Make yourself free from mechanical lying!

We humans tell lies every hour of the day.
A provocative and outrageous assertion, isn’t it? What do you mean by “we“? Other people do perhaps, but why “we“, which also includes “me“?

Well, a harmless white lie can’t be so bad. For example when auntie offers me another little piece of her hard, tasteless, cardboard-like carrot cake and I elegantly sidestep the pressure by pleading an upset stomach, or when I politely eat her dreadful cake and enthusiastically assure her how delicious it is.
What can be so wrong about telling others a minor untruth out of consideration, or freeing myself from the need to explain myself unnecessarily?
Does the end not justify the means? Do we not find those people particularly crude and offensive who are proud that they insist on assailing others with the unvarnished and unpleasant truth? ”Well, I wouldn’t have bought that new car of yours. I think the design is a real disaster ... just look at that really odd rear end… “.

It is one of the tenets (4th precept) of Buddhism not to tell lies, lying being defined as telling an untruth to cheat others. But what happens if you do not know the truth, would that still be a lie? What if you are one of those people who cannot tell a story without completely exaggerating everything?
Or what if a student tries to “hoodwink“ the teacher that he has done his homework, but left it at home by mistake? Would that still be an acceptable white lie? There are actually religions which even forbid their followers from lying to a murderer who wants to know where the head of the household has hidden himself. In some things, e.g. religions, it is not the case that one can only make the truth comprehensible to others by telling them untruths? Is it acceptable to lie to protect others? Is it unacceptable to lie if you have examined yourself and discovered that you have selfish motives? Do you agree with me when I say that it is morally weak for the artful user of so-called ”wise” Chinese stratagems to employ sneaky tricks and intrigues to mislead and denigrate others to his own advantage?

In fact I am not concerned with these types of reprehensible if harmless white lies here. My purpose is to shed some light on the problem of lying from the point of view of the higher level in WingTsun. The aim in WT is to become free, conscious and self-determining, to free ourselves from our own strength and the power and influence of others.
In my new book “The Last shall be First“, I refer to the latest view taken by leading brain researchers (though one I consider should be taken in relative terms at present) that as ”Nature” has created him and seems to want him to be, man does not really have any freedom of will or decision-making, and therefore cannot be held responsible for himself and his actions. This means that the ”untrained“, machine-like man cannot consciously control his lies either, and neither can he ”lie” consciously. Nonetheless, lying consciously is easier than preventing mechanical lying.

As our primary goal is to become conscious, we do not assess lying according to moral criteria, but instead reject it because it takes place as a mechanical response. To wean ourselves away from ”lying automatically”, we must first become conscious of the act of lying by e.g. telling five ”harmless white lies” to somebody each day for a week. Only a very few ”naturals“ are immediately able to do this; most people experience great stress when dishing up even the most harmless, ”altruistic” white lies, therefore they profit greatly from the associated self-observation required (where one ”I” observes another).

Speaking of different ”I”s or subpersonalities – in the view of some researchers and according to my personal findings, many such subpersonalities are to be found within every person. Since we only have one body, which therefore only has one name, we humans believe that we only consist of one person. The feeling that ”this is me” comes from our sensory experiences: I see my hand in front of me, it is attached to my arm and follows my instructions; if somebody else touches it, it feels different from my own touch. Everything that happens to me is something special, and I am the only real VIP in my life (”don’t you know who you’re dealing with“).

This is the origin of our illusion that we are separate from other living beings, and that we are a permanent and single personality. In fact we consist of several subpersonalities, what the Bible calls ”a legion”: one of these may be bone idle and like to stay in bed, another may be full of action and yet another can be ambitious and obsessed with achieving fame. A quite different ”I” is afraid of being conspicuous, while another needs attention to feel at ease. It is not just harmless ”I”s that bustle around inside us, however – the slum districts of our bodies are home to highly dangerous, criminal ”I”s one would not like to meet in the dark, like sleeping dogs that are best left to lie.
It is not for nothing that in the Jung Yung, Confucius says that we should be particularly mindful of ourselves when nobody is watching us and we are alone with ourselves. As a result of external influences, stress or mechanical impulses, one of these so-called subpersonalities gains control over us and begins to call itself the only “I”. Then something negative happens – the weather turns bad or somebody says something – and another part of us takes over the command centre. We are like a rotting sailing ship without a permanent captain. The helmsman is drunk and the crew is watching porn videos, while the ship is alternately lashed by storms and condemned to inactivity when the wind drops.
As we have no single and permanent personality, we are unable to exert control over ourselves as Nature made us. We are unable to pursue any goal over a longer period and – which finally brings me to the point – we are unable to distinguish between lies and untruths, as we have to lie to ourselves in order to live with our different subpersonalities and their contradictions. If we were able to recognise that we possess a cruel, sadistic ”I” next to a warm-hearted, self-sacrificing ”I”, and that a mean, small-minded, nitpicking ”I” shares our body with a generous free spirit, we would probably live in utter confusion and possibly even lose our so-called reason. To ensure that this does not happen, “Nature“ has equipped us with integral defence mechanisms, and these act mechanically to prevent us from being too starkly confronted with the depths and contradictions of our psyche. These defence mechanisms act like shock absorbers and stop us from being clearly aware when one ”I” takes over control from another. The ”shock absorbers” not only soften the hard impact when one contradictory part of us meets another, they also dampen our consciousness by making it possible for us to lie to ourselves without being aware of it. Therein lies the blessing and mercy of self-deception, but also the danger. It makes us unfree, turning us into a pitiable machine that does not even know that it is one. In contrast to an animal, a human is a man-computer who knows, or rather “can” know as a result of self-observation and years of self-improvement, that he is a kind of automaton. And simply recognising that we are automatons, people who are on autopilot, must change us and give us an initially tiny amount of freedom and decision-making ability. Hence the value of “conscious“, harmless lying as a starting exercise.
Machines have no responsibility or blame. Only somebody who has learned to lie consciously can later ”decide” between truth and untruth. The machine itself is neither good nor evil. Only the (true) new man, one who is not an automaton all the time, has the option of not having to lie all the time.

Only when he has overcome his mechanicality can he start to think about morals, and then about a higher, objective order of morals which lies beyond the fashion of the times.
Before this, any philosophising about morals is just empty talk and a waste of time, like the question how one can prevent injustice, cruelty and wars.

Back to the shock absorbers as defence mechanisms: these are already formed at an early age, and are often involved in making our inevitable suffering bearable; they usually consist of lies and self-deception.

Examples of mechanical self-deception:

• A blonde who was worshipped by Jack when he was young cruelly rejected him in the presence of his best friends and made him look ridiculous.
From that moment on, and right up to old age, he was quite capable of reacting with dismissive gestures and contempt whenever a blonde was mentioned. Psychologists refer to this as “reaction formation“.

• An inoffensive foreigner is badly mistreated by John’s friends. John knows that he should go to his aid and has a guilty conscience about not doing so, but he overrules it and does not enter into conflict with his friends so as not to lose their friendship. This so-called "suppression" is a self-protective response, but at least it makes us unpleasantly aware for an instant by awakening a guilty conscience.
Incidentally, this also teaches us that consciousness is often accompanied by unpleasant feelings, which gives the man-machine all the more reason to give consciousness a wide berth.

• Many people regard dogs as man’s best friend, and as his most faithful and honest companion. Nonetheless there are also people who hate dogs. But since they know that such an attitude is not acceptable, they behave as if they were the greatest dog-lovers. They will not even admit their true feelings to themselves (”repression“). But if you observe their body language when they stroke a dog, it reveals everything.

• A person has an “I“ that enjoys being cruel to animals. Other ”I“s hate cruelty to other living beings, however, so it is better for that person to distance himself from such a cruel desire as it begins to arise: “Oh, that was just an aberration, a fleeting, mad idea, that wasn’t me“. (“Identification“) • All her life Jane’s mother taught her that she must be friendly and polite to guests. Although the old lady passed away many years ago, Jane cannot bring herself to throw out a troublesome guest who is causing her difficulties, as she has to live up to her image of her mother.
Her mother really has become something of an introjected part of her (”introjection“).

•“Projection“ is when somebody does not accept his own feelings, but sees them in somebody else. I sometimes find that students or colleagues who are otherwise self-critical or even meditative ascribe feelings or motives to me that really do not apply to me, but to themselves. Nonetheless, one should not dismiss the criticisms of others by saying ”oh, that’s merely a projection”, for a criticism is often particularly valid when one protests very loudly. Our cry of pain shows that the other person has scored a direct hit. One of my students is a very pleasant and helpful person, but as everybody around him (except he himself) knows, he is very, very mean in certain areas. I was once present when his girlfriend accused him of this. We were sitting in his lounge and he completely lost his cool, grabbed his most valuable Chinese vase and angrily threatened to smash this super-expensive object against the wall to prove that he was not mean ... (Look what expensive things I own, I can even afford to smash them! How can you call me a miser then? Would a mean person do that?) This is how a mean person behaves who hates being mean, and who could not bear it if he knew he was. It is a good thing that his own inbuilt defence mechanism protects him from this realisation!

• Even as a schoolboy, Martin found that he forgot his ”feelings of inferiority“ and took himself to be important and altruistic when he was able to give others advice on how to solve their problems. When he meets somebody who (also) has certain difficulties he becomes conscious of his own, but he is able to obscure his own feelings of inferiority (”rationalisation") by convincing himself that he is helping the other person out of completely selfless motives, like a good Samaritan. And since most people have a more or less well developed tendency to help others anyway, this becomes mixed with the defence mechanism which obscures his own shortcomings or absorbs the shock of recognising them. The more truth is mixed with the defence mechanism, the more credible and rational his rationalisation appears to Martin.

• Beneath the surface Harry quietly harbours a bottomless pit of physical aggression. But since Harry knows that his aggression is not socially acceptable, and that throttling other people would get him into serious trouble, he ”sublimates” his energy and directs it to a non-physical level where he can enjoy ”cutting the throats” of his business competitors.
"Sublimation" is a sort of replacement that is not quite as satisfying as the original urge, but helps to relieve sufficient pressure. If this transformation occurs consciously, all the better, but in most cases we lie to ourselves and also rationalisation and other defence mechanisms to support the relevant sublimation.

Have you ever noticed how often we close our eyes and literally look away when we e.g. do something we are ashamed of? We even excise this shameful and unbearable event from our memory, so that e.g. a mother who has murdered her child is able to plead convincingly in court that she is not guilty, as she would not be able to bear having killed her child.
Somebody who has stolen from a friend and cannot live with the fact might completely suppress his memory of the embarrassing deed or restructure the whole thing in his mind, so that finally the friend is to blame.

By means of long years of untiring effort, self-observation and meditation, we are able to identify our various defence mechanisms, recognise our true motives and the real reasons behind the reasons to recognise our true selves, and perhaps finally achieve some measure of free will.
However this process, which leads to more and more consciousness, freedom from our trance-like state and the awakening of an objective conscience, is associated with very unpleasant feelings, which means that most people either do not enter into this battle with their sleeping consciousness or give up after a short time.

Keith R. Kernspecht