On The Culture of Duplicity

Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth — William Blake, “Proverbs of Hell

The whole world is a form of truth. — Rumi, Green Ears

Only a hair divides the false from the true — Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat

In our world error is continually the handmaid and pathfinder of Truth; for error is really a half-truth that stumbles because of its limitations; often it is Truth that wears a disguise in order to arrive unobserved near to its goal. Well, if it could always be, as it has been in the great period we are leaving, the faithful handmaid, a half-truth and not a reckless and presumptuous aberration. — Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine

Our souls seem to be starved for truth at our “end of history” where duplicitous speech and conduct has become the norm. The “new normal” of our time — the very “matrix” of our present being in Late Modernity, as it were — is the normalisation of a culture of duplicity. The culture of duplicity —  of “noble lie” politics, “truthiness”, and perception management — is also what Arthur Herzog referred to in an earlier book title as The B.S. Factor: The Theory and Practice of Faking it in America (and not just in America either) — the Age of Bullshit.

“Duplicity” is the more general term for all forms of double-dealing and the forked-tongue — (or the “worm-tongue”, as Tolkein put it in Lord of the Rings). I’ve previously described these forms of duplicity as our own current “four riders of the Apocalypse” identified by name as Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. Duplicity as a way of life , as Jean Gebser suggested, is perhaps a consequence of “the inner division of contemporary man who, as a result of his one-sided, rational orientation, thinks only in dualisms.”

By contrast, Blake, Rumi, Khayyam, and Aurobindo quoted above insist that truth and falsehood are not, strictly speaking, opposites. Falsehood or error is a perverted or inverted image of truth, but which lacks the essence or fullness or vivifying power of realised truth.  We tend to treat truth and fact as synonymous. It ain’t necessarily so. There is a great deal of difference between the “truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”, and this distinction makes all the difference, as Aurobindo put it, whether the ostensible “facts of the matter” serve as a faithful handmaid to truth or become instead “a reckless and presumptuous aberration” that presumes to be the entirety of truth (and becomes by this presumption, therefore, an aberrant falsehood).  To speak of a “culture of duplicity” at all (or a “culture of lying” as Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne once put it) is to speak not just of error, then, but of the aberrant and the deviant.

This issue is equally the kernel of Nietzsche’s important essay “On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense“, which is well worth reading carefully.  I emphasise the word “carefully” because I’ve found that Nietzsche is very often completely misunderstood and misrepresented in his views on the question of truth and falsehood. Those who, as Gebser asserts, “think only in dualisms” will, and invariably do, mistake and distort Nietzsche’s meaning completely.  Nietzsche did not say there is no truth. That would be a self-contradiction. Nowhere in this essay does he say that at all.  But once you draw the essay into relation with the quotes from Blake, Rumi, Khayyam, and Aurobindo, the gist of Nietzsche’s meaning should be patently clear.  Nietzsche draws a distinction between the intellectual and the intuitive, and that is also the parallel we are speaking of when we distinguish between the factual and the truthful.

This distinction between the intellect and the intuitive (or Blake’s “Imagination”) curiously parallels Gebser’s objection to our aberrant “dualism”, as well as the Seth material we have been dealing with hitherto — an ego consciousness which has now lost connection with its “roots” in the intuitive.

Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.

If you compare Nietzsche’s essay with the full quote from Seth, they are actually addressing the same issue. The culture of duplicity is a consequence of the ego consciousness having lost consciousness of a deeper connection with its authentic roots, and which now mistakes fact for truth, the phenomenal for the substantial, the image for the essence, the representation for the reality.  The ego consciousness thus acts as a distorting or perverting lens, which is the aberrancy of the narcissistic condition.

The proximity of the false to the true we have already addressed, to some extent, in the Biblical images of the serpent’s tongue as forked and the tongue of Christ as a “two-edged sword”.  It is, indeed, a curious thing how the first book of the Bible opens with the serpent’s tongue and the last book of the Bible closes with the tongue of Christ depicted as a two-edged sword. It is as if the two books, Genesis and Revelation, bookend the entire Biblical narrative and thus serve to trace the spiritual resolution of the tongue of self-contradiction in the tongue of the unity of the paradoxical. Duplicity and duality are not the same, even though they may be confused as such, for as it is said “Satan is the ape of God” — a mimic, that is, and the forked-tongue may superficially resemble the tongue as “two-edged sword”.

In these contrasting images of the tongue — of speech — is a very fine example and confirmation of Blake, Rumi, Khayyam, and Aurobindo, and of how the duplicitous and false can acquire the appearance of “truthiness” even though it is actually an offense against all truth and thoroughly aberrant.  For how many fail to understand that the forked-tongue which is self-contradiction, dualism, and the disintegrate condition, is not the same as the tongue depicted as “two-edged sword”, which is the unity of opposites through the integrating tongue?  Superficially they are similar, but essentially they are as unalike as the disintegrate and the integral, the incoherent and the coherent.

A culture of duplicity is a culture that has become divided against itself in self-contradiction, and which accelerates its own demise by taking double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and the inevitable double-bind, as the human norm, and not as being symptoms of a diseased and aberrant state.


16 responses to “On The Culture of Duplicity”

  1. alex jay says :

    An appropriate topic for these times … Interestingy, I’ve been recently reacquainting myself with Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung. Your fork-tongue vs the double edged sword analogy corresponds fittingly with Steiner’s Ahriman (matter) and Lucifer (spirit) polarity bridged by their unity in Christ (the personification of the marriage of earth/matter and heaven/spirit) – unfortuately, this balance has been distorted by centuries of Catholic dogma more akin to a Luciferian bias. And, of course, the balancing out of the duality between good and evil – the “shadow” – is central to Jung’s phsycology.

    Indeed, “only a hair divides the false from the true” … witness yesterday’s Obama speech : )

    • alex jay says :

      PSYCHOLOGY!!! The dyslexia has returned (Ouch!)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is also the image of tongue as two-edged sword, corresponding to Jung’s interpretation of the hieros gamos (sacred marriage). The Marriage of Heaven and Hell also reflects Nietzsche’s “beyond good and evil” — that is, beyond dualism. Steiner also made a sculpture called “The Representative of Humanity”, which depicts a figure (probably Christ?) drawing down heaven with one hand, while raising Hell upwards with the other, which image corresponds to both Blake and Nietzsche. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Representative_of_humanity.gif

      In other words, the most interesting and significant thinking of our time aims to realise non-dualism and to surmount the pernicious effects of (Cartesian) metaphysical dualism, a trend that corresponds to Gebser’s anticipation of “the integral consciousness”.

      Here, for example, is a forum on non-dualism and social change — about an hour long discussion which includes David Loy


      • Scott Preston says :

        I caught this from the same forum on non-duality, and it is very good… very important:


        The remarkable thing about his delivery, for me, was that I actually heard two discourses simultaneously in this man’s talk on the subject of time and awakening — one discourse was the overt discourse, while I heard another as well… a covert discourse. They formed a braid, as it were. One could say there was a manifest talk, but also a latent one — one addressing the physical senses and one directed towards the spiritual senses — and there was an interweaving of the two. For me, this was a clear lesson in the meaning of the tongue as “two-edged sword”.

        Very significant for students of Gebser also, for whom the realisation of the integral consciousness, the realisation of “the ever-present origin”, is also the realisation of “time-freedom”.

        • alex jay says :

          Interesting discussions on the links you provided, and much to say … however, I don’t relish spending the next three hours + verbally masterbating : ) Nevertheless, I was struck by David Loy’s description of the Buddha’s 3 “fires”/”poisons” : “greed, aggression, delusion”! From a Western perspective, they reminded me of the 2 inscripritions on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi — “Know Thyself and Everything in Moderation” to which one might add the “Golden Rule” (“do on to others as etc.”). The former are cautions; the latter are remedies (i.e negative/positive) – in other words, the same thing. Actually, somewhat like the 10 Commandmnts vs the 8 Beatitudes.

          Still, in the spirit of the topic on dualities from another perspective, I think you may find the videos in this link worthy of your consideration …


  2. LittleBigMan says :

    I still haven’t finished reading this article 🙂 But, I thought this excerpt from Nietzsche’s piece is quite remarkable and illuminating:

    “When someone hides something behind a bush and looks for it again in the same place and finds it there as well, there is not much to praise in such seeking and finding. Yet this is how matters stand regarding seeking and finding “truth” within the realm of reason. If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare “look, a mammal” I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value.”

    • LittleBigMan says :

      I have to admit that that excerpt from Nietzsche reminded me of the words of that great seer, don Juan Matus. It’s as if don Juan himself is speaking 🙂

    • Scott Preston says :

      Sorry to be tardy getting back and replying to comments, let alone entering new posts. I’ve been helping a friend with his harvest. Long hours and brutal, grueling work. How grueling? Well, I burned 4 lbs in just one day. I’ve burned 12 lbs since the start of the harvest. I’ll be skeletal by the time we’re done.

      Nietzsche’s remark also reflects Einstein’s, too, about the higher value of the intuitive/imaginative compared to the intellectual/analytical. In the old Dark Age Blog, I addressed common images of the intellectual process as “windmill of the mind”, “merry-go-round”, circularity and as basically a tautological process. This “tautology” of the intellectual is characteristic of narcissism. It also underlies Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem which is reflected too in another of Nietzsche’s remarks — “the will to a system is a lack of integrity”. That’s a very important remark. The intellect wills “conclusion” or closure. It confuses conclusion with fulfillment. But as Blake knew, any will to a system is a will to standstill and stagnancy. This is what Fukuyama’s “end of history” amounts to.

      This has important implications for understanding the spirit of modernity or the “ruling idea” of the Modern Era, when you consider Crane Brinton’s (?) definition of modernity as “the invention of a system for creating systems”. Brinton once wrote a book on Nietzsche (not a very good book) but one might surmise that he gleaned this from Nietzsche’s antipathy to systems as being equally his antipathy to “modern ideas”. Fukuyama’s “end of history” was just a logical conclusion to this will to a definitive system and itself a kind of “final solution”. or final synthesis. In all this, there is a modicum of “truthiness”, but it is a perverted and distorted truth. It is the desire for fulfillment and wholeness, for closure and the end of time, but it takes a perverse turn in being equated with the need for System.

      One must be wary and vigilant. Not everything that appears as a truth is a truth, and is very misleading. This is where you need the affirmation of the intuitive self because the intellect very often fools itself or indulges in delusion and self-deception.That’s the gist of Nietzsche’s meaning in his essay on Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        “I’ve been helping a friend with his harvest.”

        That’s a wonderful life. I don’t mean to romanticize the very tough work involved in farming, but it is a way of life that puts the emphasis on dealing with space rather than with individuals (e.g. marketing at the other extreme).

        It seems to me that all the great seers, in one way or the other, wanted to draw attention to and even sanctify ‘space.’ Don Juan, for example, instructed Castaneda that he must pick a personal “place of power,” the function of which was for Castaneda to think of the place and focus his thoughts on it in times of desperation and trouble. The Japanese “Zen Garden” is another example of place being sanctified or the sanctity of space. The notions of “heaven” and “hell” are also, it seems to me, aimed at putting the focus on space. In other words, when I am caught in a sort of a moral dilemma, and if I am a person who believes in heaven and hell, then ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ and conditions that define and sanctify these abstract notions of ‘space’ will impact my actions in this physical reality. So, in this approach to decision making, within the mind, the focus on ‘space’ takes precedence over the ‘act’ itself.

        Seth also instructed that, during tough and stressful times, a beneficial practice is to meditate on a beautiful ‘place.’

        Farm work provides one wonderful connection between man and the earth as sanctuary. And in that, it is sacred and divine work. Not to mention other health benefits that one draws from such work by being away from polluted cities and the “me” generation that live in them.

        • Scott Preston says :

          That’s a wonderful life. I don’t mean to romanticize the very tough work involved in farming, but it is a way of life that puts the emphasis on dealing with space rather than with individuals (e.g. marketing at the other extreme).

          While that may be true of much organic farming, most contemporary and conventional agriculture is highly destructive, and is one of the most destructive activities I know. The costs to animal life, habitat, soil degradation, human health — the uses of polluting pesticides and chemicals — are pretty severe. That pretty much defines the difference between proper organic practices and conventional and highly mechanised agriculture — in the former, one partners and allies with nature. In the latter, one makes war on nature. Also, the sense of time is different between organic farming and conventional. In organic agriculture, one moves to the rhythms of nature’s time. In conventional agriculture, the clock rules. In organic agriculture, one has a bond with the land, and with the land’s plant and animal life. In conventional agriculture, the land is merely an economic resource and asset.

          All these things mark the difference between organic and conventional.

          My friend’s operation is conventional. We are very unalike in some ways. When the harvest is through, or some rainy day brings it to a halt, I’ll post something about it — particularly how the sense of time and timing is so different between traditional, conventional, and organic types of agriculture — three very different forms.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            I completely agree with the distinction you draw between organic and conventional farming methods. Organic farming is truly a spiritual experience.

  3. abdul monem says :

    Ii seem that our elevation into higher consciousness is connected with our payment to the universe its dues and giving a helping hand is one of the basic dues that opens us to higher consciousness. It is a shift from the physical, mental consciousness into the imaginative, intuitive consciousness, the road to non-locality in both its dimensions ,the timeless and placeless, the realm where truth reveals itself and when people feel the moral imperative to confront evil. I am happy to find partners in this spiritual journey. Time of crisis ignites the common desire to get together, to relay the messages of the higher consciousness to the ground, after all life is a participatory game that moves us from the seen into the unseen and backward to understand that the universal opposites are completely unified

    • Scott Preston says :

      I am happy to find partners in this spiritual journey


      You raise a very important point about friendship, Abdul Monem. True friendship is very, very rare among human beings. Most people have “buddies” or “pals”, but not friendship. Friendship is perhaps the highest good that human beings can realise in life.

      Consider Jesus’ saying “no greater love hath a man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.” No greater love! There is no greater love than true friendship. Rumi and Shams. Jesus and John. Rumi also frequently speaks of God as “the Friend”, and one is left wondering whether he is speaking of God or Shams. It makes no difference for Rumi, for God is realised in true friendship, for as William Blake put it, “God is an acts only in existing beings and men”, thus “everything that lives is Holy”.

      What is Jesus saying when he says that man can achieve “no greater love” than in being prepared to die for the friend? One can not love God in the abstract, as an idea or a name, but only in existing beings, for “God is love”. The meaning of “spiritual elevation” is the elevation to this “friendship”. To put it more prosaically perhaps, God does not want slaves. He wants lovers. If God is love, God can be realised only in the act of loving, and love is the real self-forgetting submission.

      Blake also, in one of his Proverbs of Hell put it this way: “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship”. Nietzsche also valued friendship very highly, and one wonders whether he realised, wittingly or unwittingly, that he was affirming Jesus view that there is no greater love. And one of Jesus’ last acts was to declare to his disciples “no longer do I call you servants but friends”.

  4. abdul monem says :

    There is no rational human and intuitive human, there is ration and intuition living in the same human and the question is how to balance. Science is another language . Nietzsche piece recalled to mine mind Ibn Arabi four types of existence the mental ,the physical, the written and the sound. The mental image is the most skillful image that incorporate all the shapes and shades of the physical leaves. Al-ghazzali said there is nothing more perfect than the present universe.

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