CITE: deMause L. War as a Sacrificial Ritual: From Fatalism to Fatal Error. Journal of Psychohistory. 1997;25(1):1-22.


In “War as a Sacrificial Ritual,” deMause argues that warfare throughout history has been motivated by a “sacrificial impulse” rooted in early human experiences of childhood trauma. He explores how this impulse has evolved over time, and how modern warfare has become increasingly deadly and destructive. The book also examines the psychological and cultural factors that contribute to the glorification of war, and the ways in which societies have attempted to justify their violent behavior. Ultimately, deMause suggests that breaking the cycle of war and violence requires a fundamental shift in how we understand and address childhood trauma.


  • Argues that the roots of warfare can be traced back to early childhood experiences of trauma and abuse
  • Examines the evolution of the “sacrificial impulse” throughout history
  • Explores the psychological and cultural factors that contribute to the glorification of war
  • Provides a compelling case for the urgent need to address childhood trauma in order to break the cycle of violence and war


  • “The urge to sacrifice oneself, and others, in battle is rooted in the traumas of early childhood, in which the child’s experience of violence and helplessness creates a powerful impulse to seek out and participate in violent acts.”
  • “Modern warfare has become a kind of collective psychosis, in which entire societies become caught up in a frenzy of violence and destruction.”
  • “The glorification of war is a deeply ingrained aspect of human culture, but it is a tragic and ultimately self-destructive impulse that must be transcended if we are to create a more peaceful and compassionate world.”
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