(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?