Consciousness, Delusion, Enlightenment, Mysticism, Satori, Self, Self Identity, Self Image, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Wisdom

“The Most Tenacious Con is Self-Deception”

(About a 2 minute read)

“The most tenacious con is self-deception”, she said, echoing sages great and small down through the ages of human wisdom.  Which made me wonder: Has any sage ever been without at least a small measure of self-deception?

Of course, I am not asking here for choice and tasty bits of dogmatism or great and thrilling professions of chauvinism — even I would like to believe that my favorite sages were beyond self-deception, if only because believing so might give me a fixed star to guide myself by.  And yet, I cannot honestly believe such unless by faith — for how much do I really know of sages?

Were I to guess, I would guess even the buddhas might suffer some small measure of self-deception now and then.  After all, they almost certainly saw things from a subjective point of view, and are not such points of view necessarily deceptive?

But what about “self-deception” only in the narrower sense of being deceived by one’s own self?  Is that something all sages have suffered?

I think an issue here lies in knowing what a “self” is to a sage.  Do sages, such as the Buddha, or perhaps Jesus (so little is really known about him, but I suspect he was much like the Buddha in key ways), even have selves in quite the same sense as most of us?

You see, I think those great sages have transcended their selves — the selves they began with.  They have done so not so much by learning from books and others, but by directly experiencing what they took to be a superior reality — an experience that transformed them.  Thus, to me, the question comes down to whether they still possess some kind of self that is capable of being deceived.

Again, if I were to guess, I’d guess they do.

So far as I can see — and that’s not nearly far enough — even the Buddha himself did not dispense with his normal, everyday waking self.  He merely put it into perspective, so to speak. Imagine a king who has been receiving bad advice from his prime minister for ages until one day he realizes how bad it’s been.  That’s when the king begins putting the advice he receives into perspective.

I do not think sages can dismiss their prime ministers, so to speak.  Not without giving themselves a lobotomy — because the self seems to me to depend on the brain for its existence.  But if so, then the sages are stuck with selves, and the best they can do is learn exactly how the self deceives us so that they can put such deceptions into perspective.

Questions? Comments? Feeble attempts to link me to obscure revolutionary movements?  Shockingly less feeble attempts that actually do link me?  Immature professions of undying self-love?

3 thoughts on ““The Most Tenacious Con is Self-Deception””

  1. I think the following is the apical beating heart of your piece, and I really love it:

    “You see, I think those great sages have transcended their selves — the selves they began with. They have done so not so much by learning from books and others, but by directly experiencing what they took to be a superior reality — an experience that transformed them.”

    It is the transformative experiences, especially in regards to the degree that we do our best to choose kindness toward others that might allow us to come closer to knowing the self. I think the great sages, from Buddhas, to Socrates, to Christ did this more through what they were willing to sacrifice to care and help and lift others than what any specific analysis of postulate, koan, or parable can reveal. Any scintilla of perceived truth we might have about ourselves or about the world can be appropriated to agendas ranging from personal self-justification to global domination – or it can be used to try to increase the bonds of unity and caring and help in the world. Thus truth is sword or salve depending on the heart that wields it. I happen to believe in God, and I believe that God might be less interested in teaching us how to make sense of the world and more interested in letting us choose to love others in the world – which often requires a softening of our “sensical” proclivities. He can’t just force us to love, because that would be simple programming instead of love. As we strive to see more clearly, as your Buddha does in your piece, we begin not just to see but to SEE others in those vanishing points of perspective. I saw Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke” on the big screen this last week and was touched by the creed and purpose snuck in unobtrusively by the hero Prince Ashitaki who wanted only “To see with eyes unclouded by hate.” We may not always be able to do this, but to strive for that I think is the true beginning of wisdom – although chances are our little old selves will mess thangs up royally even if we are doing our bestest.

    I am grateful for your thoughts on my line about the tenacious con and your notice of my little septet. I have enjoyed meeting you. I think you are great and must be linked to some revolutionary movement somewhere, even if it is focused on toppling just tiny little fiefdoms. I would like to end with an immature profession of undying self-love, but I am not sure entropy gives me the proper parameters to truly do so. 😉

    Be well. Lona.

    1. Thank you for such kind words, Lona! Enlightenment is such a fascinating subject, isn’t it? It was quite interesting to read your take on it. Thank you for that, too!

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