I spent a few years reading a lot of True Crime books, especially those by Ann Rule, a woman who knew and worked with Ted Bundy, and who discussed with him how the police were searching for a serial killer - who turned out to be Bundy. I was puzzled by first-degree murderers, and most especially by gruesome psychopathic serial killers, who made no sense at all to me and appeared to be closer to monsters than human beings.
What I found is what I will call, for want of a better word, a Story. But then, apparently, everything is a Story: they have a beginning, a middle, an end, and a meaning. But this particular Story about all serial killers goes like this: I am a malign, grandiose god without a conscience. Underneath all that grandiosity is an enormous amount of hate and envy, and a terrible insecurity and self-loathing and feelings of humiliation. Since I cannot handle what I am, I project my problems onto others, and murder them in hopes of removing those awful feelings I have and replacing them with feelings of power, domination and control. But not love, because those kinds of "people" are incapable of it.
Their attempts to fix themselves never work, no matter how many times they repeat them. That makes their Story a very bad one indeed. It reminds me of that half-joking definition of insanity: "Trying the same thing over and over even though it never works."
After thinking about this problem for a long time, I refined the Story to this: I am grandiose; you are devalued. I project my problems on you, scapegoat you, then human-sacrifice you.
That Story exists in every human being, in greater or lesser degree. It is a very bad Story, and one that I think is the cause of most of the problems in the world. Indeed, it's the best explanation I know of for human evil. In fact, the late psychiatrist M. Scott Peck called scapegoating, "The genesis of human evil."
Bits and pieces of that Story exist in various myths (when I use the word "myth" I don't mean "not true"; I mean "universally true"). The story of the Garden of Eden is one. Adam blames his problems on Eve, then Eve blames her problems on the serpent, which is a symbol of hate and envy.
That is a profound story. It impresses me immensely. Whoever wrote that story knew exactly what they were writing. How they knew, I don't have a clue. But they knew that envy leads to scapegoating. At first I thought the whole sequence was: envy and hate leads to scapegoating which leads to human sacrifice.
One of the clearest expression of that sequence I have encountered is in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It could be used as a textbook on psychopathology. Rand, who was an exceptionally disturbed woman, split her characters into her grandiose heroes and her devalued looters and parasites. All the world's problems (all evil, actually) are projected onto her looter/parasites, who are then scapegoated and human-sacrificed in a John Galtian orgy of destruction and death.
The book is actually the psychology of a serial killer mapped onto a novel. It is a microcosm (one person or one novel) used to explain a macrocosm (entire societies). From the novel I able to refine the sequence even further: Hubris (the old Greek name for grandiosity) leads people into splitting other people into all-good and all-bad. All evil is projected onto the all-bad, then they are scapegoated and human-sacrificed.
The all-bad, in addition to being devalued, is also seen as an exaggerated threat. It explains why in Atlas Shrugged her looters and parasites are devalued as "subhumans" living in a "hell," yet somehow they have gained control of the world. The word to describe this is "paranoia," a condition that Rand was diagnosed with.
So, after several years, I was able to refine the Story to this: the main problem of the human race, its worst sin and probably the only true crime that exists, because it is the basis of all others, is hubris.
Hubris, or what the Bible calls "pride," is the sin of Satan, who thought he could overthrow God and take his place. Underneath it lies envy and hate. In that hubris people split others into all-good and all-bad. Of course, to them, they are the good ones, and other people, the bad. Not just bad, but subhuman, even non-human. To maintain their "goodness," people must project their envy and hate -- what they call "evil" -- onto others, see them as an exaggerated threat, become paranoid about them, then scapegoat and human-sacrifice them.
The Aztecs, who used to human-sacrifice the tribes they conquered by the tens of thousands every year, were paranoid that if they did not do these things, the sun would stop in the sky.
A current movie that I have seen that illustrates human sacrifice is The Cabin in the Woods. In it, it turns out H.P. Lovecraft's Ancient Evil Gods really do exist, and if they are not fed the blood of five innocent teenagers every year they will awake and annihilate the human race. The same thing happens in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto - it takes blood to placate the gods.
Hubris on top, hate and envy underneath. Split everyone into grandiose and devalued, project evil onto others, scapegoat them...and then slaughter them. Then things will be "good" again.
However, the measure we use to judge others is the measure they use to judge us. Tit for tit. What we do to others they will do to us. If we tell them we can kill one million of them, they will return the favor. That's what revenge is.
This a good definition of mass hubris: people believing they are "a superior or master race." Necessarily it means those "outside" the race are non-human. That's been the history of the world: all tribes have called themselves "the People" or "the Human Beings." Those outside: non-People, non-Human Beings. And, to some, more than one million non-People aren't worth one People.
Hubris is bad enough for an individual. It's far, far worse when it afflicts entire societies. And it reaches its peak when people believe society and the State are the same thing. The word for that is "fascism": everything, as Mussolini said, inside the State, nothing outside. When that happens there will always be orgies of destruction. That was the history of the 20th century, which was the century of worship of the Idol of the State.
And idols, of course - like Moloch - are always hungry and always need human sacrifice.
When Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the Temple he also drove out those who sold pigeons for sacrifice to God. We may snigger at people who sacrificed birds, but it was a lot better than a thousand years before, when babies were rolled into the flame-filled stone belly of Moloch.
Europe after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the start of World War II in 1914, enjoyed a century of peace. Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, who has influenced me more than I can say, claimed that peace was due to two things: mature monarchies and mature Christianity.
But with the overthrow of the both of them in the early 20th Century we entered into the worship of the State, a worship that led to up to 200 million people being sacrificed in various wars. At least Lenin, Trotsky, Mao Tse-Tung, Stalin, and Hitler had the decency to be atheists.
Two thousand years ago we had it down to sacrificing birds. Two thousand years later we had retrogressed into sacrificing people by the hundreds of millions, not to a god but to the state.
Now, today, in the 21st Century, we've retrogressed even further, and are now at the point where some people conflate society, the State and God. In Jerry Falwell's mind, they are the same thing, which is why he once wrote an article: "God is pro-war." He had no idea what he was saying, or to where his beliefs will lead. He has forgotten the Commandment which reads, "You will not use God's name for vain causes." The State indeed is the vainest of causes.
I try to look for first causes, for the root of the problem. The beginning of the Story, as best as I can tell, is based on hate and envy and feelings of humiliation. But what is the end of the Story?
The Greeks saw it as hubris (grandiosity) to ate (a madness in which wrong appeared as right) to nemesis (destruction). The Bible claims, "Pride goes before a fall, and a haughty spirit before destruction."
That, in some form or another, will be the end of the story.