An introduction to dishonesty - here
Here are some excerpts from a thread on Truth Strike which illustrates the kind of dishonesty that can occur during an investigation. The guy in question was completely deluded and had been seeking in the spiritual community for over twenty years.
Whilst this is one of the more extreme cases of entrenched beliefs, it perfectly highlights the kind of dishonesty that some of those who came to the likes of Ruthless Truth and Truth Strike engaged in.
Everyone engages in dishonesty to a degree and as I have mentioned many times earlier, it is all about recognising this process rather than pointing fingers about being dishonest.
As you will see through the excerpts of his thread, there was some honest enquiry to start with but this was drowned by his unwillingness to actually engage in the looking process.
These abridged extracts are in chronological order from a 7 page thread.
The key here is to look at the way in which the patterns I have been outlining in the last few chapters have manifested themselves. This seeker was literally blind to his own contradictions and he was unable to see them even when they were put in front of his face.
Fortunately with the benefit of hindsight we can illustrate the errors he has made and learn from them. We will revisit this area and look at the trajectories we can use for investigating later and we shall look at some techniques straight after we have seen the kind of ways in which dishonesty plays out.
Initially I had told him to start looking around the room at objects and notice the phenomena that arises in direct experience as the first experiment. This was to get his mind focussed on looking.
'When I did the experiment this morning, what I noticed very soon was that each time I looked at an object, there was a semi-automatic response which was to find a way to associate the object with something in my past. I say semi-automatic, because once I noticed it, I began to desire it and therefore will it to happen - though apparently it was happening without the need for will since otherwise I'd never have come up with the idea'.
Here, the guy was looking and he reported the phenomena that appeared in his experience. The kernel of honesty within this paragraph was simply that memories appeared when he looked at objects in the room.
He even recognised that these memories were a 'semi-automatic' response. He wants to say 'semi-automatic' in order to leave the possibility for a self to be able to think up these memories sometimes. Notice that by bringing a self in to the equation he runs in to difficulty.
How does he explain how memories are sometimes automatic and sometimes not for example?
At least he recognised that he wasn't willing the memories to happen in this instance which is indicative of the first steps towards investigating our assumptions about free will. He started out well here with a recognition of phenomena appearing in his direct experience but he started to bring in his framework of thinking.
It is this interpretative mode that allows us to delude ourselves but at least he recognised that memories were appearing in the context of the situation rather than being 'willed' in to existence by a self. However, his framework entails that there is a self and hence this 'semi-automatic' description.
'With each object, my awareness did a rapid file search until it hit on some sort of association from my past, often a specific memory but not always, by which to give the object personal meaning'.
This was OK as he was looking and we see that he noticed memories appearing about him and said object. This is indicative of the act of looking for all essential purposes but notice the 'file search' analogy of looking through memories. This is very wishy washy in the sense that 'rapid file search' is not a phenomenon appearing in reality. This is a conceptual metaphor that is analagous to the action of memory. If he was to apply honesty, he would simply say a memory appeared and describe the phenomena he experienced.
Quite often people would use terms like 'deeper thinking' but how does the appearance of thought have any depth in comparison to another? In this sense you need to look out for these kind of 'non-descriptions' which gloss over what is really happening with vague stories and metaphors.
This means we are interpreting what we see, when using metaphorical language, rather than looking at the phenomena itself. It is this interpretative tendency that is indicative of thinking instead of looking. Always remember the quote from the beginning:
'Accuracy is the twin brother of honesty, inaccuracy; dishonesty' - Nathaniel Hawthorne
So, in the two paragraphs we have a little looking and lot of interpretation. This was normal for most people while they found their feet in an investigation. The looking aspect is good but the interpretative tendency means we are bringing in our established beliefs and assumptions to make meaning out of the phenomena we encounter. This is where delusion starts to creep in to our investigation.
'In my room, on the other hand, there are very few objects, so it gets repetitive quite quickly. How long do you recommend a looking session ought to last, or is that up to me? [T]he strange thing is that the question of a self or a no-self begins to seem like a non-question, as pointless as wondering about unicorns'.
Here he was trying to pave the way to get out of looking, by saying it is not worth worrying about. By making out that it is pointless he can tell himself that looking is unnecessary and he can make a graceful exit without putting his vanity on the line. We used to term this 'slithering', as it is one of the ways that the brain tries to protect itself from witnessing its own dishonesty first hand. This is because he was starting to question the story and we used to see this kind of slithering as a manifestation of cowardice - AKA the avoidance of the truth.
I put it to him that he was slithering and asked him to try and make explicit why he thought there was a causal agent.
'So what makes me think there is a self? The assumption that something must be directing my thoughts and actions. [That] my thoughts and actions constantly refer back to the idea of a self. It is the overriding context: me.[It] comes down to one basic idea: continuity. I see my life as a series of interconnected events that make up a story. That then requires a protagonist, or a self, directing the events'.
This is a natural assumption we have when we start out, and here he has recognised this. So, the self is 'that which directs thought and action'. He also recognises that the context of thought is always about a self.
There is another common theme, that of continuity over time, but these are combined in to a formal argument which runs as follows.
P1. There has to be an entity which directs thoughts and actions
P2.The resulting life events caused by these thoughts and actions weave a continuous story about an entity persisting over time.
C. Therefore there is an entity; the self.
We could start to challenge the first premise by looking at the conscious mechanisms behind thinking and action. Secondly, we could press for a further description of premise 2, namely what is this 'entity' being referred to? However, jump back and read his assertion in the paragraph above again to see if you can notice the critical flaw in his argument before you read on.
'Now I look at it, it seems like circular logic: because there's a story, there's a self, and because there's a self, there's a story'.
Here, he is recognising the dishonesty in his thinking and realised that premise 2 is actually grounded in circular logic. The argument falls apart further though and the reason is this. Firstly, the idea that something has to direct thought and action is a structural argument. Namely that it is a structural requirement of thought and action that there is a self.
'The "self" is the idea of an organizing principle then'
This he recognises when he states this, however, this structural argument needs validation before we can assert it in an argument with any certainty. Here he is reasoning from an untested assumption which we covered as a mechanism of dishonesty earlier.
Secondly the fact that our experience is a story about a self is also a conceptual story about something common running through our experiences. Namely this entity that directs the actions and shapes the events that are remembered.
Crucially though, we can look back at what was stated in this stage of the exchange:
'The assumption that something must be directing my thoughts'
[T]houghts and actions constantly refer back to the idea of a self'.'
'[A] series of interconnected events that make up a story'
'The self is the idea of an organizing principle then'
Here we see the foundations of the actual argument are not based on anything that actually appear in real life. All we have here is an assumption, an idea, a story, and another idea. What he hasn't done is actually looked to see if there is anything behind these concepts, or tested the assumption that a self is requisite for causation and action. These are things that we can do if we are engaged in honest enquiry and actually look.
The key thing to note here is that he is being dishonest as he has not even looked at the phenomena of this self. There is not one shred of honesty in what he stated above since he is talking about assumptions, stories, and ideas about a self, whose existence he hasn't verified yet.
This is absolutely nothing more than conceptualising about the self, within the confines of his beliefs, and he has made no effort to even investigate. He is simply 'looping' through his default beliefs. Rather than looking, he is trying to logically formulate an argument in favour of the existence of the self. Thinking and looking are two distinctly different activities.
What you will find is that when you start to get down to the foundations of what you believe the self to be, you will keep coming up against the fact that the self is just an idea. If it is to be a real idea then we must find exactly what phenomenon this idea corresponds to.
At this stage this guy needed to address his beliefs here and try and find some kind of traction. Since these 'interconnected events that make up a story' are grounded in circular reasoning, I asked him to look and see if there was anything that could provide the thread of continuity through his experience.
'Memory. It didn't require a doer, because the associations were automatic'.
It is important to note that so far he has engaged in a very minimal amount of honest enquiry. He certainly hasn't been thorough enough and all we are seeing is the product of his dishonesty. Here though, he recognised that memories do not require a doer as such because they happen of their own accord, which he recognised in the first paragraph.
This refutes the idea, in part, that a self is required for all thinking to occur. He has changed his mind about memories being 'semi automatic'. This inconsistency in his description is a manifestation of dishonesty as he has made a subtle change to his account. What we found very often on TS was that the seeker would not even know they had made this change in the story. However, the real smoking gun appears in the direct contradiction of his earlier assertion that thinking requires a self. Remember, premise 1 of his argument was this.
There has to be an entity directing thoughts and actions
Now he has changed his ontological position because he has in part refuted the story that says one controls their thoughts. We can split thinking in to three basic modes; that of memory, thinking presently, and imagination. He hasn't looked at whether he can control present thinking or imagining - remember, we do not want to generalise when looking.
Here he has conceded that memories appear automatically, he would have to investigate the other two modes and look at the phenomena. However, of the three pillars supporting this edifice, regarding being in control of our thoughts, the one of memory has just started to shake.
Crucially though, this concession in his ontology brings in to question his assertion about the self being required to direct the thoughts and action. As we have already outlined this mechanism, we can see how his contradiction is usurped in to his framework of thinking unnoticed.
As a so called 'liberator' I should have jumped all over this at this point and leveraged this angle to get him to investigate his imagination and cognition capabilities. This rapid breaking down of his beliefs could have started a cascade of realisation but, unfortunately, I let this one slip by unnoticed at the time. A howling error on my part in hindsight.
The next tactic I engaged in was to start and turn the screw, in order to try and pin him down to a fixed position. I asked him what the story in memory was referring to.
'The link suggests continuity, but in fact it's largely random. Again it is circular reasoning: because there is a link, there must be continuity; since there is continuity, that must be the reason for the link'.
Again, he recognises that it is circular logic but he was suggesting here that it is memories which are 'the link' necessary for the self to have continued identity over time.
(Footnote: If you thought the self is the mind in the earlier exercise a few chapters back, memory might be an obvious candidate you may have thought of to provide this continuity over time. This is a common and seemingly valid argument, although it is broken backed and runs in Reid's fallacy).
'What is being referenced is the reference: the past. It is present awareness linking up to past awareness'.
Here I tore in to him as how can the present and past possibly link up? This sounds completely illogical so if we do a little logical analysis we can see that the following is true.
If we accept that the present exists then by logical necessity the past no longer exists and the future does not exist yet. If the past no longer exists, how can a non-existent and existent awareness link together? Memories appear in the present moment and are of the past, but that does not mean that there is time travel or awareness linking up.
This is an inconsistent story that needs investigating and sometimes it would be useful to goad people about it at Truth Strike because sometimes, when pressed hard on things like this, we would often see a tirade of dishonesty that would reveal yet more inconsistencies in the story.
Essentially by clinging on to this BS, he had to start reasoning about time travel. Unbelievably, because our self is grounded in fiction and the brains response is to muster up any old BS to try and cover up the fractures in the fairytale, we often used to see bizarre and incoherent ramblings such as this, presented as genuine bona fide arguments to prop up the existence of the self! Bizarre is probably not strong enough a word to describe what we witnessed on Truth Strike on a daily basis.
'And what have you got against time travel? Tachyons do it - why not we?'
Instead of looking at his contradiction, he snapped back about the possibility of time travel. Of course using time travel as a valid form of reasoning should ring alarm bells.
Essentially, he is saying time travel is possible and this is a supposition required for his 'time travelling self' argument to work. By harpooning him about past awareness linking up, I ridiculed his answer and goaded him to get angry. This triggered his psychological defence mechanism and he spat out a string of nonsense argumentation. In the context of investigating dishonesty, this was pure gold. Here he had the opportunity to realise that the abject poop he was talking was mere fantasy that has no grounding in reality.
His defensive stance about the possibility of time travel was a necessary supposition of his awareness linking up argument, and the continuity of our identity being memories of the past. This alerted us to the fact that we had hit an entrenched belief and we could then use this as leverage to highlight the absurdity of this belief.
'The only continuity I can say for certain is that of the body, because the memories are "of" the body'.
Here, he tried to deflect the attention away from the foaming at the mouth nonsense he just parroted. Now we also see a change of argumentation occurring crucially.
As he realised the absurdity of the time travel argument he had to look at another possibility. He recognises that the phenomenon of the body exists and a common thread running through the memories, in his experience, is the memory of the body.
'Memories, if they are located anywhere, are located in the body'.
This is vague though, as where are intangible thoughts located in the body? Note the word intangible here. How can something intangible be spacially located? This is simply dishonesty as he hasn't bothered to look, and here he was fighting tooth and nail to keep his fairy tale intact.
What we often witnessed on Truth strike was that as we rattled the cage of someone's framework of thinking, they would try to jump on the next chain of thought. It didn't matter whether this chain of thought was true, it was just the brains psychological mechanism trying to cover up the inconsistencies it was faced with.
This is how delusion proliferates itself in an investigation and this chap was running through the motions like clock work.
'[Memories] are of the thing that is continuous; Matter'.
In order to point to the continuity of identity he has built up an argument that memories provide the continuity of identity over time. Memories are of the body and of physical matter, which are continuous over time, therefore, this is the link which provides continuity of the self.
This explanation was first postulated by John Locke in the 17th Century, however, this falls foul of 'Reid's fallacy'
which is a contradiction in terms (see 'The brave officer' thought experiment). Hence, nobody in contemporary philosophy stands by this argument, which is known as the 'Memory theory of personal identity'.
The only thing that's preventing the truth is "me."
After this assertion of memory was highlighted to him as false he reiterated his core belief that underpins his experience; That there is a self in control of his life and here he was starting to raise his hackles in response to the inconsistencies that were being pointed out to him.
'I haven't been arguing for the existence of the self'.
Obviously he has started to contradict himself again at this point. We need only quote what he wrote earlier.
'So what makes me think there is a self? The assumption that something must be directing my thoughts and actions'
'The "self" is the idea of an organizing principle then'
'That then requires a protagonist, or a self, directing the events'
'The self is the continuity of experience tied together with memories'.
'The only thing that's preventing the truth is "me"
Clearly he is being dishonest here as his prior actions refute any claim he makes here. Not only does this contradict his assertion that the self is the continuity of experience tied together with memories, but it also contradicts everything he has stated so far.
We used to find people would argue for a self then deny that they disagreed with the premise 'there is no self'. Being a psychologist this pointed to a phenomenon that occurred quite frequently.
I used to play 'bad cop' on truth strike and I found that quite often people would frame me as an authority figure. Sometimes they would defer their investigation to me and try to get me to hold their hand and show them the truth. This is where I would be blunt and attack them for being cowardly.
For others though, as their framework of thinking started to crack under the scrutiny they would try to re-establish rapport with me by trying to find some common ground. By trying to claim there is no disagreement regarding our view of the self, I often found this was a way for people to shield their beliefs from the truth.
Basically, they were trying to diffuse the tension that arose as they desperately tried to shield their fantasy from this kind of scrutiny, to pave the way for a graceful exit from the conversation. This is the sort of thing that we used to rub enquirers nose in, in order to get them to recognise their dishonesty.
This would rile the enquirer and force them to trip up over themselves to highlight more of their dishonesty. At the time this used to be done by tearing their beating heart out of their chest and serving it to them on a platter.
In this way we would shatter the attempt at trying to re-establish rapport, and savagely tear in to their ego. This was why I was perceived to be somewhat of a bully, but I was merely playing the character of 'ghostvirus' and utilising psychological manipulation to break peoples defences and get them to recognise their dishonesty.
'The false or illusory self is made up of reactive “tics” or preprogrammed responses, so I don’t see any contradiction. As long as the illusory self is in the driving seat, then our actions are automatic and predetermined'.
Here he is claiming that the self 'he hasn't been arguing for' is actually illusory. Now rather than being the continuity of experience tied together with memories, or the continuity of the physical matter of the body, the self is now a series of preprogrammed responses. AKA the self is Y. So far, the self is x and now it is y. Interestingly it is also illusory yet it is in the driving seat of our lives? Before it was necessary 'that something must be directing my thoughts and actions' but now this is no longer necessary?
Here, he has questions to answer as we have highlighted how riddled with inaccuracies and contradictions he is.
I have had experiences that caused me to question the assumption that physical reality is everything it seems to be, and that suggested a mode of consciousness and perception well beyond the ordinary senses of the body or the thinking or imaginative capacities of the mind.
When the contradiction was highlighted he then proceeded to expose his real agenda. Here he is talking about some of his own experiences that underpin his framework of thinking. Notice that he is talking about consciousness and perception beyond the bounds of the body and what we can imagine.
We can have the most strange experiences but how can we perceive beyond the senses of the body?
We can only perceive that which presents itself in our perceptual modes. If we are talking about perceiving in another modality, we are talking about something beyond the sphere of possible human experience and we are engaged in pure fantasy.
It is important to notice that what he is doing really is this. First he is stating that because physical reality is not all it seems to be, this suggests there is another mode of consciousness and perception.
Notice that he gives the game away by using the term 'suggests'. Because we fall to the ground this suggests the earth is flat but we have since discovered this is because of gravity. Here he was making empty metaphysical speculations informed by an inexplicable experience.
'Since the perceptions were experienced by me as every bit as real to consciousness as waking life—and even overlapped in some cases with “physical reality”—the assumption that it was “all a hallucination” was not viable'.
Now this is curious. I asked how he could verify this and he claimed this appeared to him in a dream.
'Suppose I meet people in that dream space and then encounter them in “real life” and discover that the information exchanged in the dream space was accurate? Isn’t that a form of verification?'
Here he has postulated that as he dreamed about a mode of perception, presumably beyond what we can imagine, then it must be true. Essentially, he is using the common idea that because our dreams, somewhat rarely, conform to what happens in real life then it points to some special class of metaphysical perception.
Whilst I have had strange experiences with 'de ja vue' for example, which is the closest I have come to any kind of so called metaphysical perception, we could easily explain this away with intuition or coincidence. Whilst it is strange when you come across people whom have dreamed of the same thing, we do not have an adequate theory to account for this and the closest we get is Jung's 'collective consciousness' - which is very contentious to say the least.
Whislt de ja vue is a strange phenomenon, it is not so much that I should start using this as a basis for proceeding to reason about the metaphysical basis of the world. True, phenomenon such as de ja vue do appear as a curiosity, but this certainly does not mean I can use this as meaningful leverage.
I used to get the most vivid de ja vue when I was younger, but as I have got older I often realise that when it does occur, it is actually coincidental with something familiar, rather than actually reliving something already experienced. Whilst I might claim I did really experience de ja vue when I was younger, I can see that my critical thinking skills were not developed and perhaps I simply did not notice this familiarity. I am now acutely aware of this familiarity when it does occur.
There seems to be a clear difference between de ja vue, and the feeling of de ja vue simply appearing as something very familiar. De ja vue to me is the experience of some event that seems like you have already lived through it. Many of these experiences were on drugs like LSD and Ecstasy in my teens and these were vivid experiences. However, I cannot rule out that this was not a side effect of the stuff I was taking. I can only remember one clear instance, when I was very young, where it seemed as though I had already lived through the experience.
I'm afraid this was a banal affair though, since it was the milkman knocking at the door and something being on the TV. Funnily enough now I think about it, the milkman used to come round early evening on thursday – could it have simply been the title song of my cartoon had came on as the milkman knocked the door at precisely the same time on another occasion?
I am now incredulous although I am sure there were a few more times when I had more bona fide occurrences of de ja vue. I have not had a genuine instance for years and this means I cannot be certain of this phenomena even if it may have seemed real enough when I was younger.
Certainly, we should not use it as a basis if it can be confused with familiarity and we are able to bring this degree of scepticism to the table.
I lampooned him about the metaphysical perception and eventually he claimed this was only possible because of the existence of souls.
'The soul is energy, and the physical world is energy. Therefore, there is a continuum of consciousness, matter, perception, body and soul.'
Here we see where he was going all along, since he believed in the existence of a soul. AKA the self is now = Z. That is now three different things the self could be and he has presented us with a trifecta of theories.
This is a textbook example of changing ones ontology to avoid the howling inconsistencies they are faced with. Tragically he couldn't even recognise he was doing this “The self is X” then Y, then Z. You may notice at this point that he holds three contradictory theories simultaneously, and hence we have a clear example of the kind of dishonesty we need to engage in, to hold a belief in a self. We also see that he is actually riddled with spiritual mumbo jumbo, and he couldn't grasp the fact he was being dishonest.
Curiously, if the soul was energy then it would need to be physical which is obviously contradictory. Energy is a physical phenomenon and in order for this theory to work, one has to claim the existence of a non-physical energy, since the soul is incoporeal. Yes, he was actually trying to claim that the soul is physical.
Naturally, this kind of phenomena does not show up and such worthless metaphysical speculations are entering the realms of foaming at the mouth crack pottery. Eventually I banned him as he refused to even acknowledge this or engage in looking but before I did he argued about people having multiple souls, or as he put it:
'A multiple soul trader doesn't seem to pose a problem to me'
Well, it turns out that the shoe stall on the market is a multiple sole trader too (oh dear!) and eventually I discovered he was from a spirituality forum and had only come to Truth Strike in order to argue. He already had an entrenched belief but the silver lining was that his thread was a textbook example of how dishonesty manifests itself. More importantly, it highlights the kind of contradictions that would appear when people investigated no self and, crucially, illustrates the blindness to the nonsense beliefs one has to hold to maintain the facade of self.
I've harped on quite a bit about dishonesty here but the fact of the matter is this is the single biggest stumbling block to seeing the truth. What we do is loop through these erroneous beliefs endlessly and it is only our dishonesty that prevents us from seeing them for the contradictions they are.
It is hard to call it wilful ignorance because it's not our intention to be dishonest. A more suitable term would be unwillful ignorance because we are literally blind to the fact when our brain is glossing over the inconsistencies. I think the simple umberella term 'delusion' covers both of these aspects well.
The only way we can see our dishonesty is to actually catch ourselves in the act as such. If someone else catches us out we are more likely to get defensive, especially when our vanity is on the line. Hence, there were many aggressive threads on TS and RT, and I have had to edit out my vicious replies to his delusion for the sake of having something presentable.
We have slithering out of answering questions and most importantly, this change in ontology where the self is X, then Y, then Z. Now you have seen how this mechanism can play out you can spot it in your own enquiry and make sure you are not following these kinds of reasoning.
The way to avoid this is as follows.
Before you start a session, write down what the word “I” refers to. Then by the end of the enquiry session, see if you still agree with what you wrote. If you find a contradiction then you can recognise your dishonesty. It is quite simple in this respect but this written record forces you to commit to x, y, z or whatever ad-hoc derivative theory you come up with.
You should also keep a log of your discoveries and read through them before you start. This is to focus your mind on avoiding resting on assertions that you have already disproved by looking. It is this dishonesty which actually stops you recognising that you are doing this, and makes it possible to rest on contradictions that have already been disproven.
When the contradictions are right in front of your face, and you are actively trying to work your level of honesty then you should be able to recognise your dishonesty. If you don't write stuff down then you will find it more difficult to recognise when you are changing the story to fit the facts.
Essentially dishonesty at its core is simply changing the story to try and incorporate the inconsistencies you are faced with. Therefore, dishonesty is nothing more than the avoidance of facing up to the truth.
'The opposite of truth is cowardice' – Stepvhen
Now having being acquainted with someones pitiful attempt at investigation, we can learn how to do this properly and focus on honesty.
To Be Continued...