The problem of evil has had no shortage of takes from college students, philosophers, and theologians. Howard Bloom, one of America’s most original thinkers, explains the problem of evil and much more in The Lucifer Principle. Bloom’s hypothesis, painful though it may be for us to accept, is that creativity and innovation are driven by the evil impulse to take over foreign ands and to destroy your adversaries. Skins vs. Shirts. Us vs. Them. Sapiens.
Howard Bloom’s work has a devoted cult following, myself included, because his sentences are heavy thoughts with a breezy flow. His writing style takes some time to get used to.
Bloom recognizes that evil is within all of us, “We must build a picture of the human soul that works. Not a romantic vision that Nature will take us in her arms and save us from ourselves, but a recognition that the enemy is within us and that Nature has placed it there.”
“Superorganism, ideas, and the pecking order – these are the primary forces behind much of human creativity and earthly god. They are the holy trinity of the Lucifer Principle.”
Bloom believes each of us belong to a much larger superorganism, which he called the “global brain” in a book of the same title. Although we all see ourselves as special individuals, we often feel ourselves moved by forces we can’t fully explain, and one easy way of demonstrating this is by the self-censorship occurring today. “If you say that, they’ll come after you.”
Who is they? They is the hive mind. The collective consciousness.
- “You can put distance between yourself and the center of your nation or your family, but you can never totally cut your lines of connectivity. Even when we turn inward, an army of invisible others speaks through our thoughts, twists our emotions, and populates our privacy.”
- “Our institutional cruelty often pushes peculiar individuals to society’s outskirts and sometimes shoves them out entirely, while it squeezes the rest of us into a conscious or unwitting team. Conforming-enforcing packs of vicious children and adults gradually shape the social complexes we know as religion, science, corporations, ethnic groups, and even nations. The tools of our cohesion include ridicule, rejection, snobbery, self-righteousness, assault, torture, death by stoning, lethal injection, or the noose. A collective brain may sound warm and fuzzily New Age, but one force lashing it together is abuse.”
One could but need not read The Global Brain before diving into the Lucifer Principle.
The power of Bloom’s work is that he let’s you see into the future by explaining timeless principles of human nature and behavior. Published in 1995, Bloom’s best chapter is on memes.
- “Genes, says Dawkins, swam through the protoplasmic soup of earthly earth, nourishing themselves on organic sludge. Memes float through another kind of sea – a sea of human brains. Memes are ideas, the snatches of nothingness that leap from mind to mind. A melody wells up in the reveries of a solitary songwriter. It seizes the brain of a singer. Then it infects the consciousness of millions. That melody is a meme.”
A biologist by training, Bloom even compares the smells of rats to human memes:
- “How do rats know who’s kind and who’s not?…Each rat household has its own telltale odor.”
- “Early humans were stuck with the same problem. How do you tell who’s family and who’s not? How do you know who shares your genes? Like rats, primitive humans turned to external signs. Fortunately they didn’t rely on their noses. Instead, the inventive homo sapiens used ideas, manners, morals, and peculiarities for clothing. The Children of Israel were typical of the tribal nations of the time….Your god, your mannerism, and your ideas were the outward labels of your genetics.”
- [To the conformity enforcers out there: Neither Howard Bloom nor Mike Cernovich is comparing any people to rats. It was the scene of rats Bloom discusses, and memes or outward mannerisms are compared metaphorically as a scent.]
Memes began as patterns traced to specific genetic markets until, in Bloom’s telling, the Apostle Paul created cross-cultural memes.
- “Paul was one of the early innovators of a new concept: transferrable religion. He broke free of the old notion that a god was an emblem of tribal heritage and sliced the ties that bound divinity to genes.”
And now, “history is no longer the sole province of the gene. History is the environment of the meme.”
At the risk of making a review of Bloom’s book as long as the work itself, let’s end by saying you must read The Lucifer Principle in order to understand modern culture.
There is even a chapter on China’s cultural revolution. Does this sound familiar?
- “Mao took advantage of a simple peculiarity of human nature: the rebelliousness of adolescents.”
- “Students examined everything their teachers had written. In the subtlest turns of innocent phrasing, they uncovered signs of reactionary villainy.”
- “The Chinese Cultural Revolution was a microcosm of the forces that manipulate human history. It showed how insubstantial things we call ideas can trigger the loftiest idealism and the basest cruelty. And it demonstrated how under the urge to heroism and the commitment to the elevation of all mankind there often lies something truley grotesque – the impulse to destroy our fellow human beings.”
Highlighted quotes from the Lucifer Principle:
“Hard work and the pursuit of challenge have seldom been demonstrated to hurt us, but we can be damaged powerfully by the lack of control. And without striving to achieve, we cannot control our lives.”
“The Japanese know what we have forgotten: that work and challenge are the keys to a vigorous life. They have kept alive the essence of two American buzzwords that disappeared from our vocabulary in the early sixties: American ingenuity and American workmanship.”
“Our pains do not proceed from over-activity but from the loss of control and the feeling that we are allowing ourselves to be shuffled from the pecking order’s peak. The solution to our problem is not a good vacation. Our hope and our pleasure lie in rolling up our sleeves and going to work.”
“In a person with little to do, the mental clock slows down. In a person with a great deal to accomplish – or a person excited about what he’s doing – it speeds up.”
“For him, every micro-instant is filled with meaning. But for the person lying on a beach catching some rays, a whole morning can go by without a single meaningful moment.”
“The existence of the American frontier, he said, had invigorated the American mind. The possibility of unending resources just over the horizon had filled Americans with zest, imagination, and exuberance. We need a new horizon, a new sense of purpose, a new set of goals, a new frontier to move one against with might and majesty, with a sense of zest that makes life worth living, through the world in which we live.”
“Space is a common frontier although your own mind is an even greater one.”
Shawn Vint says
I read this book just recently and you’ve captured the essence of it exceptionally well. Good review.