“The ability to deceive is one of the many abilities or characteristics that have made some animals better equipped to survive than others. It therefore falls into the same category as long necks in giraffes, keen eyesight in birds, fleet-footedness in cheetahs and gazelles… The struggle for life has favored the better mimickers and bluffers. … Instinct does the job for lower animals; intelligence does it for the higher ones.”
From “The Concise Book of Lying” by Evelin Sullivan
“Humans play too, deceiving in large numbers, by inventing identities online, or accomplishing a similar sleight through older technologies. … And like other lies, it pays off. Studies show that teenagers who are better at telling lies are also more popular. Beyond that, the fabrications themselves have a kind of Darwinian staying power. Peter Frost, a researcher at River College in Nashua, N.H., showed students slides of a “crime scene,” then gave them a script describing the crime, but with a few key details twisted. Initially the students recognized the false descriptions as misinformation. But over time, as the memories of what they actually saw faded, the misinformation lingered or even became more vivid.”
Excerpted from the New York Times, author John Leland
So much for people telling lies in order to survive in an often hostile physical environment. But human’s aren’t simply physical beings trapped – like the other animals on this planet – in a continuous struggle for survival. Humans are eternal beings whose dharma, or purpose for incarnating on Earth, has always been to re-experience their a priori state of Self-realization.
A Priori What?
The benefits of Self-realization emerge directly from the union of truth, freedom and universal love. Given that truth is an essential aspect of Self-realization – and Self-realization is a human’s natural state – we’re faced with an apparent contradiction because humans have also evolved the ability to lie and-or deceive in order to stay healthy in a physical environment replete with dangers to life and limb.
To make sense of the contradiction, it’s necessary to recognize that physical survival isn’t always a virtue; in some cases, it’s not even desirable. That’s because, when it comes to Self-realization, personal integrity and authenticity will always be more important than the longevity of a single physical incarnation. But that doesn’t mean that dishonesty and deceit are always wrong or devoid of spiritual value.
Evolution is Overrated
To understand why dishonesty and deceit have value beyond mere physical survival, it’s necessary to recognize that humans have existed in one form or another from everlasting to everlasting, which means they’re interdimensional beings composed of both a universal aspect that never changes and an individual aspect that evolves and involves though time-space.
Paramatman is the universal aspect. In Sanskrit, the sacred language of India, Para means universal; Atman means Self. Although a human evolves in each incarnation, paramatman’s universal qualities and relationship to Universal Consciousness (the singularity from which everything emerged) endure unchanged during each cycle of life, death and rebirth; this means that paramatman embodies the truth as well as freedom and universal love.
Many of you have experienced paramatman during times of catharsis or extreme stress – or when you’ve recognized the inner truth of something.
On the other hand, Jivamatman, the individual aspect of self, evolves and involves through time-space. The term jivamatman comes from Sanskrit as well. Jiv means to breathe, and atman means self.
According to the ancient system of Advaita (non-dualistic) Yoga, an aspirant can only achieve Self -Realization by liberating jivamatman from the cycle of death and rebirth and reuniting it with the paramatman. Without embracing and defending the truth, this will be impossible.
Indeed, life on the physical-material plane has lasting value only so long as physical existence is used to pursue dharma and to experience union with Universal Consciousness consciously. In fact, the idea of physical survival for its own sake is a misunderstanding of the nature of human existence. It may have some value for creatures whose consciousness is limited. But humans need not fear that their eternal existence can be terminated because the life force, which saturates every human being, preceded the creation of the multiverse in the same way that water preceded the creation of Earth’s oceans.
If you’re still concerned that the lights will go out permanently when you die, just remember this: The life force includes energy as well as consciousness, perception, awareness and time-space. This makes the life force the source and the essence of everything that has ever existed. Since the life force is the source and essence, it follows that the multiverse, including all consciousness (paramatman and jivamatman), energy (the spirit of chi, chi and jing) and matter (in both its subtle and physical forms, perception and awareness) existed within the life force before it was manifest in the physical-material world, and it will continue to exist along with You in all your subsequent lives.
Honesty Verses the Truth
So – what part does dishonesty and deceit play in the cosmic drama of birth, death and transcendence? As you already know, truth – as opposed to honesty – plays an essential part in the process of Self-realization. That’s why abandoning the truth can have a huge impact on your evolution and process of Self-realization, while dishonesty and deception in defense of the truth will not. So, we come to the question which is at the crux: Is it possible to embrace the truth and be dishonest at the same time?
According to one prominent lawyer, “Honesty and truthfulness are not the same thing. Being honest means not telling lies. Being truthful means actively making known all the full truth of a matter. Lawyers must be honest, but they do not have to be truthful.” From “Everything I Learned in Law School” by Matthew Frederick & Vibeke Norgaard Martin.
If we look at truth and honesty through a spiritual lens, we quickly recognize that embracing the truth is a commitment to the path of Self-realization, which demands that you follow your personal dharma (life path) and defend the truth regardless of the personal cost.
Honesty, on the other hand, is simply conveying your perceptions accurately. Hence, in contrast to a lawyer, a spiritual adept never puts honesty on the same level of importance as the truth – but s-he doesn’t negate its importance either. Truth is essential for sustained spiritual progress. Honesty is useful. However, when honesty interferes with the truth, then it must be abandoned. This may sound strange, but yoga is quite clear on this point and provides us with a useful metaphor to understand their relative importance.
In the yogic metaphor, a spiritual adept and his disciple live together, deep in the forest. One day, the monarch who rules the kingdom decrees that everyone must follow his dualistic religious beliefs – and if they refuse, they will be imprisoned or worse executed. It is well known that the adept teaches a form of advaita (non-dualistic) yoga whose principles oppose those of the king’s religion – and that the adept will not abandon those principles on the whim of a leader with a distorted world view.
A short time after the decree, soldiers arrive at the adept’s forest abode. Not finding the adept, they accost his young disciple and demand to know where he is. It’s at this point that the youth has a choice. He can be honest and betray his master, who represents the truth, or he can embrace the truth and lie to those who have been sent to destroy it. What would you do in the same situation? Would you elevate honesty above the truth or embrace the truth, which the adept embodies – and defend it against anything that opposes or interferes with it?