Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History

Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History

by Howard Bloom, Howard Bloom


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The Lucifer Priciple is a revolutionary work that explores the intricate relationships among genetics, human behavior, and culture to put forth the thesis that “evil” is a by-product of nature’s strategies for creation and that it is woven into our most basic biological fabric.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780871136640
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 03/28/1997
Pages: 466
Sales rank: 308,834
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

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We do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing around us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life.

Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species

Mankind has always been cutting one another's throats. ... Do you not believe ... that hawks have always preyed upon pigeons? ... Then ... if hawks have always had the same nature, what reason can you give why mankind should change theirs?

Voltaire, Candide

In 1580, Michel de Montaigne, inspired by the discovery of New World tribes untouched by Europe's latest complexities, initiated the idea of the "noble savage." Nearly two hundred years later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau popularized the concept when he published four works proclaiming that man is born an innocent wonder, filled with love and generosity, but that a Luciferian force ensnares him: modern civilization. Rousseau claimed that without civilization, humans would never know hatred, prejudice, or cruelty.

Today, the Rousseauesque doctrine seems stronger than ever. Twentieth-century writers and scientists like Ashley Montagu, Claude Lévi-Strauss (who hailed Rousseau as the "father of anthropology"), Erich Jantsch, David Barash, Richard Leakey, and Susan Sontag have reworked the notion to condemn current industrial civilization. They have been joined by numerous feminist, environmentalist, and minority rights extremists. Even such august scientific bodies as the American Anthropological Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Peace and War Section of the American Sociological Association have joined the cause, absolving "natural man" of malevolence by endorsing "The Seville Statement," an international manifesto which declares that "violence is neither in our evolutionary legacy nor in our genes."

As a result, we are told almost daily that modern Western culture — with its consumerism, its capitalism, its violent television shows, its blood-soaked films, and its nature-mangling technologies — "programs" violence into the wide-eyed human mind. Our society is supposedly an incubator for everything that appalls us.

However, culture alone is not responsible for violence, cruelty, and war. Despite the Seville Statement's contentions, our biological legacy weaves evil into the substrate of even the most "unspoiled" society. What's more, organized battle is not restricted to humans. Ants make war and either massacre or enslave a rival swarm. Cichlid fish gang up and attack outsiders. Myxobacteria form "wolf packs" that corner and dismember prey. Groups of lizards pick on a formerly regal member of the clan who has become disfigured by the loss of his tail. Female bees chase an overage queen through the corridors of the hive and lunge, biting over and over until she is dead. And even rival "super coalitions" of a half-dozen male dolphins fight like street gangs, often inflicting serious injuries. Ants do not watch television. Fish seldom go to the movies. Myxobacteria, lizards, dolphins, and bees have not been "programmed" by Western culture.

A host of writers gained attention in the late eighties and early nineties with books that celebrated a return to a mothering earth. They felt that if we scraped away large-scale agriculture, internal-combustion engines, televisions, and air conditioners, nature would return to bless us with her primordial paradise.

Unfortunately, these authors held a distorted view of pre-industrial reality. A pride of lions at their ease enjoys the kind of nature the radical environmentalists dreamed about. You can see the smiles on lions' faces as they lick their paws and stretch out on the ground side by side, clearly pleased with the comfort of each other's warmth. You can see the benevolence with which a mother keeps a cub from playfully tearing her tailapart. She lifts her huge paw and gently shoves the infant aside when his nipping becomes too painful. But nature has given these lion mothers only one way of feeding their children: the hunt. This afternoon, these peaceful creatures will tear a gazelle limb from limb. The panicked beast will try frantically to avoid the felines closing in on her, but they will break her neck and drag her across the plain still alive and kicking. Her eyes will be open and aware as her flesh is gashed and torn.

Suppose for a minute that lions were suddenly stricken with guilt about their feeding habits and swore off meat. What would they accomplish? They would starve themselves and their children. For they have been given only one option: to kill. Killing is an invention not of man but of nature.

Nature's amusements are cruel. A female sea turtle crawls painfully up the beach of a tropical island, dragging her bulk across the sand. Slowly she digs a nest with her hind flippers and lays her eggs. From those eggs come a thousand tiny, irresistible babies, digging out of the sand, blinking at the light for the first time, rapidly gaining their orientation from a genetically preprogrammed internal compass, then taking their first walk, a race toward the sea. As the infants scoot awkwardly across the beach, propelling themselves with flippers built for an entirely different task, sea birds who have been waiting for this feast swoop down to enjoy meal after high-protein meal. Of a thousand hatchlings, perhaps three will make it to the safety of the ocean waves. The birds are not sadistic creatures whose instincts have been twisted by an overdose of television. They're merely engaged in the same effort as the baby turtles — the effort to survive.

Hegel, the nineteenth-century German philosopher, said that true tragedy occurs not when good battles evil, but when one good battles another. Nature has made that form of tragedy a basic law of her universe. She presents her children with a choice between death and death. She offers a carnivore the options of dying by starvation or killing for a meal.

Nature is like a sculptor continually improving upon her work, but to do it she chisels away at living flesh. What's worse, she has built her morally reprehensible modus operandi into our physiology. If you occasionally feel that you are of several minds on one subject, you are probably right. In reality, you have several brains. And those brains don't always agree. Dr. Paul D. MacLean was the researcher who first posited the concept of the "triune brain." According to MacLean, near the base of a human skull is the stem of the brain, poking up from the spinal column like the unadorned end of a walking stick. Sitting atop that rudimentary stump is a mass of cerebral tissue bequeathed us by our earliest totally land-dwelling ancestors, the reptiles. When these beasts turned their backs on the sea roughly three hundred million years ago and hobbled inland, their primary focus was simple survival. The new landlubbers needed to hunt, to find a mate, to carve out territory, and to fight in that territory's defense. The neural machinery they evolved took care of these elementary functions. MacLean calls it the "reptile brain." The reptile brain still sits inside our skull like the pit at the center of a peach. It is a vigorous participant in our mental affairs, pumping its primitive, instinctual orders to us at all hours of the day and night.

Eons after the first reptiles ambled away from the beach, their great-great-grandchildren many times removed evolved a few dramatic product improvements. These upgrades included fur, warm blood, the ability to nurture eggs inside their own bodies, and the portable supply of baby food we know as milk. The remodeled creatures were no longer reptiles. They had become mammals. Mammals' innovative features gave them the ability to leave the lush tropics and make their way into the chilly north. Their warm blood allowed them, in fact, to survive the rigors of an occasional ice age, but it exacted its costs. Warm blood demanded that mammal parents not simply lay an egg and wander off. It forced mammal mothers to brood over their children for weeks, months, or even years. And it required a tighter social organization to take care of these suckling clusters of mammal mothers and children.

All this demanded that a few additions be built onto the old reptilian brain. Nature complied by constructing an envelope of new neural tissue that surrounded the reptile brain like a peach's juicy fruit enveloping the pit. MacLean called the add-on the "mammalian brain." The mammalian brain guided play, maternal behavior, and a host of other emotions. It kept our furry ancestors knitted together in nurturing gangs.

Far down the winding path of time, a few of our hirsute progenitors tried something new. They stood on their hind legs, looked around them, and applied their minds and hands to the exploitation of the world. These were the early hominids. But protohuman aspirations were impractical without the construction of another brain accessory. Nature complied, wrapping a thin layer of fresh neural substance around the two old cortical standbys — the reptilian and mammalian brains. The new structure, stretched around the old ones like a peach's skin, was the neocortex — the primate brain. This primate brain, which includes the human brain, had awesome powers. It could envision the future. It could weigh a possible action and imagine the consequences. It could support the development of language, reason, and culture. But the neocortex had a drawback: it was merely a thin veneer over the two ancient brains. And those were as active as ever, measuring every bit of input from the eyes and ears, and issuing fresh orders. The thinking human, no matter how exalted his sentiments, was still listening to the voices of a demanding reptile and a chattering ancient mammal. Both were speaking to him from the depths of his own skull.

Richard Leakey, the eminent paleoanthropologist, says war didn't exist until men invented agriculture and began to acquire possessions. In the back of Leakey's mind, one might find a wistful prayer that agriculture would go away so we could rediscover peace. But Leakey is wrong. Violence is not a product of the digging stick and hoe.

In the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa live a people called the !Kung. The !Kung have no agriculture and very little technology. They live off the fruit and plants their women gather and the animals their men hunt. Their way of life is so simple that hordes of anthropologists have studied them, convinced that the !Kung live as our ancestors must have over ten thousand years ago, before the domestication of plants. In the early years of !Kung ethnography, anthropologists became wildly excited. These simple people had no violence, they said. Anthropology had discovered the key to human harmony — abolish the modern world, and return to hunting and gathering.

Richard Leakey used the !Kung as his model of paradisal pre-agriculturists. The !Kung way of life proved that without the plow, men would not have the sword. Yet later studies revealed a blunt and still-underpublicized fact. !Kung men solve the problem of adultery by murder. As a result, among the !Kung the homicide rate is higher than that in New York City.

!Kung violence takes place primarily between individuals. In both humans and animals, however, the greatest violence occurs not between individuals but between groups. It is most appalling in war.

Dian Fossey, who devoted nineteen years to living among and observing the mountain gorillas of central Africa's Virunga Mountains, felt these creatures were among the most peaceful on earth. Yet mountain gorillas become killers when their social groups come face-to-face. Clashes between social units, said Fossey, account for 62 percent of the wounds on gorillas. Seventy-four percent of the males Fossey observed carried the scars of battle, and 80 percent had canine teeth they'd lost or broken while trying to bite the opposition. Fossey actually recovered skulls with canine cusps still embedded in their crests.

One gorilla group will deliberately seek out another and provoke a conflict. The resulting battles between gorilla tribes are furious. One of the bands that Fossey followed was led by a powerful silverback, an enormous male who left a skirmish with his flesh so badly ripped that the head of an arm bone and numerous ligaments stuck out through the broken skin. The old ruling male, whom Fossey called Beethoven, had been supported in the fight by his son, Icarus. Icarus left the battle scene with eight massive wounds where the enemy had bitten him on the head and arms. The site where the conflict had raged was covered with blood, tufts of fur, broken saplings, and diarrhetic dung. Such is the price of prehuman war in the Virunga Mountains.

Gorillas are not the only subhumans to cluster in groups that set off to search for blood. By the early seventies, Jane Goodall had lived fourteen years among the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania's Gombe Reserve. She loved the chimps for their gentle ways, so different from the violence back home among humans. Yes, there were simian muggings, beatings, and rage, but the ultimate horror — war — was absent.

Goodall published a landmark book on chimpanzee behavior — In the Shadow of Man — a work that to some proved unequivocally that war was a human creation. After all, the creatures shown by genetic and immunological research to be our nearest cousins in the animal kingdom knew nothing of organized, wholesale violence. Then, three years after Goodall's book was printed, a series of incidents occurred that horrified her. The tribe of chimps Goodall had been watching became quite large. Food was harder to find. Quarrels broke out. To relieve the pressure, the unit finally split into two separate tribes. One band stayed in the old home territory. The other left to carve out a new life in the forest to the south.

At first, the two groups lived in relative peace. Then the males from the larger band began to make trips south to the patch of land occupied by the splinter unit. The marauders' purpose was simple: to harass and ultimately kill the separatists. They beat their former friends mercilessly, breaking bones, opening massive wounds, and leaving the resultant cripples to die a slow and lingering death. When the raids were over, five males and one elderly female had been murdered. The separatist group had been destroyed; and its sexually active females and part of its territory had been annexed by the males of the band from the home turf. Goodall had discovered war among the chimpanzees, a discovery she had hoped she would never make.

Years later, biological ecologist Michael Ghiglieri traveled to Uganda to see just how widespread chimpanzee warfare really is. He concluded that "the happy-go-lucky chimpanzee has turned out to be the most lethal ape — an organized, cooperative warrior."

So the tendency toward slaughter that manifested itself in the Chinese Cultural Revolution is not the product of agriculture, technology, television, or materialism. It is not an invention of either Western or Eastern civilization. It is not a uniquely human proclivity at all. It comes from something both sub- and superhuman, something we share with apes, fish, and ants — a brutality that speaks to us through the animals in our brain. If man has contributed anything of his own to the equation, it is this: He has learned to dream of peace. But to achieve that dream, he will have to overcome what nature has built into him.



The rivalry of women is visited upon their children to their third and fourth generation.

Gelett Burgess

Males play the greatest role in stirring up bloodbaths. They do most of the killing, and they also do most of the dying. This makes men sound pretty atrocious. And indeed they are. Males by far outdo females in aggression. Remove the testicles from a rooster, and it becomes a peace-loving bird. Sew the testes back into its stomach, and the masculine hormones once again flood the fowl's bloodstream. Now the recently mild-mannered chicken struts off to start a fight.

It's not surprising when pundits declare that if only we had female leaders, war and international aggression would rapidly disappear. Many people are convinced that females are inherently peaceful. Okay, so Margaret Thatcher, the female former prime minister of Britain, won the Falklands War, supplied the British military with nuclear submarines, and packed those subs with atomically tipped ballistic missiles. Indira Gandhi led a military campaign against Pakistan, jailed her opponents, and suspended civil liberties. And Peru's Shining Path guerrilla assassination squads were headed almost entirely by women. But surely these are just aberrations. Or are they? The evidence from the world of our closest relatives in the primate family indicates that the cheerfully idealistic picture of women is a self-delusion. Females, too, are victims of the Lucifer Principle.


Excerpted from "The Lucifer Principle"
by .
Copyright © 1995 Howard Bloom.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Who Is Lucifer?,
The Clint Eastwood Conundrum,
The Whole Is Bigger Than the Sum of Its Parts,
The Chinese Cultural Revolution,
Mother Nature, the Bloody Bitch,
Women — Not the Peaceful Creatures You Think,
Fighting for the Privilege to Procreate,
The Greed of Genes,
The Theory of Individual Selection and Its Flaws,
Isolation — the Ultimate Poison,
Even Heroes Are Insecure,
Loving the Child Within Is Not Enough,
Us versus Them,
The Value of Having an Enemy,
The Perceptual Trick That Manufactures Devils,
How Hatred Builds the Walls of Society's Bungalow,
From Genes to Memes,
The Nose of a Rat and the Human Mind — a Brief History of the Rise of Memes,
How Wrong Ideas Can Be Right,
The Village of the Sorcerers and the Riddle of Control,
The Modern Medical Shaman,
Control and the Urge to Pray,
Power and the Invisible World,
Einstein and the Eskimos,
The Connectionist Explanation of the Mass Mind's Dreams,
Society as a Neural Net,
The Expendability of Males,
How Men Are Society's Dice,
Is Pitching a Genetically Acquired Skill?,
Oliver Cromwell — the Rodent Instincts Don a Disguise,
The Invisible World as a Weapon,
The True Route to Utopia,
Why Men Embrace Ideas — and Why Ideas Embrace Men,
Righteous Indignation = Greed for Real Estate,
Poetry and the Lust for Power,
When Memes Collide — the Pecking Order of Nations,
Superior Chickens Make Friends,
Wordviews as the Welding Torch of the Hierarchical Chain,
The Barbarian Principle,
Are There Killer Cultures?,
Violence in South America and Africa,
The Importance of Hugging,
The Puzzle of Complacency,
Poverty with Prestige Is Better Than Affluent Disgrace,
Why Prosperity Will Not Bring Peace,
The Secret Meaning of "Freedom," "Peace," and "Justice",
The Victorian Decline and the Fall of America,
Scapegoats and Sexual Hysteria,
Laboratory Rats and the Oil Crisis,
Why Nations Pretend to Be Blind,
How the Pecking Order Reshapes the Mind,
Perceptual Shutdown and the Future of America,
The Myth of Stress,
Tennis Time and the Mental Clock,
The Lucifer Principle,

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Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book deeply explained the roots of human nature relating to war and social groups and their beleifs. The author cited scientific facts to back up ideas. He relates the human race very close to primates as well as comparing societies of today, to those of the past centuries.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read thousands of books and this, by far, is the most intelligent and enlightening book I've ever discovered. If the world seems confusing, profane and sometimes idiotic to you, maybe this book will put things in an understandable context. Carrol Quigley's 'Tragedy & Hope' is it's only peer. Also, it might be good to have first read the works of Erich Fromm and Richard Dawkins, especially considering author Bloom cites their work. Thank you Howard Bloom! -James Muller
Guest More than 1 year ago
Very intellectual and thorough approach into nature and history... I wish it could be mandatory in all high-schools, but would it be a little too intellectual for the american education system?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every chapter is filled with so many thoughts and ideas. What a different perspective on living and thinking. Thank-you Howard!!! The title, though shocking to some, should not be a deterrent
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this prior to 9/11. It was eerie, picking it up after. To understand what is happening in the world today, this is the book to read. It really is brilliant and original.
mikebridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the most poorly researched book I've ever read. A smart-aleck whiz-kid rock promoter takes a couple weeks to misread whole genres of science, then assembles a whiny diatribe against everything that bugs him. Each chapter is about 3 pages long and makes huge leaps of logic to connect completely unrelated ideas out of thin air, pretending that one proves the other. Good thing he has a massive ego, otherwise I'm sure he'd be utterly embarrassed. (I wonder if he still thinks Michael Jackson is the paradigmatic family man, 10 years after writing this?)If you'd rather get your science from scientists insteaf of grumpy ex-rock promoters, read Richard Dawkins, Richard Wright or Steven Pinker instead.
jcovington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thought provoking and fascinating. Howard Bloom's work is really unique. I like the way he explains and uses the concept of memes and, though he takes a lot of flak for it, I think he may be onto something with his ideas of group selection.
IreneF on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I expected to find this work fascinating, right up my alley, blah blah, etc. Instead, I was immediately put off by Bloom's self-aggrandization, and then bored by his essays. I couldn't get through the book. I've been reading and thinking about the biological bases of human behavior for a few decades, so I felt overcome by unoriginality.BTW, the folks at Wikipedia think that he wrote his own entry.David Sloan Wilson, in the foreward, says Bloom is "an intellectual, originally trained in science, who decided to avoid the limitations of an academic career...." In other words, he was a smart kid who dropped out of college, made a bunch of money (in PR), and became an autodidact (i.e. he educated himself by reading a lot). It shows. Some of his ideas are really pop science, and like many people who have a hard time dealing with the oft-times plodding nature of real science, he can't pick the conceptual wheat from the chaff. He likes the breadth of ideas, not the depth. (No Darwin he.)These drawbacks might be seen as assets to another reader, however. You just have to remember that these essays are highly speculative and deal with concepts that aren't exactly scientific.I have a lot of time on my hands. Maybe I'll give it another shot and revise my opinions.
SimaZhou on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
True - it is not deep in sources but it is a very good read with some interesting ideas in it. i would not pass it up - unless you are trying to use it as a source for a thesis paper. Other than that - have fun with it!
snarkhunt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is poorly researched, not very scientific and often inaccurate.However, it is very provocative. Sort of a deathmetal meets E! meets Dawkins.Great starter sort of book to get people to then read real books.
librarythingaliba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that I spent a good amount of time feeling like I'd read before, as it echos feelings and beliefs that I've developed independently. The first part of the book lays out some interesting theory about memes and the social organism and effectively maps the Darwinian struggle for survival to societies as a whole. The second half read as an impeachment of both Islamic and to a lesser degree American society, and while the events of 9/11/2001 certainly contribute an interesting light to the arguments they came off rather ethnocentric. I am excited to read his later works as the frontier he recommends for global unity (space) is likely replaced by the development of the internet and it's unifying forces. Definitely recommended!!
Smiler69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A friend of mine had read this book many years ago and when she described it to me, I thought it presented a combination of ingredients to keep me enthralled: history, biology, psychology, sociology, all tied together in terms easy to understand for a layperson like me. Very quickly it became evident that the research Bloom was quoting from had the sole purpose of backing up his own agenda, but curiosity kept me reading on to find out what foregone conclusion he was leading us to. After all, most everyone knows that research can be used to 'prove' just about anything, depending on the bias of the researchers and/or by the ability of the writer to quote facts out of context as suits his needs. I did not appreciate Bloom's almost exclusively American point of view, whether pro or con, and was especially offended to find that all this led to a condemnation of Islam and all who ascribe to that faith, including those with moderate or pro-Western philosophies. The culmination of all this, that the next frontiers to battle over will be interplanetary ones, made me think this man had probably watched too much Star Trek and X-Files. In fact, I believe that Bloom ever the PR man, had attempted to create his own self-propagating meme in the writing and publication of this book by appealing to his target audience's own fears and propensities for readily believing in conspiracy theories and other half-baked half-truths. I had been initially interested to read about the phenomena of memes, and now wonder whether Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene might satisfy my curiosity in a more substantial way or whether it was written with a similar lack of scruples and objectivity. One thing's for sure, I'll be reading reviews by those least satisfied with it first before deciding to spend any time or money on it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting theories bit we r not animal this author obviously wants people to worship satan he is taking dictators sides he is not a atheist hes a satanist who hates the usa no moral equivilent between us and terrorist mad me angry but i like reading all points of view
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dcshipman More than 1 year ago
This is a must have book if you're curious about human behavior/motivations and where they came from. This will not let you down, but be warned this isn't a book for the casual reader. This takes moderately deep thought.
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Excellent, thought provoking book, elucidating the theory that there are two forces in nature -- one constructive, the other destructive, the latter the stuff of this book. The author makes the point that creation of new things in nature, the cosmos, new countries, new ideas, and so forth, would not be feasible without the breakdown of that which comes before it. A compelling read -- one which I highly recommend!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
In this title, Bloom does what few are willing to do: take the great variety and depth of information about human nature so far aquired by civilization, and use it to form a solid thesis on why history has unfolded in the certain way that it has. Many facts that have been otherwise glazed over by modern culture are drawn together to form a convincing, and yes, frightening picture of where humanity has been and where it is going. Reading this book, becoming aware of the arguments and evidence it presents, is like waking up from a dream and finally grasping what the world is like; if not completely correct, then without a doubt on the right track. It is enjoyable, inspirational and informational. Please read this book, for your sake and mine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Lucifer Principle introduced the most believable concept of human nature I have ever heard. Well cited examples illustrated the theory of the superorganism and spawned ideas of my own. This is truly a book to study and contemplate over and over again.