I can now see in retrospect, how exploring the psychological dimension of the selection for power proved to be a first step on the way to what proved – decades later — to be my second Big Idea.
(I’ll characterize that second idea at this point simply by saying that it claims to illuminate a dynamic operating at the center of the human drama: an ongoing conflict between two coherent forces, one that works to make the human world more whole, and one that works to make it more broken.)
The Parable of the Tribes showed that one need not posit any original human brokenness to account for the brokenness permeating the evolution of civilization. (“Any creature, on any planet,” I declared earlier, would be condemned to plunge into a destructive social evolutionary process.)
But even if human brokenness was not the cause of that brokenness, surely it would be an inevitable consequence of such a social-evolutionary dynamic.
Surely, the human creature would be severely damaged by the traumas resulting both from the inevitable “war of all against all” and from having to live in those societies that survived because they could prevail under those anarchic conditions. (I.e. societies shaped, as they inevitably were, by the selection for the ways of power, shaped by the Spirit of the Gangster.)
The consequences of such trauma were what I explored in my second published book, Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War. (Bantam Books, 1988.)
(I was inspired in 1983 to inquire specifically into the kinds of brokenness that “drive us to war” because that was a time when the Cold War was again intensifying. Millions of people in nations around the world were alarmed by the possibilities of civilization’s self-destructing, as the two nuclear superpowers were again confronting each other in a bellicose way. Out of Weakness was the fruit of my sharing that concern.)
Out of Weakness sought to illuminate the psychological and spiritual Dimensions of “the Problem of Power” that had been laid out in Parable. I saw the two books as combining to create a kind of diorama that depicted the dilemma of the civilized creature, showing how the inevitable dynamics of destructiveness (P of T) would inevitably be compounded by the disordering of human consciousness under the impact of trauma (O of W).
That was the beginning of my tracing how brokenness begets brokenness: the brokenness of intersocietal disorder leading to the brokenness of war leading in turn to the brokenness of trauma, which is, by definition, experience which cannot be integrated into the mind and spirit of the traumatized human being.
And the human failure to integrate what is within us is one of the basic forms of “brokenness.”
Out of Weakness explored specifically those effects of traumas (made inevitable by “the parable of the tribes”) that, in turn, in a vicious cycle, have fed further the engines of war in the human system.
The Worship of Strength
In a world where power rules, it is terrifying to be weak, for the weak are disregarded and destroyed.
Hence the need of the traumatized to see themselves as mighty, and to compel others into the position of weakness. (Parts 1 and 2 of O of W: “Winning: The Worship of Strength” and “Winning: A World of Scarcity.”)
“In a benign world, our dreams may be of happiness and fulfillment. Life has positive possibilities. But in a dangerous world, the avoidance of pain and terror assumes priority. The crueler the world, the more our most cherished dream will be a way to avoid the nightmare.
“The worship of strength reflects this aspiration. Strength is a shield against victimization. Weakness is intolerable because it puts one at the mercy of other forces…
“Since the beginning of civilization, people have lived in fear, knowing that the blow might fall on them.” (O of W, p. 42)
The Projection of “Evil”
“In societies whose evolution has been dictated largely by forces indifferent to human needs, some of the cultural demands people are compelled to internalize will that teach that their inborn nature must be suppressed, is evil.
“To separate ourselves from the agony of the inner war we internalize, we separate ourselves from our own ‘evil’ by discovering it instead out there, in those on the other side of the boundary.” (From Part 3: “Boundaries: The Dirty Business of Cleaning House.”)
“The sources of power lie in all dimensions of culture: in technology, in political organization, in economic productivity—and in the psychological structure of its members… Because of human malleability, we can be bent to fit into the machinery of power.
“Regrettably, the inner peace of civilized human beings can be incompatible with the survival of their societies struggling in the toils of intersocietal anarchy. For the demands of power are often opposed to the needs of the human organism. The more intense the struggle for power, the more fiercely will the demands of society make war upon the natural inclinations of the human animal. Internalizing these demands, which are the fruits of the war outside, thus exacerbates, if it does not entirely engender, the war within the human psyche.
(The conflict between the inborn needs and the internalized demands impairs the ability of human consciousness to achieve the Wholeness of Integrity.)
“The greater the gap between the internalized social demands and human nature, the more painful will be the intrapsychic conflict. We are more likely to be taught to regard our natural desires as evil; the warring parts within us will be less reconcilable. To deliver ourselves from the pain of that intrapsychic conflict, to experience ourselves as more whole and harmonious within, we will be tempted to deny our evil. But since the sense of evil does not simply disappear, we will project our forbidden desires out into the world, and reconstrue the war inside us as a war out in the world.
“Thus does the anarchy in the world [i.e. the source of the reign of power described by “the parable of the tribes”] cycle conflict into and back out of the human organism.” (from Out of Weakness, pp. 18-19)
Dogma and the Need for Certainty
In a dangerous terrain, the more frightening it is to wander in it blind and disoriented. In a world where destruction lurks, therefore, fear drives people to believe their own “maps” infallible.
People’s denial of their real experience of confusion and uncertainty feeds back into the perilous engine of conflict as people, claiming to possess “God’s Truth,” zealously attack those whose differences in belief call into question their false certainties. (from Part 4: “God’s Truth.”)
“Out of Weakness describes, in other words, how traumatized people make war not only for the rational reasons of protecting their homelands, but also for the irrational and broken reasons of protecting beliefs about themselves that they inwardly and subconsciously know to be false.
“The denial of the realities of our experience—as weak, uncertain, tainted with “evil”—thus lays down the template for the rule of the lie. Trauma makes truth intolerable, incapable of being integrated. Once we lose the integrity of dealing with reality, the embrace of all kinds of falsehood becomes possible. It is for good reason that traditional Western religion has regarded as central to Satan’s identity that he is the Deceiver.”
“The history of civilization is darkened continually by insatiable lust for power, by narcissism, by false righteousness, by dogmatism. And these do not come out of nowhere, but are part of the pattern of brokenness whose main origin can be traced to the disorder that inevitably accompanied the breakthrough by an intelligent and creative animal out of the niche in which it evolved biologically into the apparent ‘freedom’ to invent its own way of life.
In other words, the nexus of causal connection — Disorder –> Anarchy –> War of All Against All –> Selection for the Ways of Power — imparted an Impetus of Brokenness into the human world which warped the human psyche (people’s motivations, beliefs, ways of thinking, etc.).
Brokenness– in contrast with the Wholeness that makes for life’s thriving, for human fulfillment, for peace, for integration of the human psyche.