The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom

Tim Horan's paperback edition of 'The Lucifier Principle' by Howard Bloom.

My paperback copy of The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom is dog-eared and feral. This is appropriate for a book with a savage bite.

Respectable book reviews begin with a summary – what is this book about? – followed by an evaluation – is it worth reading? This is not a “respectable” book, so I will not adhere to a “proper” review format.

I can imagine Howard Bloom’s The Lucifer Principle ending friendships. I am curious to know how often this book was loaned to friends, only to have it returned through the bedroom window tied to a brick.

This is not a “respectable” book, so I will not adhere to a “proper” review format.

I recklessly suggested my wife read this infernal tome. Thankfully, The Lucifer Principle’s 500 provocative pages did not end our marriage. Anita was receptive to the concepts that form the foundation of the book after some traumatic experiences of her own. At the same time my wife walked away from a fundamentalist religion, she was subjected to relentless bullying from other women.

Her experiences seemed to confirm the book’s thesis that ‘evil’ and bad behavior are by-products of nature’s preference to use groups rather than individuals in the evolutionary struggle.

In other words, biology weaponizes condemnation and persecution of “the other” to strengthen the group.

The group uses violence, aggression, shunning, ridicule or bullying to target individuals (or other groups) who deviate from the group. Most individuals will not survive long without connection to the group’s dominant narrative.

Page from 'The Lucifer Principle' by Howard Bloom.
Behavior emerges from a system… which is spooky because examination of a system’s individual parts do not explain the whole.

In other words, biology weaponizes condemnation and persecution of “the other” to strengthen the group. All groups, cultures, or “superorganisms” possess an internal force or principle which appears to emerge from the component parts of the group.

Howard Bloom refers to this internal force as The Lucifer Principle. Its presence emerges from the relationships of individuals but does not depend on individuals. In fact, the system’s individual parts are “appallingly expendable”. This internal force or emergence is greater than the sum of a group’s parts, and often horrendous to comprehend.

This book provided me with a plausible explanation to a paradox. Why do most people seem reasonable when you spend individual time with them, yet often become raging assholes when they are in a group?

I recommend The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History to anyone who wants to test their bravery. This book challenges the comforting idea our culture is driven by the logic and rationality of individuals.

I would lend you my tattered copy, but you might hurl it at my head in disgust after the first couple of chapters.

4 Replies to “The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom”

  1. Excellent review Tim. It has been years since I read this book and although challenging at the time, it did help me come to a more realistic understanding of what drives human and group behaviour. It was an important milestone in my evolution to think independently and break free from the power of those who want to intimidate us. Thanks again for the recommendation. I would be keen to hear you expand on this book in a podcast and look forward to seeing more reviews from you.

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