Thursday, November 8, 2007

Evil is Malignant Narcissism

M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, suggests that truly evil people demonstrate "malignant narcissism", a term coined by Erich Fromm.

Interestingly, Peck says this narcissism is characterized by an "unsubmitted will". p. 78 He goes on...everyone who is mentally healthy submits themselves to something higher than themselves. Be it God, an ideal, truth, etc. The narcissist is consumed with his/her own image and his/her desires (specifically that they not be intruded upon).

"In Buber's word, the malignantly narcissistic insist upon 'affirmation independent of all findings'." p. 80 Peck distinguishes between sin "missing the mark" and evil, which the malignant narcissist demonstrates, which involves both a denial of any sin, cover-up, and/or blame-placing.

This kind of narcissist has an "unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and deperately trying to avoid that awareness." p. 76

Thus the attempts of the truly evil to get rid of the guilt instead of the sin.

Contrast this with psychopaths or sociopaths who don't seem to have a moral grid. They can commit an unspeakable act and not know either that they have done something wrong nor the harm that this action caused.

Tomorrow I'll probe into the problem of division of the conscience within organizations, and because the US gov't is itself a big organization will ask the question if the US demonstrates signs of malignant narcissism.


Liz said...

i know from personal experience that it is a lot harder to get comments on serious, in depth posts than on funny, random stories. people seem to like other people better when they are funny, imagine that. :) i'd like to encourage you to persevere, in spite of lack of commentary. i appreciate your insight, looking forward to the next part!

Michael said...

Reading this post only fuels further my desire to flee from my unacknowledged sense of my own evil nature. Just kidding. Interesting thought, though. How many people are truly evil in this world, according to Peck's definition, which seems pretty useful? Or is the point of the definition more to help people root out parts/hints of evil tendencies in their own lives? This one will stick with me.

Brent, I'm officially hooked on your blog.

-B.(rianna) said...

i'd like to speak to this idea of evil/narcissism...
if this definition of true evil is correct (i'll admit, it has a certain ring to it), then false repentance is natural and/or easiest for us (i know that's certainly the case for me)--i.e. as a form of pain relief and release of the conscience from guilt.
but, if that's true, how much MORE true it should be that true, grievous repentance over sin is not natural/easy for us.

benjy said...

Is evil synonymous with sinful?

I'll admit i have never read Peck. Don't know where he's coming from on this. To me, however, this is "a long run for a short slide," as they say in Texas.

What more does one need to know about evil other than it is anything that is contrary to what God says is right and good? I agree that everything contrary to this is "unsubmitted will." It's will unsubmitted to God.

Every time we do evil, or sin, it is an act of resistance to Him. We are all "truly evil" according to the Scriptures.

The narcissist, in my experience, is just not willing to accept this fact, despite ANY and ALL evidence to the contrary.

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