The Preaching of the Antichrist

“The Preaching of the Antichrist” by Luca Signorelli
So far the only remotely in-depth and critical review of Political Ponerology I've found is this one, from the keyboard of Ramon Glazov, written in 2020: "(((Bearded schizoidal fanatics))): pathologising character in the Trump era." I haven't run across Glazov before, but according to his bio he has written for Jacobin.

Some of Glazov's criticisms are valid. Most are not. Some are not even criticisms but rather knee-jerk emotion expressed in a verbalistic form. It's not a particularly good or serious review, but it's all there is, and I'm feeling argumentative, so join me as we journey into the weeds. In this post I'll cover the first part of the review, which I'll respectfully call the ad hominem section. In the next I'll respond to his criticism of the actual book.

Right out of the gate, Glazov's tone is sarcastic — the type which assumes a familiarity of feeling with the reader, a shared eye-roll, as if to say, "WE know this guy is crazy — am I right? It goes without saying." Well, I'll have some sarcasm of my own along the way.
Suppose that, riding the tram, you meet an elderly gentleman who claims to have been a psychologist in the old country and wants to tell you about a startling new truth he has discovered about history and world politics.
Lobaczewki was a psychologist, but Glazov intends to plant the seeds of doubt as to his credibility at the outset. And his thesis wasn't so much startling and new as it was a commonsense observation based on what was then, and still is, pretty standard knowledge in psychopathology, coupled with his own personal experience and that of his professional colleagues. What was relatively new was to make the connection between certain forms of psychopathology and political totalitarianism. (He wasn't the first to do soor the last — but his writing is the most comprehensive on the subject.)
According to his theory, society is an organism that is forever at risk of infection by a certain sinister group of people.
Sounds about right to me, but to Glazov it's supposed to sound self-evidently ridiculous. Part of that comes down to his deliberate framing of these ideas in terms designed to make them seem self-evidently ridiculous. For instance, to call that segment of the human population who suffer from Cluster B personality disorders "a certain sinister group" is hardly what Lobaczewski intended. Here's Lobaczewski, in his own words:
In a civilization deficient in psychological knowledge, hyperactive individuals driven by an inner angst caused by a feeling of being different easily find a ready echo in other people's insufficiently developed consciousness. Such individuals dream of imposing their power and their different experiential manner upon their environment and their society. Unfortunately, in a psychologically ignorant society, their dreams to impose on societies their own, different way of experiencing and conceptualizing, and then, their power, still stand a chance of being accomplished. (p. 13)
We already know that every society contains a certain percentage of people carrying psychological deviations caused by various inherited or acquired factors which produce anomalies in feeling, thought, and character. Many such people attempt to impart meaning to their deviant lives by means of social hyperactivity. They create their own myths and overcompensatory ideologies and have the tendency to egotistically insinuate them to others. Their goals and ideas, which result from their deviant manner of experiencing, easily hook into minds in which the sense and understanding of psychological realities has already started to deteriorate. (pp. 57-58)
Glazov continues:
These people walk among us every day. They are hard to pick out from the normal population, but - make no mistake, he says - they are a 'foreign body' that contaminates and corrupts everything it touches.
Yes, they do. And yes, they are (in many cases). That should be self-evident at this point. Maybe Glazov just hasn't had any personal experience in this department. Or maybe there's another explanation...
They have deviant values and a parasitic way of life and are always acting in concert to spread poisonous ideologies, infiltrate the political system and lead nations to ruin.
Straw man. Lobaczewski doesn't claim "they" (as a monolithic group) "always" act to do so. He claims that criminal groups with political aspirations, in which personality disorders are much more common than among the general population, act in concert to infiltrate political systems and gain power, as the Bolsheviks did, and as the Nazis did. Poisonous ideologies are the means by which they do so, which again should be self-evident — that's the history of the twentieth century.
Your tram-mate sees your uneasy expression and reassures you that, of course, his diatribe isn't about Jews! He's referring to a different 'foreign body': people with personality disorders.
I'm afraid that "uneasy expression" probably isn't as common as Glazov thinks it would be, or his left-field assumption — more forced projection of his own anxieties and misgivings, it seems. But now we see why, perhaps, Glazov framed the argument such as he did: to make it adhere as closely as possible to an idea many will reject out of hand. "What Lobaczewski is really saying is..."
This minority, he claims, is the hidden power behind the most destructive regimes of the twentieth century. Because his psychological research threatens to unmask them, they have relentlessly persecuted him and destroyed his career. Like villains in an Assassin's Creed game, a secret 'Order' of personality-disordered 'pathocrats' has embedded its agents in countless institutions, ready to silence anyone who stumbles onto the truth. They can only be stopped if society becomes aware of them, bars them from positions of authority and takes eugenic measures to breed them out of the gene pool.
That would make a killer — and mostly true — movie. The security organs of the Nazi and Bolshevik states were stuffed to the brim with personality disorders. (Lobaczewski wasn't the only one to observe this.) They did conduct operations in foreign nations where they shadowed dissidents, and worse. And they did silence countless individuals who stumbled onto the truth — about a whole lot of things. The only thing Glazov really gets wrong here is the last bit. He implies that Lobaczewski was a eugenicist on the order of a Francis Galton or a Margaret Sanger. That's partially understandable, because he does use the phrase "natural eugenics" in the book (which in that context is a synonym for natural selection in the human sphere). But it's clear what he meant by that, because he says what he means: women should learn to avoid dangerous men, and people with dangerous personality disorders should be treated with compassionate care to mitigate the damage they do to loved ones and society at large.1 Scary!
Upon hearing all this, you might dismiss your companion as a crackpot and wish him good luck in making anyone listen to his genocidal fantasy.
Just Glazov, I'm afraid, whom, upon reading his review, you might dismiss as either having exceedingly poor reading comprehension, or not being honest about his intentions. Maybe the latter, because here he strays into what I can only call outright misrepresentation, and dare I say it, lying. Lobaczewski was explicitly against violence as a means of dealing with dangerous personality disorders — even the actually genocidal ones — which he makes abundantly clear in his book, and criticized the idea of eugenically eliminating all psychopaths as not only morally wrong, but also impossible.2 Which leads to this total misrepresentation:
Yet the views I've just described were those held by the late Polish psychologist Andrew (Andrzej) Łobaczewski, and in recent years they've been winning a surprisingly mainstream audience.
They may be the views of someone, but they weren't Lobaczewski's. What follows is a summary of some of the psychologists who have cited Lobaczewski in recent years:
In September 2019, The Conversation ran an article by Steve Taylor, a senior psychology lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, presenting Łobaczewski as a seminal mind whose theory of 'pathocracy' could help us understand the governments of Trump and Boris Johnson. Cautious to avoid crossing the line from insinuation to formal diagnosis, Taylor nonetheless suggested that 'the UK is closer to pathocracy than ever before.' Throughout the world, he warned, personality disordered individuals were seizing power and stacking cabinets with their own kind.

More publicity for Łobaczewski came from The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump (2017), a collection of essays by mental health professionals speculating about Trump's psychological state, which reached #4 on the New York Times Best Seller List for Non-Fiction. One contributor, Elizabeth Mika - who 'specializes in the assessment and counselling of gifted children and adults' - cites Łobaczewski as an expert source on 'pathocracies' without telling us much else about him. And his name turns up in another book on the same theme, Ian Hughes's Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personalities Are Destroying Democracy (2018). This work happens to be released by Zero Books and sports blurbs from Stephen Pinker, Jeffrey Sachs and former Irish president Mary McAleese. It introduces Łobaczewski as 'a Polish psychologist who lived through Poland's suffering under both Nazi and Soviet occupation' and again presents his theories uncritically. Hughes and Mika have gained repeat coverage from Salon, which has echoed them in promoting Łobaczewski's 'long-suppressed' magnum opus, Political Ponerology (2006), and its theory of 'pathocracy.'
If anything, this highlights one of the problems with the book and its thesis: it's very easy to simply use it to apply to any political leader or government you don't like. (Glazov makes this very point in the second half of his review.) In the U.S., for instance, the "Right" will call the leftists pathocrats, and the "Left" will call the conservatives pathocrats. Though that doesn't mean Lobaczewski was wrong. In fact, there's more than enough pathology to go around — though some may miss the mark by failing to see it in their own political camp, or emphasizing its presence in one when the other poses the greater danger at the moment. Or they may misapply Lobaczewski's ideas, like those who conclude that he is saying that all governments everywhere for all time are led by psychopaths.
Given that Łobaczewski is increasingly being invoked as a authority for explaining current political events, it should be worthwhile to examine who he was, what he believed and - most importantly - whether pathocracy has anything useful to tell us about Trump.

Information about Łobaczewski's career as a clinical psychologist in post-war Poland has proven extremely hard to find, and I haven't tracked down any independent sources beyond his own narratives. He is known only for one book, Political Ponerology.
By his own account he didn't hold any prestigious positions, and didn't practice psychology during his time in the U.S. He's known for one book — in English. He wrote three in Polish. His 1997 Polish book on psychotherapy (Chirurgia slowa) is cited here, for example. And here's another Polish psychologist, Marian Wasilewski, who knew Lobaczewski back in the 80s and conducted a radio interview on his behalf, which you can read here.
By his account, it was written in the 1980s after his defection to the United States and was repeatedly rejected by publishers, until an outfit called Red Pill Press (specialising, as its name suggests, in conspiracist literature) brought out an English edition in 2006. This is the text that Hughes and Mika draw on in their own writings, though it does not appear to have been peer-reviewed.
The horror!
In a late-life interview, Łobaczewski claimed that the original drafts of Political Ponerology were produced in collaboration with a group of clinicians from across Poland and Hungary who had decided to make a secret study of personality disorders, away from the eyes of Eastern Bloc officialdom.
Not quite. The clinicians allegedly shared research results. When the one who was supposed to synthesize them fell off the map, Lobaczewski decided to try to write up the results himself. The drafts were his own. He merely made use of existing research from the group that had operated in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Conveniently enough, he also claimed to be the lone survivor of this secret network, leaving no opportunity for anyone to corroborate (or refute) his story. We have to take his word that a couple of renowned Polish psychologists were involved, namely Stefan Blachowski and Kazimierz Dabrowski, neither of whom are alive to contradict him. With equal convenience, Łobaczewski stated that the original research papers had been destroyed to evade authorities and that Political Ponerology was rewritten entirely from his memory. We can't tell if Łobaczewski was really part of a clandestine research network - dating from the end of the Second World War to his defection to the West in the late 1970s - or if this is a complete fabrication.
Implicitly slamming conspiracy theories in one paragraph, only to propose a paranoid theory in the next. Solid.3 Though he is right: it is unfortunate that no one is around to corroborate aspects of Lobaczewski's story. (Yes, most of them would have been over 100 years old by the time the book was published, since they were of an older generation than Lobaczewski, but presumably some of them had children and grandchildren, who may have stories to tell.)
The story Łobaczewski offers his interviewer gets stranger and stranger. After incinerating the first set of research papers to throw off secret police, he claims to have written another copy and entrusted it to a tourist to be given to the Vatican - only to be 'betrayed' by the 'Roman Correspondent for Radio Free Europe.'
Perhaps Glazov is unaware what it was like to live under a "People's Democracy," but none of this sounds very strange. Lobaczewski only discovered the identity of his denouncer years later when he was able to read his file at the Institute of National Remembrance.
Even after finding sanctuary in the United States, he imagined himself under repeated 'persecution' by shadowy agents determined to suppress his book. To quote Political Ponerology itself: 'All the Red nodes and networks were mobilized to organize a counteraction against the information contained in this book being made publicly and widely available.'
"Imagined." Perhaps. Yet his story is plausible. The Polish security services did operate clandestinely in North America (and elsewhere). And here's another story to add to the heap of unverifiable secondhand accounts from people who are dead. Bill Tillier, a student of Kazimierz Dabrowski (whom Glazov mentioned above), wrote this recently in a Facebook post about Political Ponerology: "It is also interesting that Dabrowski told me that on his trip to New York in 1962, he was followed everywhere by two secret agents of the Polish government." Just another paranoid Polish physician? Or a fairly common occurrence?
The would-be persecutors he lists in the interview include not only the Polish State Security Service - operating abroad 'with the help of Jews' - but that avowedly anti-communist stalwart of US foreign policy, Zbiginiew Brzezinski. Łobaczewski apparently tried to interest him in his work. Brzezinski, we're told, 'strangled the matter, treacherously.'
That's not the whole story. He didn't just try to interest him. Brzezinski (allegedly) did show interest, promised to help get it published, then ghosted him.
Łobaczewski blames this on Brzezinski's membership in the Trilateral Commission, a supposed tentacle of the pathocratic 'Order.' (Given that this was the Reagan era, when the US establishment had a very favourable view of Polish émigrés, we have to wonder just how fishy Łobaczewski must've been to blow his chances with Brzezinski!)
Yes, because that must be the only plausible explanation.
In another part of the interview, Łobaczewski states that he was fired from one job in New York because a Polish book he owned 'about the history of the Jews, which was not anti-Semitic at all' caused him to be mistaken for a bigot. (Of course, 'the person who organized the entire plot was a communist.')
Doesn't sound that far-fetched, as plenty of dissident Jews, for instance, have experienced for themselves.
Grandiosely, Łobaczewski also compares his discoveries to those of Copernicus and speculates that a (likely mythical) Russian samizdat edition of his writings inspired Mikhail Gorbachev to dismantle the Soviet system.
Yes, this was unlikely. He recalls reading an account of Gorbachev's famous meeting with Pope John Paul II in which it seemed Gorbachev was alluding to Political Ponerology. Major newspaper accounts from the time, and the official transcript of their talk, don't contain anything to suggest that. We have a footnote about it on page 341 of the new edition.
All of this raises plenty of questions about Łobaczewski's own personality and whether he's the best person to be advising us about the menace of character pathology.
"Plenty of questions." In other words, he was slightly more conspiratorial in his later years than is conventionally accepted among polite society, and engaged in a bit of wishful thinking that his book (the product of much suffering, including torture) may have been more influential than it actually was at the time.

I never met Lobaczewski, but I know several who did, and they describe him as gentlemanly, courageous, and kindhearted — hardly the crackpot paranoiac Glazov would have you believe he was. I'll leave those who knew him with the final word for this piece, as a contrast to Glazov's speculative insinuations:
He was one of the kindest, gentlest humans we have ever encountered. Andrew was very tall — almost a giant of a man — and he so much enjoyed our garden, spending many pleasant hours walking about in the park searching for edible mushrooms that he would present as an offering for the evening meal during which he would tell us about his life as a young man and how much he loved the forest and mountains.

He was a very sad old man; courtly and gentle to the core. He had been tortured, and it showed.
Coming next: A Journey into the Disturbing, Bizarre, Monomaniacal World of Ponerology!

1 See pp. 28, 130, 131, 334, 359. For example, he wrote: "We should not fault anyone for having inherited some psychological anomalies from his parents any more than we fault someone in the case of physical or physiological anomalies such as Daltonism. (However, we deprive Daltonists, for example, of the right to pursue those professions where this deficit could cause an accident.) We should also stop blaming people who have succumbed to traumas and diseases, leaving brain tissue damage behind; those who have been subjected to inhumane methods of upbringing should not be considered sinners without taking the context into account, which is an approach the Catholic Church has been guilty of too frequently" (p. 313). The fascism is palpable, isn't it?

2 See Chapter 9 (particularly pp. 314, 316).

3 At least he doesn't go as far as some Amazon reviewers, who speculate that Lobaczewski never even existed.