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Leon Pomeroy Ph.D.

Killing Ego to Kill Evil

Beyond Ego and Evil

Norway was recently the scene of murderous evil when Anders Behring Breivik went on a rampage shooting 77 young people on an isolated vacation island. He was caught, diagnosed psychotic and judged legally insane. He appears to have suffered from a molecular brain disease plus a mind disease, where ego produced paranoid delusions and an obsessive anti-Muslim ideology. Together, these conditions produced the perfect storm empowering evil behaviors. Borrowing the analogy of the sail boat, his brain disease is "wind in the sail," while ego grips the "tiller" giving the boat direction. Is it possible that without ego Breivik might have sought help for the more easily treated "wind in his sails," if only to feel better?

Forms of Ego

For our purposes, we are addressing two kinds of ego: self-ego and the defensive-ego. The first concerns "who we are." The second defends against threats to both egos so as to maintain the sense of the adequate, competent, and familiar self. This eternal struggle of ego can produce tensions enabling evil and it is rendered more likely in the presence of molecular brain disease fanning the flames. Is it necessary to kill both egos to kill evil? Yes!

Killing Ego to Kill Evil

Psychologists and philosophers have long speculated about the nature of ego and evil, but few have ever discussed the relationship between them and none from the perspective of science. Scientists have been inclined to reject both concepts as obsolete because their surplus meaning makes them confusing. Freud saw ego as self-direction. Axiological psychology sees ego as self-valuation, and focuses on values as the building blocks of both ego and evil. As such, evil is never seen as supernatural; rather it is seen as naturalistic. Evil is created by the contingent worth fallacy of ego which translates to "I'm as good as my behavior." "My good deeds make me a good person." "My bad deeds make a bad person." Evidence suggests that these styles of self-valuation have outlived their usefulness. Behind ego, this manner of thinking about ourselves may have served our ancient ancestors, but it no longer serves humankind in today's more complex world. Beyond good and evil is the world of ego and its malignant neglect. In order to kill ego we must turn to the educational model of axiological psychology and reject the discredited medical model of psychoanalysis. We must also reject the fallacy of contingent worth behind the construction of ego.

Cultural influences plus the need to upgrade 3R to 4R public education—consisting of reading, writing, arithmetic and rational moral education—makes killing ego challenging. But, the goal is worth the effort because achieving it stands as one of humankind's greatest hopes for the future. It is also the antidote for the pessimism Freud expressed in "Civilization and its Discontents." In a nutshell, killing of ego must involve three axiological strategies: 1. A new faith founded on pragmatism! 2. The redirection of self-valuation as habitual self-evaluators! 3. The ultimate splitting and dissociation of self from one's behavior!

The first strategy involves rigorously retraining oneself to accept the belief that one possesses infinite value because one is alive, one exists, and one is a part of nature. This act of faith is supported by the new thinking of axiological science and its foremost application of axiological psychology. It is also supported more metaphorically by the world's great religions. It asserts the principle that one can neither gain nor lose value under any circumstances.

The second strategy points to that which does gain and lose value. It involves redirecting self-valuation away from the self and in the direction of one's traits, performances and achievements that may be judged to gain or lose value

The third strategy solidifies the splitting of self from traits, performances and achievements by affirming that "I am not my behavior." "A bad act is not a bad me." "A good act is not good me." "There are no good people...there are no bad people...there are only people with good or bad traits, performances and achievements."


Personhood or self is too complex to be judged, measured or given a report card. Doing so merely distorts the reality one's existence in ways that can enable acts of evil. Freud believed the individual achieves mental health when he follows the rule "where id was, there shall ego be." Axiological psychology endorses Ellis' 1972 revision of Freud's rule to read "where ego was, there shall the person of infinite value be."