January 17, 1961
51 – When I hear of a righteous wrath, I wonder at man's capacity for self-deception.
What do you have to say?
Our self-deception is always in good faith! We always act for the welfare of others or in the interests of humanity and to serve you (that goes without saying!). How exactly do we deceive ourselves?
I would like to ask you a question in turn – because there are two ways of understanding your question. It can be taken in the same ironic or humorous tone that Sri Aurobindo has used in his aphorism when he wonders at man's capacity for self-deception. That is, you are putting yourself in the place of the self-deceiver and saying, “But I am of good faith! I always want the welfare of others – the interests of humanity, to serve the Divine (of course!). Then how can I be deceiving myself?”
But actually, there are really two quite different forms of self-deception. One can be very shocked by certain things, not for personal reasons but precisely because of one's goodwill and ardor to serve the Divine, when one sees people misconducting themselves, being egoistical, unfaithful, treacherous. There comes a stage when one has mastered these things and doesn't permit them to manifest IN ONESELF; but to the extent that one is in contact with ordinary consciousness, ordinary viewpoints, ordinary life and thought, their possibility is still there, latent, because they are the inverse of the qualities one is striving for. And this opposition always exists until one has risen above and no longer has either the quality or the defect. As long as one has virtue, one always has its latent opposite. The opposition disappears only when one is beyond virtue and sin.
But until then, there is this kind of indignation stemming from the fact that one is not entirely above: it's a period when one totally disapproves of certain things and would be incapable of doing them. And up to this point, there is nothing to say, unless one gives an external, violent expression to his indignation. If anger interferes, it indicates an entire contradiction between the feeling one wants to have and this reaction towards others. Because anger is a deformation of vital power originating from an obscure and thoroughly unregenerate vital,1 a vital still subject to all the ordinary actions and reactions. When an ignorant, egoistic individual will exploits this vital power and encounters opposition from other individual wills around it, then under the pressure of opposition this power changes into anger and tries to obtain through violence what could not be achieved by the pressure of the Force alone.
Anger, moreover, like all forms of violence, is always a sign of weakness, impotence and incapacity. Here the deception comes from the approval one gives it or the flattering adjective one covers it with; for rage can be no more than blind, ignorant and asuric – opposed to the light.
But this is still the best of cases.
There is another case where people – without knowing it or because they WANT to ignore it – always pursue their personal interests, their preferences, their attachments, their concepts; people who are not entirely consecrated to the Divine and make use of moral and yogic ideas to conceal their personal motives. These people doubly deceive themselves: not only do they deceive themselves through their outer activities, their relations with others, but they also deceive themselves about their personal motives; instead of serving the Divine they are serving their own egoism. And this happens constantly, constantly! One serves his own personality, his egoism, while pretending to serve the Divine. This is no longer even self-deception: it's sheer hypocrisy.
This mental habit of always cloaking everything with a favorable appearance, of giving all movements a favorable explanation, is at times so flagrant that it can fool nobody but oneself (although it may occasionally be subtle enough to create an illusion). It is a sort of habitual self-exoneration, the habit of giving a favorable mental excuse, a favorable mental explanation for all one does, all one says, all one feels. For example, someone with no self-control who strikes another in great indignation and is ready to call it divine wrath! Righteous2 is perfect, because righteous immediately introduces this element of puritanical morality – wonderful!
This power of self-deception, the mind's craft in devising splendid justifications for any ignorance or folly whatsoever, is tremendous.
And it's not a random experience coming now and then, it's something you can witness minute by minute. You generally see it far more readily in others! But if you watch yourself carefully, you will catch yourself a thousand times a day – looking at things in a favorable way: “Oh, it's NOT the same thing!” And besides, it's NEVER the same for you as it is for your neighbor!
1 For Sri Aurobindo and Mother, the “vital” represents the regions of consciousness or the centers of consciousness below the mind between the throat and the sex center, i.e. the whole region of emotions, feelings, passions, etc., which constitute the various expressions of the Life-Energy.
2 Throughout the Agenda, words Mother originally spoke in English are italicized.