The Perceptual Trick That Manufactures Devils

Kenneth Copeland. (Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

This is an excerpt from The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History by Howard Bloom (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997). Reprinted by permission from the author.

The Perceptual Trick That Manufactures Devils

Perception is a highly selective process. We see and vividly remember some things that pass before our eyes. We ignore many others. And still others we work to actively deny. What happens to those realities that consciousness shuns? They become part of the process that makes the notion of an enemy click.

We struggle for position on the hierarchical ladder, trying to get as close to the top as we possibly can. Very few of us arrive there. When the wriggling and kicking is over, most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle. We are excluded from the realm of the beautiful people, barred from the inmost circles of power and prestige, and never quite reach the Utopias of love and fame toward which our fantasies beckon us.

How do we live with the daily humiliations built into our middling roles? The mind is replete with gentle anesthetics that soothe these pains. The greatest among them is a perceptual process of cosmetic surgery. The mind covers up the harsher facts of our existence, and it focuses our attention on those few things that can give us self-esteem.

From 1972 until 1977, University of Utah psychologist Marigold Linton kept detailed, daily records of every aspect of her life. Periodically, she reviewed those records to see what she could remember and what she had forgotten. The review was a painful experience. Linton “warmed up” for each of these sessions by trying to recall the events of the last year without her notes. What came to mind were the high points—the good times with her friends, the research successes, the new things she’d been able to buy. But examining her three-by-five cards brought back a welter of details her mind had thoughtfully buried: the helpless feeling when her car had broken down and there had been no one to help; the fight she’d had with a lover; the feeling of dejection when a professional journal had turned down one of her papers.[150]

Linton is not alone. The mind also rewrites reality for you and me. Elizabeth Loftus, the pioneering University of Washington memory researcher and author of the superb book Memory, points out that people remember themselves as much harder workers than office attendance records show they actually have been. They recall past salaries as being much higher than their old paycheck stubs indicate. They recollect buying fewer alcoholic drinks than they actually did and are certain that they gave much more to charity than they ever have. They remember, in short, the glory, the positive accomplishments. What’s more, they exaggerate those triumphs. But their minds erase the tiny, daily shames—the manifold humiliations of which life below the top of the hierarchical ladder consists. Instead, says Loftus, the mind erects a comfortingly false picture of the self and of the past.[151]

Where do the ugly events and the aspects of ourselves we need to forget go? We imagine them as parts of our enemy. When World War II was at its peak, the American Jewish Committee commissioned a psychological research project to determine the causes of the fascist horrors. Under this program, a team of behavioral scientists at the University of California at Berkeley developed a test to probe for the kind of tendencies that may have helped a Hitler or Mussolini gain power. That test, called the F (for fascism) scale, became one of the most widely used research tools in the history of modern psychology.

Literally thousands of studies revealed a profile of what the researchers called “the authoritarian personality.” Generally, this was an individual raised in a strict home where the father was the clear holder of power. The parents had shown a stern disapproval of hostile outbursts on the part of their children. They had also rigidly prohibited the acknowledgment of any form of sexuality.[152]

But hostility and sexuality are both unavoidable aspects of human life. How had the authoritarian personalities coped with their unwelcome aggressive and sexual impulses? Through a technique that Freudians call projection. Like researcher Marigold Linton, who forgot most of the distressing things that happened to her in everyday life, the authoritarian personalities excluded their own aggression and sexuality from their consciousness. Like the subjects who had misremembered their own past pay and work habits, the authoritarian types pictured themselves as people in whom sexual and aggressive tendencies did not exist. Aggression and sexuality, they were convinced, boiled up only in the minds of some enemy.

And here’s the real trick. The authoritarians thought frequently of that enemy and his loathsome preoccupation with lechery and hate. They could actually feel the smarmy sexual sensations and livid hostility that coursed through their enemies’ veins. Why could they sense this so vividly? Because they had projected their own set of forbidden emotions onto a faceless opponent like a ventriloquist projecting his voice into the mouth of a dummy. By seeing their unacceptable impulses in some unsuspecting outsider, they managed to dwell on those impulses and deny them at the same time!

Here’s how the principle works in real life. During the early eighties, a group of women in Orange County, California, were convinced that the dark forces of “secular humanism” were using elementary school textbooks to destroy their children’s minds. The women’s group was certain that the godless foes of true religion were trying to swamp their youngsters with brain-crippling pornography. To find out if their suspicions were true, the women’s group members examined the illustrations in the local school’s textbooks through a microscope. Sure enough, they discovered minuscule pictures hidden subliminally on the pages. These microscopic images portrayed women with naked, nippled breasts and men with enormous erections. The outraged mothers actually succeeded in getting some of the textbook illustrations changed on the basis of their “discovery.”

But where, in reality, did the pictures of the naked men and women exist? Not in the printed pages, but in the minds of the women peering through the microscopes. Like Marigold Linton, the psychologist who “forgot” the events in her own life that had humiliated her, the microscope-wielding religionists threw a mental sheet over their sexual impulses, hiding them from view. Then they conceived an enemy—the secular humanist—roiling with forbidden sexuality and working in devious ways to insert sex into their innocent children’s lives. The only way to prevent this intrusion was to be eternally vigilant, perpetually on the lookout for the humanists’ sexual invasion. By searching for the humanist danger, the clubwomen of Orange County managed to keep their thoughts focused on sex, but this sexual obsession, they could now tell themselves, was not their fault. It was the fault of their sex-crazed enemy, without whom sexuality would never have crossed their minds. Of such rejected pieces of ourselves are our devils made.

The perceptual flimflam practiced by the Orange County women contributed mightily to a war between two subcultures. The concept of a secular humanist enemy undermining American youth is currently preached by television and radio evangelists on the national Christian Broadcasting Network, on the nation’s 221 fundamentalist TV stations, and on 1,370 fundamentalist radio stations.[153] It has been aggressively promoted by figures like Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, and the Reverend Donald Wildmon, who among them have had annual access to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of media time. And it is being bolstered by a series of multimillion-dollar mailing campaigns whose sophistication makes the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes look amateurish by comparison.[154] The prophets of religious rigidity have made full use of the psychological ploy with which we project our own worst tendencies onto some distant figure. According to fundamentalist leaders, the secular humanists are a massive, well-organized “religious’’ group that has taken over our radio stations, our television networks, our newspapers, and our schools. These diabolical subversives have allegedly turned everything from television sitcoms to classroom syllabi into anti-Christian weapons designed to enslave the minds of decent American children to a godless, immoral creed.

Like Orville Faubus and Fidel Castro, the fundamentalists have used a spectral enemy to forge a flock that is hungry for power. Some fundamentalist leaders declare that God has made a covenant with his true followers. According to that covenant, the Almighty will deliver the political power of the presidency and the congress into the hands of his believers.[155] Other fundamentalist power brokers declare that this is a Christian country, erected on Christian principles by Christian founding fathers. As such, the government of our Constitution is designed to be placed in Christian control. Non-Christians should be excluded, some of these leaders say, from running for public office. After all, non-Christians, in Pat Robertson’s words, are “termites” undermining the foundations of this country.

And who are non-Christians? Nonfundamentalists. According to Jimmy Swaggart, for example, Catholics and traditional Protestants are not Christians but the mistaken followers of a “monstrous lie.” Some fundamentalist leaders are more blunt. Catholics, traditional Protestants, followers of EST, dabblers in Buddhism, New Age fans, and others, they say, are followers of Satan.[156] In the name of God, power must be wrested from the grip of the Satanists and placed in the palms of the godly.[157]

A simple perceptual device designed to anesthetize us from the nastier aspects of our inner reality has given the fundamentalist movement much of its power. From the sexuality their followers reject within themselves, the leaders have conjured up the lechery of a satanic enemy. From the hostility the faithful hide from themselves, the leaders have built a fantasy of an adversary obsessed with violence. They have crafted the indispensable tool that pulls together a superorganism. With the illusion of that demon, they have relieved the women of Orange County of their sins and welded them into a political force.

Excerpted from The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom. Copyright © Howard Bloom, 1997. All rights reserved.

[150] Elizabeth Loftus, Memory (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1980), 122–23.

[151] Loftus, Memory, 135–44.

[152] Donn Byrne, An Introduction to Personality (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 239–83; and Bob Altemever, “Marching in Step: A Psychological Explanation of State Terror,” The Sciences, March/April 1988, 30.

[153] Figures from a presentation by Skipp Porteous, former fundamentalist minister and publisher of the newsletter Freedom Writer. Porteous, an authority on the religious right, delivered his presentation at a panel on censorship organized by the author. According to Antony Thomas’s documentary Thy Kingdom Come, fundamentalist ministers claim to reach a daily TV and radio audience of forty million (Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done [London: Central Television Enterprises, 1987]).

[154] For details on the computerized mailing organization that helps the fundamentalists and their political allies send out a staggering seventy-five million mailing pieces per year, see Antony Thomas’s documentary film Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done.

[155] The leading proponents of a total fundamentalist government takeover are the preachers of Dominion Theology and Christian Reconstructionism. For a profile of these men and their movements, see the television documentary Mayers: God & Politics The Battle for the Bible, prod. Gail Pellett, 16 December 1987 (New York: Public Affairs Television).

[156] Jimmy Swaggart, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Music in the Church,” The Evangelist, January 1987, 8; Year of Action (Lakemont, N.Y.: Freedom Village [a fundamentalist organization] 1985); Jimmy Swaggart, A Letter to My Catholic Friends, cited in “TV Evangelist Denies Charges by Mondale,” New York Times, 26 September 1984; Kenneth L. Woodward with Vincent Coppola, “King of Honky-Tonk Heaven,” Newsweek, 30 May 1983, 89–90; and “Jerry Falwell; Circuit Rider to Controversy,” U.S. News and World Report, 2 September 1985, 11.

[157] Michael Kramer, “Are You Running with Me Jesus? Televangelist Pat Robertson Goes for the White House,” New York magazine, 18 August 1986, 24; and Tim LaHaye, Has the Church Been Deceived? (Washington, D.C.: American Coalition for Traditional Values). For additional information, see the congregational bulletins of grassroots figures like the Reverend Paul McGechie of Goshen, Indiana, and the American Family Association’s AFA Journal. These were collected in the files of Music in Action, an anticensorship group of which the author was a co-founder.

Howard Bloom has been called “next in a lineage of seminal thinkers that includes Newton, Darwin, Einstein, [and] Freud” by Britain’s Channel4 TV, “the next Stephen Hawking” by Gear Magazine, and “The Buckminster Fuller and Arthur C. Clarke of the new millennium” by Buckminster Fuller’s archivist. Bloom is the author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History (“mesmerizing” – The Washington Post), Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (“reassuring and sobering” – The New Yorker), The Genius of the Beast: A Radical Re-Vision of Capitalism (“Impressive, stimulating, and tremendously enjoyable.” James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic), The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Creates (“Bloom’s argument will rock your world.” Barbara Ehrenreich), How I Accidentally Started the Sixties (“a monumental, epic, glorious literary achievement.” Timothy Leary), and The Muhammad Code: How a Desert Prophet Gave You ISIS, al Qaeda, and Boko Haram – or How Muhammad Invented Jihad (“a terrifying book… the best book I’ve read on Islam,” David Swindle, PJ Media).

Bloom explains that his field is “mass behaviour, from the mass behaviour of quarks to the mass behaviour of human beings.” That specialisation gives him a wide scope. His scientific work has been published in:, the leading pre-print site in advanced theoretical physics and mathematics; PhysicaPlus, another physics journal; Across Species Comparisons and Psychopathology; New Ideas in Psychology; The Journal of Space Philosophy; and in the book series: Research in Biopolitics. In 2005, Bloom lectured an international conference of quantum physicists in Moscow – Quantum Informatics 2006 – on why everything they know about Schrodinger’s Equation is wrong, and the concepts Bloom introduced were later used in a book proposing a new approach to quantum physics, Constructive Physics, by Moscow University’s Yuri Ozhigov.

Bloom’s second book Global Brain was the subject of an Office of the Secretary of Defense symposium in 2010, with participants from the State Department, the Energy Department, DARPA, IBM, and MIT. Bloom is founder and head of the Space Development Steering Committee, a group that includes astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Edgar Mitchell (the sixth man on the moon), and members from the National Science Foundation and NASA. He has debated one-on-one with senior officials from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Gaza’s Hamas on Iran’s global Arab-language Alalam TV News Network. He has also dissected headline issues on Saudi Arabia’s KSA2-TV and on Iran’s global English language Press-TV. And he has probed the untold story of the Syrian Civil War with Nancy Kissinger.

In addition, Bloom’s work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, Knight-Ridder Financial News Service, the Village Voice, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. He has appeared 199 times for up to five hours on 500 radio stations on the highest-rated overnight talk radio station in North America, Clear Channel’s Coast to Coast AM, discussing everything from the biome in the gut and the evolution of the stars to the mechanism of the Great Recession of 2008 and North Korea’s rocket programme.

Bloom has his own YouTube series, Howard the Humongous, which gets up to 790,000 views per installment. His website,, has had between four and five million hits. Follow him on Twitter at @HowardxBloom.

The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition into the Forces of History
By Howard Bloom
Atlantic Monthly Press (March 13, 1997)
ISBN-10: 0871136643
ISBN-13: 978-0871136640

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