Seeing Ourselves

It is a remarkable fact how we tend to see things in others, without seeing them in ourselves. We can call others “hypocrites,” while in the same breath not recognize our own hypocrisy. We can also call other people “selfish,” without recognizing our own selfishness. Jesus recognized this problematic tendency in human beings when he addressed it in Matthew 7:5, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” I have wondered for a time why this is the case – why we cannot be at least a little more consistent, and not hold so many contradictions and double-standards. I have also wondered what is ultimately responsible for the endless contradictions and double-standards we seem compelled to create time and time again. These are questions which definitely deserve our attention, as this happens far too often for us to simply dismiss out of hand – to consciously or unconsciously ignore why we have a tendency to do this without further investigation and rigorous inquiry.

The reason it is so important for us to answer these questions is because contradictions and double-standards lack integrity, as they are always created for the purposes of separating ourselves from others, and fraudulently assigning the sole advantage of a position to our “side” over another’s side, with no credible, logical, or factually honest reason for doing so, and is therefore the maker of all hypocrisy. That is the problem with holding contradictions and double-standards, and why if we want to be people of integrity – people who are committed to the Truth before anything else, we need to question our motivations, the contradictions and double-standards we hold on to, and be honest with the Truth of who we really are – flaws and all. This is exactly why virtually all religions compromise their integrity and are hypocritical – because of the myriad contradictions and double-standards contained within their belief systems. This alone should cause any intelligent and critical-thinking person to at least question religious belief and its motivations. It was this key that was for me the final “nail in the coffin” when I rationally examined traditional religious belief and could finally see it for what it is – a tool for egotistical self-justification – a tool for keeping the weak weak and the strong strong, through its authoritative hierarchical power structure manufactured from the invention of an imaginary, “transcendental authority,” that utilizes the clever and enslaving coercive devices of reward and punishment through the concepts of “Heaven” and “Hell.”

This process of seeing ourselves is continual and is never “finished.” We are never “done” with the process of seeing ourselves, as Life is always living. It is always alive. We therefore must also be alive at all times so we can at least be in a position to see ourselves and be aware of our natural tendency not to see ourselves. To stop seeing, to stop seeking, to live by rote and for “set-in-stone” beliefs, is death. We have eternity to be dead. While we are alive, we may as well make the most of this experience of living, and do it to the very best of our ability. This is why I believe everyone must be in counseling. I love my counselor and my visits to see him, because he helps me clarify what is happening in my life to help me see myself honestly. The essence of counseling is to see oneself. Even if we do not have overt “problems” or “crises” to deal with at a given time, we all have baggage and past experiences which can be emotional “triggers” we need to work through, and of course our inherent egotism which is the ultimate obstacle from actually seeing ourselves for who and what we really are.

This problem of egotism is everyone’s problem. We all struggle with egotism, as it is synonymous with who we are as self-conscious beings, which is the core reason for all of our problems. And while it is perfectly natural to be egotistical, it is also that which keeps us from seeing ourselves honestly. Our pride, which is manifested egotism, often gets in the way from us seeing ourselves honestly because of our primary desire to be “right” instead of realizing it is not about being “right” or “wrong,” but honest with ourselves. Being “right” or “wrong” is about egotistical self-justification. True self-honestly, ironically – demands we let go of our self – our egos – to stop justifying them in order to instead actually see them for what they are without judgment.

Counseling, in which we speak with an uninvolved, confidential, objective third-party, is perhaps the best tool to help us see ourselves honestly. A good counselor provides us with a non-judgmental, non-threatening environment and objective feedback which is most conducive to helping us see what we may not see in ourselves. If we cannot be honest with someone else in whom all threats and concerns of confidence are removed, how can we be honest with ourselves in which nobody else necessarily knows the Truth of our whole big picture? That is why those who cannot be honest with counselors, truly cannot be honest with themselves. It is also why counseling does not work for everyone. In order for counseling to work, we need to be honest with ourselves, which involves telling the whole truth to our counselor. One of the reasons people resist counseling is because it can be very painful to tell the whole truth – to look at ourselves honestly, without overstating or understating who we are… to see all our beauty, our horror, our ugliness, our disappointments, our triumphs… all laid bare before us in stark reality we cannot escape from or deny, because a good counselor will not allow us to lie to ourselves. We need to have the courage and the willingness to peel off as many layers of our lives as possible to understand our motivations, our justifications, and all of our defense mechanisms we use to protect our ego from seeing itself.

Perhaps the biggest problem with traditional religious belief, and particularly Christianity is the fact it is about the exact opposite of self-honesty while hypocritically purporting to be about “truth” at the same time. It is in fact a very carefully and cleverly constructed, sophisticated defense mechanism designed for the purposes of defending and preserving our ego and its beliefs, because it is about egotistical self-justification – about being “perfectly right” and not “wrong,” with an imaginary “standard” of God, which is not the point, as we discovered earlier. The point is self-honesty, not whether or not we are “right” or “wrong,” or “righteous” according to a “holy standard” for that matter. The Christian belief in the necessity of submission to an outside authority in order for our egos to be justified tells us all we need to know about the truth of Christian motivations – to justify our egos first and foremost through the fear of punishment and hope for reward, which is hypocrisy and does not lead to any self-honesty whatsoever. It is a childish game of “run-away-and-hide” from the fear of our mortality, which accomplishes nothing more than the circular perpetuation of its own dishonest game.

A striking example of this inability to see ourselves while seeing others at the same time, is in our criticism of another’s religious beliefs while believing in the correctness of our own religious beliefs. Christians believe in a miraculous virgin conception of Christ, a savior who raised the dead and healed the sick, who was crucified, died, and was buried, who on the third day was bodily risen from the dead while also being able to “materialize” and “dematerialize” at will to those whom he chose to appear after his resurrection, and who was bodily take up into the clouds of Heaven at his ascension. A Muslim, a Hindu, and a Buddhist would never believe this unlikely story because the things it purports – resurrection, materialization and dematerialization, ascension, etc., are obviously imaginary and do not exist as factual human experiences. They are clearly mythical events to anyone who looks at them rationally and intelligently, just the same as we know Santa Claus with his magical flying reindeer and sleigh full of toys for all the little kids in the world is also mythical. At the same time, Muslims believe Muhammad flew a winged horse to Heaven to receive revelations from God, and that the righteous men get 72 virgins in Paradise after death, while Hindus believe Vishnu’s eternal and supreme abode is in a place beyond the material universe, which cannot be perceived or measured by material science or logic, called “Vaikuntha.” Christians would never believe the claims of Islam and Hinduism, and Muslims and Hindus would never believe in the claims of Christianity, or the claims of any other religions but their own. The problem with all of these stories from each of these faiths is the fact that all of them are equally imaginary. None of them are any more believable than the other. The one thing most people of all these faiths do have in common, is they believe their religious myths are “right,” while believing others’ religious myths are “wrong.”

Why is it we can so easily detect the obvious mythical, imaginary qualities of stories from the faiths of others, but cannot recognize these exact same mythical, imaginary qualities in the stories from our own faith? It is the same reason why we can see another’s hypocrisy, greed, and selfishness, and not our own. To not recognize the fact our own religious myth is just as improbable and unlikely as anyone else’s religious myth is yet another example of not being able to see ourselves while seeing others at the same time. It is the holding of contradictions and double-standards, which as we discovered earlier, is to lack integrity. The interesting thing about atheists, whether one agrees with them or not, is they are at least consistent in their point of view. They reject all gods equally, because they recognize the fact all gods are equally without evidence and are therefore all equally imaginary. There is integrity in the position of the atheist which is lacking in the position of the Christian, the Hindu, the Muslim, or any other person who adheres to any given faith because the atheist is consistent and does not hold a double-standard when it comes to God and the afterlife, unlike those of faith who believe their god is the “right one,” while believing everyone else’s god is the “wrong one.”

The bottom line is, seeing truth is living with the awareness there are no contradictions or double-standards whatsoever. There is not a standard for me as opposed to and different from the standard for you, because the very concepts of “you” and “me,” of “self” and “other” are ultimately illusions, as we have discovered several times before on “The Mystical Voice.” In matters of Truth, all is truly One. To see ourselves is to be honest with ourselves. We may not be able to be honest with others, as to do so may cost us our jobs, our lives, our place with our peers and within society. It is understandable why we are sometimes dishonest with others, as the myriad complex circumstances of life sometimes dictate a need to be less than one-hundred percent honest with others in order to survive. While we would ideally like to be able to be completely honest with others, it is simply not possible or practical to necessarily do so at all times under all circumstances. However, there is never an excuse for not being honest with ourselves, as there is no outside risk to being honest with ourselves.

And now we finally return to the root of the problem – the reason we cannot be honest with ourselves is because our egos will not allow it. Our egos wish to survive in its lies and cannot continue to do so with honesty. As mythical vampires hate the light and therefore live in darkness, honesty exposes all which is not the truth, which is why we so often run from it. The ego, like any manifested form does not want to die, and runs from whatever it perceives to be a threat to its survival. Since the ego is illusion, and not Truth, it lies to itself to prevent us from seeing the Truth of what the ego actually is – what the idea of “me” actually is… a real, yet temporary and impermanent illusion…

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