Andrew Lobaczewski – Pioneer of Science
Science progresses by discovering new evidence that overturns our previously cherished views of reality. In the history of science, three figures stand out as having revolutionised our view of the world, and of ourselves. Nicolaus Copernicus recognised that the earth was not the centre of the universe, and that the earth orbited the sun, rather than the other way around. Charles Darwin showed that all life on earth, including humans, has descended from common ancestors, through the process of natural selection. Rather than being God’s central creation, Darwin showed that humanity is a late comer in life’s enormously complex journey, and emerged more by chance than by design. And Sigmund Freud, in The Interpretation of Dreams, described how human consciousness acts alongside, and in deference to, our unconscious mind. Far from being fully rational beings, cognisant of all our thoughts and feelings, Freud showed how our unconscious, acting on highly irrational laws, is the true driver of our thoughts and actions. Freud famously remarked that all of these great revolutions in the history of science have had one feature in common: they have all knocked us off one pedestal after another regarding our convictions about our own self-importance, and constitute the central narrative in science’s sermon of humility.
Another name is now destined to take its place alongside these great names of science as having revolutionised our view of reality. The name is that of Andrew Lobaczewski. Lobaczewski was a Polish psychiatrist who observed the changes in Polish society at first hand, as first Hitler’s Nazis, and then Stalin’s Bolsheviks, forced their violent ideologies upon Poland. What emerged from Lobaczewski’s work is a radically new theory of human nature, and a clear description of the origin and spread of evil.
The basic thesis of Lobaczewski’s theory is that humanity is divided into two distinct groups: those who have a normal psychology, who comprise around 95 percent of humanity; and those who have specific types of psychological deviations, who make up the remaining 5 percent. Lobaczewski was writing before the most recent advances in psychiatric science, but the psychological deviations he identified appear in contemporary psychiatric literature as paranoid personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, and psychopathy. Core to Lobaczewski’s explanation of the nature of evil is the thesis that the differences between these two groups are of sufficient order to justify the classification of the minority group as a more or less different type of human being.
A Different Type of Human Being
According to Lobaczewski, ‘each society on earth contains a certain percentage of individuals, a relatively small but active minority, who cannot be considered normal…. individuals that are statistically small in number, but whose quality of difference is such that it can affect hundreds, thousands, even millions of other human beings in negative ways.’
The assertion that the minority of people who have these specific types of psychological deviations constitute a separate type of human being rests on a recognition that both the form and the content of their emotion and cognition are radically, and perhaps inalterably, different from people with normal psychology. The difference in form is a rigidity of personality that is not observed among the normal majority. Those with these personality disorders have a fixed, intransigent pattern of thinking and behaviour that does not change across the lifespan. This pattern encompasses their entire system of perception, cognition and response. Unlike those with normal psychology, who can alter their patterns of thinking and behaving in response to their environment, those with these personality disorders are constitutionally incapable of altering their destructive personalities and behaviours.
The content of the thoughts and emotions of the minority also differs radically from those of the normal majority. Their fixed pathological worldviews are ones in which real equality with others is inconceivable; in which normal human relationships based on reciprocity are impossible; and in which normal human compassion is either easily overridden or entirely absent. As a result, when people with these disorders achieve positions of authority in families, in organisations, or in nations, the inevitable result is a culture of pathological control in which all actions are directed away from the common good towards the satisfaction of pathological need.
As Lobaczewski warned, our families, our organisations, and our societies are based on an insufficient psychological cognition of reality. As a result, our civilisation is insufficiently resistant to evil. The discovery that humanity comprises two distinct types of human being, and that one is an existential threat to the other, is a first crucial step in reducing the role of violence, greed and evil in our world. For that knowledge that can change the world, Lobaczewski’s name will take its place, alongside Copernicus, Darwin and Freud, as a giant of science and progress.