measures are not taken the process
shall continue to its logical conclusion.
We shall treat this in accordance with the above
described first criterion of ponerology, which retains its validity
regardless of the qualitative and quantitative features of such a union: the
atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological
individuals becomes an opening to their activities, and, at the same time, a
criterion for recognizing the association in concern as ponerogenic.
Such a state of affairs simultaneously consists as a liminal (watershed)
situation, whereupon further damage to people’s healthy common sense and
critical moral faculties becomes ever easier. Once a group has inhaled a
sufficient dose of pathological material to give birth to the conviction
that these not-quite-normal people are unique geniuses, it starts subjecting
its more normal members to pressure characterized by corresponding
paralogical and paramoral elements.
For many people, such pressure of collective opinion takes on attributes of
a moral criterion; for others, it represents a kind of psychological terror
ever more difficult to endure. The phenomenon of counter-selection thus
occurs in this phase of ponerization: individuals with a more normal sense
of psychological reality leave after entering into conflict with the newly
modified group; simultaneously, individuals with various psychological
anomalies join the group and easily find a way of life there.
The former feel “pushed into
counter-revolutionary positions”, and the latter can afford to remove their
masks of sanity ever more often.
People who have been thus thrown out of a ponerogenic association because
they were too normal suffer bitterly; they are unable to understand their
specific state. Their ideal, the reason they joined the group, which
constituted a part of the meaning of life for them, has now been degraded,
although they cannot find a rational basis for this fact. They feel wronged;
they “fight against demons” they are not in a position to identify. The fact
is their personalities have already been modified to a certain extent due to
saturation by abnormal psychological material, especially psychopathic
They easily fall into the opposite extreme in
such cases, because unhealthy emotions rule their decisions. What they need
is good psychological information in order to find the path of reason and
measure. Based on a ponerologic understanding of their condition,
psychotherapy could provide rapid positive results. However, if the union
they left is succumbing to deep ponerization, a threat looms over them: they
may become the objects of revenge, since they have “betrayed” a magnificent
84 It should also
be mentioned that the same process occurs when a psychological deviant is
thrown out of a group of normal people. The way to tell the difference is
that a normal group ejecting a deviant will not seek to exact revenge on the
ejected member, while the deviant will seek revenge on the group he has been
ejected from. [Editor’s note.]
This is the stormy period of a group’s ponerization, followed by a certain
stabilization in terms of contents, structure, and customs. Rigorous
selective measures of a clearly psychological kind are applied to new
members. So as to exclude the possibility of becoming sidetracked by
defectors, people are observed and tested to eliminate those characterized
by excessive mental independence or psychological normality. The new
internal function created is something like a “psychologist”, and it
doubtless takes advantage of the above-described psychological knowledge
collected by psychopaths.
It should be noted that certain of these exclusionary steps taken by a group
in the process of ponerization, should have been taken against deviants by
the ideological group in the beginning. So rigorous selective measures of a
psychological kind taken by a group is not necessarily an indicator that the
group is ponerogenic. Rather one should carefully examine what the
psychological selection is based on. If any group seeks to avoid
ponerization, it will want to exclude individuals with any psychological
dependence on subjective beliefs, rites, rituals, drugs, and certainly those
individuals that are incapable of objectively analyzing their own inner
psychological content or who reject the process of Positive disintegration.
In a group in the process of ponerization, spellbinders take care of
“ideological purity”. The leader’s position is relatively secure.
Individuals manifesting doubt or criticism are subject to paramoral
condemnation. Maintaining the utmost dignity and style, leadership discusses
opinions and intentions which are psychologically and morally pathological.
Any intellectual connections which might reveal
them as such are eliminated, thanks to the substitution of premises
operating in the proper subconscious process on the basis of prior
conditioned reflexes. An objective observer might wish to compare this state
to one in which the inmates of an asylum take over the running of the
institution. The association enters the state wherein the whole has donned
the mask of ostensible normality. In the next chapter, we shall call such a
state the “dissimulative phase” with regard to macrosocial ponerogenic
Observing the appropriate state corresponding to the first ponerological
criterion - the atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to
pathological individuals - requires skillful psychology and specific factual
knowledge; the second, more stable phase can be perceived both by a person
of average reason and by public opinion in most societies. The
interpretation imposed, however, is unilaterally moralistic or sociological,
simultaneously undergoing the characteristic feeling of deficiency as
regards the possibility of both understanding the phenomenon and
counteracting the spread of said evil.
However, in this phase a minority of social groups tend to consider such a
ponerogenic association comprehensible within the categories of their own
world view and the outer layer of diffusing ideology as a doctrine
acceptable to them. The more primitive the society in question, and the
further removed from direct contact to the union affected by this
pathological state, the more numerous such minorities would be. This very
period, during which the customs of the union become somewhat milder, often
represents simultaneously its most intensive expansionist activity.
This period may last long, but not forever. Internally, the group is
becoming progressively more pathological, finally showing its true
qualitative colors again as its activities become ever clumsier.
point, a society of normal people can easily threaten ponerologic
associations, even at the macroso-cial level.
When a ponerogenic process encompasses a society’s entire ruling class, or
nation, or when opposition from normal people is stifled—as a result of the
mass character of the phenomenon, or by using spellbinding means and
physical compulsion, including censorship—we are dealing with a macrosocial
In such a case, however, a society’s tragedy,
often coupled with that of the researcher’s own suffering, opens before him
an entire volume of ponerologic knowledge, where he can read all about the
laws governing such a process if he is only able to familiarize himself in
time with its naturalistic language and its different grammar.
Studies in the genesis of evil which are based on observing small groups of
people can indicate the details of these laws to us. However, it might be
thought that this would present a warped picture that is dependent upon
various environmental conditions which are further dependent on the
historical period in question; this is the backdrop to the phenomena
observed. Nevertheless, such observations may enable us to hazard a
hypothesis to the effect that the general laws of ponerogenesis may be at
least analogous, regardless of the quantity and scope of the phenomenon in
time and space.
They do not, however, permit verification of such a
In studying a macrosocial phenomenon, we can obtain both quantitative and
qualitative data, statistical correlation indices, and other observations as
accurately as might be allowed by the state of the art in science, research
methodology, and the obviously very difficult situation of the observer.85
We can then use the classical method, hazarding a hypothesis and then
actively searching for facts which could falsify it.
85 Assuming that
one can gather this information and survive the gathering! [Editor’s note.]
The wide-spread causative regularity of
ponerogenic processes would then be confirmed within the bounds of the
above-mentioned possibilities. This is, in fact, what the author and his
colleagues undertook to do. It is astonishing how neatly causative
regularity of ponerogenic processes observed in small groups govern this
macrosocial phenomenon. The comprehension of the phenomenon thus acquired
can serve as a basis for predicting its future development, to be verified
by time. It is in close and careful observation, and only after time passes,
that we become aware that the colossus has an Achilles heel after all.
The study of macrosocial ponerogenic phenomena meets with obvious problems:
their period of genesis, duration, and decay is several times longer than
the researcher’s scientific activity. Simultaneously, there are other
transformations in history, customs, economics, and technology; however, the
difficulties confronted in abstracting the appropriate symptoms need not be
insuperable, since our criteria are based on eternal phenomena subject to
relatively limited transformations in time.
The traditional interpretation of these great historical diseases has
already taught historians to distinguish two phases. The first is
represented by a period of spiritual crisis in a society,86
which historiography associates with exhausting of the ideational, moral,
and religious values heretofore nourishing the society in question. Egoism
among individuals and social groups increases, and the links of moral duty
and social networks are felt to be loosening.
Pitirim. (1941). Social and Cultural Dynamics, Volume Four: Basic Problems,
Principles and Methods, New York: American Book Company. Sorokin, Pitirim.
(1957). Social and Cultural Dynamics, One Volume Revision. Boston: Porter
Sargent. Simonton, Dean Keith. (1976). “Does Sorokin’s data support his
theory?: A study of generational fluctuations in philosophical beliefs.”
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 15: 187-198.
Trifling matters thereupon dominate human minds
to such an extent that there is no room left for thinking about public
matters or a feeling of commitment to the future. An atrophy of the
hierarchy of values within the thinking of individuals and societies is an
indication thereof; it has been described both in historiographic monographs
and in psychiatric papers. The country’s government is finally paralyzed,
helpless in the face of problems which could be solved without great
difficulty under other circumstances. Let us associate such periods of
crisis with the familiar phase in social hysterization.
The next phase has been marked by bloody tragedies, revolutions, wars, and
the fall of empires. The deliberations of historians or moralists regarding
these occurrences always leave behind a certain feeling of deficiency with
reference to the possibility of perceiving certain psychological factors
discerned within the nature of phenomena; the essence of these factors
remains outside the scope of their scientific experience.
A historian observing these great historical diseases is struck first of all
by their similarities, easily forgetting that all diseases have many
symptoms in common because they are states of absent health. A ponerologist
thinking in naturalistic terms tends to doubt that we are dealing with only
one kind of societal disease, thereby leading to a certain differentiation
of forms with regard to ethnological and historical conditions.
Differentiating the essence of such states is more appropriate to the
reasoning patterns we are familiar with from the natural sciences.
The complex conditions of social life, however,
preclude using the method of distinction, which is similar to etio-logical
criterion in medicine: qualitatively speaking, the phenomena become layered
in time, conditioning each other and transforming constantly. We should then
rather use certain abstract patterns, similar to those used in analyzing the
neurotic states of human beings.
Governed by this type of reasoning, let us here attempt to differentiate two
pathological states of societies; their essence and contents appear
different enough, but they can operate sequentially in such a way that the
first opens the door to the second. The first such state has already been
sketched in the chapter on the hysteroidal cycle; we shall adduce a certain
number of other psychological details hereunder.
The next chapter shall be dedicated to the
second pathological state, for which I have adopted the denomination of “pathocracy”.
States of Societal Hysterization
When perusing scientific or literary descriptions of hysterical phenomena,
such as those dating from the last great increase in hysteria in Europe
encompassing the quarter-century preceding World War I, a non-specialist may
gain the impression that this was endemic to individual cases, particularly
The contagious nature of hysterical states, however, had
already been discovered and described by Jean-Martin Charcot87.
Charcot (1825 - 1893) French neurologist. His work greatly impacted the
developing fields of neurology and psychology. Charcot took an interest in
the malady then called hysteria. It seemed to be a mental disorder with
physical manifestations, of immediate interest to a neurologist. He believed
that hysteria was the result of a weak neurological system which was
hereditary. It could be set off by a traumatic event like an accident, but
was then progressive and irreversible. To study the hysterics under his
care, he learned the technique of hypnosis and soon became a master of the
relatively new “science.” Charcot believed that a hypnotized state was very
similar to a bout of hysteria, and so he hypnotized his patients in order to
induce and study their symptoms. He was single-handedly responsible for
changing the French medical community’s opinion about the validity of
hypnosis (it was previously rejected as Mesmerism). [Editor’s note.]
It is practically impossible for hysteria to manifest itself as a mere
individual phenomenon, since it is contagious by means of psychological
resonance, identification, and imitation. Each human being has a
predisposition for this malformation of the personality, albeit to varying
degrees, although it is normally overcome by rearing and self-rearing, which
are amenable to correct thinking and emotional self-discipline.
During “happy times” of peace dependent upon social injustice, children of
the privileged classes learn to repress from their field of consciousness
the uncomfortable ideas suggesting that they and their parents are
benefitting from injustice against others. Such young people learn to
disqualify disparage the moral and mental values of anyone whose work they
are using to over-advantage.
Young minds thus ingest habits of subconscious
selection and substitution of data, which leads to a hysterical conversion
economy of reasoning. They grow up to be somewhat hysterical adults who, by
means of the ways adduced above, thereupon transmit their hysteria to the
next generation, which then develops these characteristics to an even
greater degree. The hysterical patterns for experience and behavior grow and
spread downwards from the privileged classes until crossing the boundary of
the first criterion of ponerology: the atrophy of natural critical faculties
with respect to pathological individuals.
When the habits of subconscious selection and substitution of thought-data
spread to the macrosocial level, a society tends to develop contempt for
factual criticism and to humiliate anyone sounding an alarm. Contempt is
also shown for other nations which have maintained normal thought-patterns
and for their opinions. Egotistic thought-terrorization is accomplished by
the society itself and its processes of conversive thinking. This obviates
the need for censorship of the press, theater, or broadcasting, as a
pathologically hypersensitive censor lives within the citizens themselves.
When three “egos” govern, egoism, egotism, and egocentrism, the feeling of
social links and responsibility toward others disappear, and the society in
question splinters into groups ever more hostile to each other. When a
hysterical environment stops differentiating the opinions of limited,
not-quite-normal people from those of normal, reasonable persons, this opens
the door for activation of the pathological factors of a various nature to
Individuals we have already met who are governed by a pathological view of
reality and abnormal goals caused by their different nature are able to
develop their activities in such conditions. If a given society does not
manage to overcome the state of hysterization under its ethnological and
political circumstances, a huge bloody tragedy can be the result.
One variation of such a tragedy can be pathocracy. Thus, minor setbacks in
terms of political failure or military defeat can be a warning in such a
situation and may turn out to be a blessing in disguise if properly
understood and allowed to become a factor in the regeneration of a society’s
normal thought patterns and customs. The most valuable advice a ponerologist
can offer under such circumstances is for a society to avail itself of the
assistance of modern science, taking particular advantage of data remaining
from the last great increase of hysteria in Europe.
A greater resistance to hysterization characterizes those social groups
which earn their daily bread by daily effort, and where the practicalities
of everyday life force the mind to think soberly and reflect on
generalities. As an example: peasants continue to view the hysterical
customs of the well-to-do classes through their own earthy perception of
psychological reality and their sense of humor.
Similar customs on the part of the bourgeoisie
incline workers to bitter criticism and revolutionary anger. Whether couched
in economic, ideological, or political terms, the criticism and demands of
these social groups always contain a component of psychological, moral, and
anti-hysterical motivation. For this reason, it is most appropriate to
consider these demands with deliberation and take these classes’ feelings
On the other hand, tragic results can derive
from thoughtless action paving the way for spellbinders to make themselves
Ponerology utilizes the scientific progress of the last decades and last
years, especially in the realms of biology, psychopathology and clinical
psychology. It clarifies unknown causative links and analyzes the processes
of the genesis of evil without giving a short shrift to factors which have
so far been underrated. In initiating this new discipline, the author has
also utilized his professional experience in these areas and the results of
his own recent research.
A ponerological approach facilitates an understanding of some of mankind’s
more dramatic difficulties on both levels, the macrosocial and the
individual human scale. This new discipline will make it possible to achieve
first theoretical, and then practical, solutions for problems we have been
attempting to solve by ineffective traditional means, resulting in feelings
of helplessness against the tides of history.
These latter means are based on
historiographical concepts and excessively moralizing attitudes, which makes
them overrate force as a means of counteracting evil. Ponerology can help
equalize such one-sidedness by means of modern naturalistic thinking,
supplementing our comprehension of the causes and genesis of evil with the
facts necessary to build a more stable foundation for practical inhibition
of the processes of ponerogenesis and counteraction of their results.
Synergetic activity of several measures aimed at the same valuable goal,
e.g. such as treating a sick person, usually produces better effects than
the mere sum of the factors involved. In building a second wing for the
activities of moralistic efforts to date, ponerology will make it possible
to achieve results which are also better than the sum of their useful
effects. By reinforcing trust in familiar moral values, it will make it
possible to answer many heretofore unanswerable questions and utilize means
not used thus far, especially on a larger social scale.
Societies have a right to defend themselves against any evil harassing or
threatening them. National governments are obligated to use effective means
for this purpose, and to use them as skillfully as possible.88
In order to discharge this essential function, nations obviously utilize the
information available at the time in that given civilization relating to the
nature and genesis of evil, as well as whatever means they can muster.
Society’s survival must be protected, but abuse of power and sadistic
degenerations come about all too easily.
88 Unless, of
course, the government itself is the evil that threatens and harasses the
people. [Editor’s note.]
We now have rational and moral doubts about prior generations’ comprehension
and counteraction of evil. Simple observation of history justifies this. The
general developing opinion in free societies requires that evil repressing
measures be humanized and limited so as to set boundaries to possible abuse.
This seems to be due to the fact that morally sensitive individuals want to
protect their personalities and those of their children from the destructive
influence conveyed by the awareness that severe punishment, especially
capital punishment, is still being meted out.
And so it is that the methods of counteracting evil are being mitigated in
their severity, but at the same time effective methods to protect the
citizenry against the birth of evil and force are not indicated. This
creates an ever-widening gap between the need for counteraction and the
means at our disposal; as a result, many kinds of evil can develop at every
social scale. Under such circumstances, it may be understandable that some
voices clamor for a return to the old-fashioned, iron-fisted methods so
inimical to the development of human thought.
Ponerology studies the nature of evil and the complex processes of its
genesis, thereby opening new ways for counteracting it. It points out that
evil has certain weaknesses in its structure and genesis which can be
exploited to inhibit its development as well as to quickly eliminate the
fruits of such development. If the ponerogenic activity of pathological
factors -deviant individuals and their activities - is subjected to
conscious controls of a scientific, individual, and societal nature, we can
counteract evil as effectively as by means of persistent calls to respect
The ancient method and this completely new one
can thus combine to produce results more favorable than an arithmetic sum of
the two. Ponerology also leads to the possibilities of prophylactic behavior
at the levels of individual, societal, and macrosocial evil. This new
approach ought to enable societies to feel safe again, both at the internal
level and on the scale of international threats.
Methods of counteracting evil which are conditioned upon causation,
supported by ever-increasing scientific progress, will of course be much
more complex, just as the nature and genesis of evil are complex. Any
allegedly fair relationship between a person’s crime and the punishment
meted out is a survival of archaic thinking, something ever more difficult
That is why our times demand that we further develop the
discipline initiated herein and undertake detailed research, especially as
regards the nature of many pathological factors which take part in ponerogenesis.
An appropriately ponerological reading of
history is an essential condition for understanding macrosocial ponerogenic
phenomena whose duration exceeds the observation possibilities of a single
person. The author utilized this method in the following chapter,
reconstructing the phase wherein characteropathic factors dominated in the
initial period of the creation of pathocracy.
In teaching us about the causes and genesis of evil, ponerology barely
addresses human guilt. Thus, it does not solve the perennial problem of
human responsibility, although it does shed additional light from the side
of causation. We become aware of just how little we understand in this area,
and how much remains to be researched, while attempting to correct our
comprehension of the complex causation of phenomena and acknowledging
greater individual dependence upon the operation of outside factors. At that
point, any moral judgment about another person or his blame-worthiness may
strike us as based mostly upon emotional responses and centuries-old
We have the right and duty to critically judge our own behavior and the
moral value of our motivations. This is conditioned by our conscience, a
phenomenon as ubiquitous as it is incomprehensible within the boundaries of
naturalistic thinking. Even if armed with all the present and future
accomplishments of ponerology, will we ever be in a position to abstract and
evaluate the individual blame of another person? In terms of theory, this
appears ever more doubtful; in terms of practice, ever more unnecessary.
If we consistently abstain from moral judgments of other people, we transfer
our attention to tracking the causative processes that are responsible for
conditioning the behavior of another person or society. This improves our
prospects for proper mental hygiene and our capacity to apprehend
psychological reality. Such restraint also enables us to avoid an error
which poisons minds and souls all too effectively, namely superimposing a
moralizing interpretation upon the activity of pathological factors. We also
avoid emotional entanglements and better control our own egotism and
egocentrism, thus facilitating objective analysis of phenomena.
If such an attitude strikes some readers as being close to moral
indifference, we should reiterate that the here-adduced method of analyzing
evil and its genesis gives rise to a new type of reasoned distance from its
temptations, as well as activating additional theoretical and practical
possibilities for counter-acting it.
Also, we should give thought to the astonishing
and obvious convergence between the conclusions we can derive from this
analysis of the phenomena and certain ideas from ancient philosophies, well
stated in the Christian Bible:
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with
what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye
mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
These values, unfortunately often overshadowed
by a government’s immediate needs, as well as the activity of our
instinctive and emotional reflexes goading us to revenge and punishment of
others, find at least partial rational justification in this new science.
Practicing such rigorous understanding and behavior can only confirm these
values in a more evident and scientific manner.
This new discipline can be applicable to many walks of life. The author has
utilized these accomplishments and tested their practical value in the
course of individual psychotherapy upon his patients. As a result, their
personality and future were rearranged in a manner more favorable than if it
were based on earlier skills.
Bearing in mind the exceptional nature of our
times, when multi-faceted mobilization of moral and mental values must be
effected to counteract the evil threatening the world, in the coming
chapters, the author shall suggest the adoption of just such an attitude,
whose end result ought be an act of forgiveness heretofore unheard of in
Keep in mind also that understanding and
forgiveness does not exclude correction of conditions and taking
Disentangling the Gordian Knot of present times, composed of the macrosocial
pathological phenomenon threatening our future, may appear impossible
without the development and utilization of this new discipline. This knot
can no longer be cut with a sword. A psychologist cannot afford to be as
impatient as Alexander the Great. That is why we have here described it
within the indispensable scope, adaptation, and selection of data, so as to
enable clarification of the problems to be discussed later in the book.
Perhaps the future will make it possible to
elaborate a general theoretical work.