I think self-deception in spiritual circles, specifically in ‘New Age’ spirituality, needs to be discussed in all its variables. I can offer myself as a model to see the visible traits. For my side, I will use the life stories of professionally successful people to point out their self-deceptive traits. I also think this quality used properly is very much part of the basic flour of branded cookies!
First of all, here’s what google search says about self-deception:
“The action or practice of allowing oneself to believe that a false or unvalidated feeling, idea, or situation is true.”
Wikipedia has also an article about self-deception, two paragraphs from which I copy here:
“Self-deception is a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception.
While seeking to develop the answer to this question, self-knowledge requires ongoing self-awareness.
Deception is a major relational transgression that often leads to feelings of betrayal and distrust.
It has been theorized that humans are susceptible to self-deception because most people have emotional attachments to beliefs, which in some cases may be irrational. Some evolutionary biologists, such as Robert Trivers*, have suggested that deception plays a significant part in human behaviour, and in animal behaviour, more generally speaking. One deceives oneself to trust something that is not true as to better convince others of that truth. When a person convinces himself of this untrue thing, they better mask the signs of deception.”
*Robert Trivers studied evolutionary theory with Ernst Mayr and William Drury at Harvard from 1968 to 1972.
After these analytical and somehow academic interpretations of self-deception, let me share one Osho story. This story has stayed with me from the time I heard it in the Zen series during 1988-89:
A few monks are on the way to their mountain monastery after spending a day in the nearby city. The journey is long and steep. Surely there were no bicycles or scooters as we had during Pune Ashram days.
Once they got tired, they took a break at a roadside tea shop. The tea shop was run by a lady, and it was the first time they had noticed its existence, and the first time they had come across a tea shop run by a lady.
They ordered tea and started discussing the essence of Buddha’s teaching. There must have been someone like Lokesh who provoked others, as he does at sannyasnews (eg “What do you mean by Osho´s Work, Osho´s Vision, or the essence of Not-So-Neo-Anymore-Sannyas?”).
The lady brings the teapot and the cups but it seems as if they have forgotten even to say thank you. They must be in attacking/defensive logic mode the way it happens between Arpana and many others.
The lady notices this hot discussion among the budding priests and maybe future zen masters just like Arun or Ozen or so many others. (This Shantam too feels there is an inner calling in him to create his own ashram which will be very simple in design and approach. One can call this self-deception or a feeling of grandiose ambition, but I will say it’s a simple wish. Those who study medicine also feel a calling to have their own clinic or hospital).
In between, the tea is getting cold, while the discussion is still at boiling point. The tea stall lady intervenes by saying, “Excuse me, gentlemen, let me do some meditation among you wise people.”
The nonks feel a bit awkward, one of them asks,, “This is very new for us. We are feeling surprised. So tell us how you will meditate among us.”
The lady says, “It is very simple. One of you who is very sure of knowing the Essence of Buddha’s Teaching can initiate the tea ceremony.”
The monks look at each other…It is almost ‘catch 22′ for them.
Seeing the hesitation on their faces the tea stall lady takes one cup, fills it, sips the tea and leaves the place for the monks to drink and contemplate.
One can also say this lady is full of self-deception.
Let the discussion roll….