Study Of Lying
(From Ouspensky’s “Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution,” pp. 47-48)
Now we must see what are those harmful features that man finds in himself.
Speaking in general, they are all mechanical manifestations. The first, as has already been said, is lying. Lying is unavoidable in mechanical life. No one can escape it, and the more one thinks that one is free from lying, the more one is in it. Life as it is could not exist without lying. But from the psychological side, lying has a different meaning. It means speaking about things one does not know, and even cannot know, as though one knows and can know.
You must understand that I do not speak from any moral point of view. We have not yet come to questions of what is good, and what is bad, by itself. I speak only from a practical point of view, of what is useful and what is harmful to self-study and self-development.
Starting in this way, man very soon learns to discover signs by which he can know harmful manifestations in himself. He discovers that the more he can control a manifestation, the less harmful it can be, and that the less he can control it, that is, the more mechanical it is, the more harmful it can become.
When man understands this, he becomes afraid of lying, again not on moral grounds, but on the grounds that he cannot control his lying, and that lying controls him, that is, his other functions.
(From Ouspensky’s “The Fourth Way,” p. 30)
The most serious lying is when we know perfectly well that we do not and cannot know the truth about things and yet never act accordingly. We always think and act as though we knew the truth. This is lying. When I know that I do not know something, and at the same time say that I know, or act as though I knew it, it is lying. For instance, we know nothing about ourselves, and we really know that we know nothing, yet we never recognize or admit the fact; we never confess it even to ourselves, we act and think and speak as though we knew who we are. This is the origin, the beginning of lying.
(G, as quoted in Ouspensky’s “In Search Of The Miraculous,” pp. 229-230)
“Speaking in general the most difficult barrier is the conquest of lying. A man lies so much and so constantly both to himself and to others that he ceases to notice it. Nevertheless lying must be conquered. And the first effort required of a man is to conquer lying in relation to the teacher. A man must either decide at once to tell him nothing but the truth, or at once give up the whole thing.
“You must realize the teacher takes a very difficult task upon himself, the cleaning and the repair of human machines. Of course he accepts only those machines that are within his power to mend. If something essential is broken or put out of order in the machine, then he refuses to take it. But even such machines, which by their nature could still be cleaned, become quite hopeless if they begin to tell lies. A lie to the teacher, even the most insignificant, concealment of any kind such as the concealment of something another has asked to be kept secret, or of something the man himself has said to another, at once puts an end to the work of that man, especially if he has made previous efforts.
“Here is something you must bear in mind. So long as a man has not made any serious efforts the demands made upon him are very small, but his efforts immediately increase the demands made upon him. And the greater the efforts that are made, the greater the new demands.
“At this stage people very often make a mistake that is constantly made. They think that the efforts they have previously made, their former merits, so to speak, give them some kind of rights or advantages, diminish the demands to be made upon them, and constitute as it were an excuse should they not work or should they afterwards do something wrong. This, of course, is most profoundly false. Nothing a man did yesterday excuses him today. Quite the reverse, if a man did nothing yesterday, no demands are made upon him today; if he did anything yesterday, it means that he must do more today. This certainly does not mean that it is better to do nothing. Whoever does nothing receives nothing.
“As i have said already, one of the first demands is sincerity. But there are different kinds of sincerity. There is clever sincerity and there is stupid sincerity, just as there is clever insincerity and stupid insincerity. Both stupid sincerity and stupid insincerity are equally mechanical. But if a man wishes to learn to be cleverly sincere, he must be sincere first of all with his teacher and with people who are senior to him in the work. This will be ‘clever sincerity.’ But it here necessary to note that sincerity must not become ‘lack of considering.’ Lack of considering in relation to the teacher or in relation to those whom the teacher has appointed, as I have said already, destroys all possibility of any work. If he wishes to learn and to be cleverly sincere he must be insincere about the work and he must learn to be silent when he ought to be silent with people outside it, who can neither understand nor appreciate it. But sincerity in the group is an absolute demand, because, if a man continues to lie in the group in the same way as he lies to himself and others in life, he will never learn to distinguish the truth from a lie.”