Molière by Pièrre Mignard. Photography: Jebulon, Paris

Molière by Pièrre Mignard. Photography: Jebulon, Paris

In 1664, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, or Molière as he was better known by his stage name, wrote a theatrical comedy which dealt with the themes of hypocrisy and charlatanism. In 1984, I had the pleasure of watching Anthony Sher perform the lead role, which he did with his customary brilliance and panache. Had I been alive when Tartuffe was written, I would have had little opportunity to see the play before King Louis XIV censored it – a state in which the play remained for a further five years.

So convinced was he that the play drew parallels between religious devotion and those unsavoury traits just previously mentioned – the apparent links between vice and virtue – that at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Paris, the king forbade all further performances of Tartuffe under threats of excommunication from the Catholic Church. Interestingly, the king did not ban private performances for the French aristocracy. The privileged, as we all know, are immune from hypocrisy.

So this article is about similar associations to those epitomised so dazzlingly well on that night I watched enthralled by Mr. Sher’s depiction of the impostor Tartuffe. I have chosen to do this as there are so many such charlatans around today in the world of spiritual endeavour. Much of this terrain has been commoditized, and with but a tenth of Mr. Sher’s dramaturgical capacity, the deluded spiritual pedagogue, armed with all the right words, makes for themselves a semblance of a living.

Tartuffe. 1739 English Edition

One need not turn professional though, for one may just as well dwell in the amateur dramatics of one’s own social circles, and there too give vent to a spiritual hypocrisy. The phenomenon of holier-than-thou-ness, or the feigned physiognomy of the supposed spiritual visionary, may at times be seen portrayed in the congregations of our local churches, yoga studios and meditation halls. So from what psychological tendencies do such spiritual hypocrisies derive, beyond any egocentric imperatives?

Here, we enter the enchanting world of self-deception, in which the psyche’s hall of mirrors may succeed not only in hoodwinking its own self-construct, but possibly the uninformed observer too. The process subsists in post-hoc fabrications of the mind which lend credence to the adoption of assumptions as to our spiritual progress. The desperation to receive a pay-off for our devotion and practices, leads us to fabricate pseudo-evidence that serves to satiate this otherwise oppressive need.

The whole of this construct is perpetuated and sustained by means of what psychologists call ‘confirmation biases’. Here, the deluded spiritual aspirant interprets experience falsely in an unconscious bid to support both their wishes and any imagined signposts as to their state of advancement. Further, there’s an overt pursuance of what could be, though seldom is, evidence as to the level of their insight or knowledge, the entirety of the biasing being held in all such spurious validations.

This is far from being a universal situation, and many aspirants with humility content themselves in the knowledge that devotion and endless hours of practice may only find reward in realms beyond their ken, or perhaps at best, in brief glimpses of self transcendence. In such a person, the balance of accumulated knowledge leads to the recognition that truth has a sliding floor, and that to seize upon this or that experience as indicative of spiritual terra firma is simply desire hedging its bets again.

Returning to those cleaving to a station not rightfully inherited, she or he will face their comeuppance in time should the biases persist unabated. Wisdom prevails in a tremor of the psyche, the floor slides, and though a freefalling is sensed, in fact a higher ground is reached. The alternative, if pursued in defiance of gravity, makes of the seeker another in the mould of Tartuffe – a hypocritical imposter, an ass of a charlatan. And just as with Molière’s creation, the ass must be revealed.

70 thoughts on “Tartuffe

  1. In this video of the RSC production, Elmire (Alison Steadman), who is Orgon’s wife, attempts to persuade Orgon (Nigel Hawthorne) that their lodger Tartuffe (Anthony Sher) is a charlatan and impostor.

    Elmire has heard of Orgon’s plans to place their home in Tartuffe’s ownership, this due to his being beguiled by Tartuffe’s holiness and religious zeal – an appraisal not shared by other family members.

    Orgon’s intent to make Tartuffe his sole heir, and also his plan for Tartuffe to become his son-in-law, must be overcome by Elmire through demonstrating Tartuffe’s hypocrisy in the presence of Orgon.

    [Apologies for poor quality]

    • I love Tartuffe’s place as your center point. So glad you added the video, too. I’ve seen this scene played many ways, often times in near slapstick, and the point gets buried. I like this version. It serves your point.

      • Many thanks for watching the video and for providing your observations Meredith. I am sorry the quality is rather poor, though I wanted to show the particular production that I referred to in the article.

        With very best wishes to you.


  2. What an eloquent and lucid piece you have put together here, Hariod. Many of your observations speak to me.

    The realities of egocentric delusion and self-deception are the ever-present ‘traps’ of the psyche on the spiritual path, yes? Thank you for reminding us of them! Part of what drew me to the work of Jung is that he places so much importance on monitoring the shadow aspects of our psyche, those parts of our psyche that, if ignored, can make us look like an ass, or come back to bite us in the ass (sorry to be crude in the presence of such an articulate writer, just honoring the on-going ‘ass’ theme lol).

    I am with you that humility is the answer, and my experience has been that if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will find humility one way or another, by developing character, by astute observation, or, well, by eating the humble pie. . . making an ass out of ourselves!! 🙂

    “This is far from being a universal situation, and many aspirants with humility content themselves in the knowledge that devotion and endless hours of practice may only find reward in realms beyond their ken, or perhaps at best, in brief glimpses of self transcendence.”

    The reward for me is definitely in the moments of self-transcendence (as you mentioned), the spontaneous, permeating bliss of surrender, but also in seeing that vibratory love, kindness and presence, when embodied with humility, will ripple out to others. My West African drumming teacher comes to mind. . . so humble, so kind, such bliss to be had in that presence! Another great reward is the joy in attempting to create art/words/music that are filled with vibration. . . transcendent pieces that are devotion-inspired.

    Is there room for balance between honoring and exploring our unique, individual spiritual gifts/insights and remaining humble and open? I sure hope so. ❤

    Thank you for the thought-provoking post and your elegant writing.

    • Thank you so much Amanda, both for taking the time to read through this article, and for adding your own perspective and insights. I have come to greatly respect the depth of your perception and your capacity for analytical rigour through your own writings over at http://www.dreamrly.com of course – a wonderful find for me.

      You refer to ‘. . . the ever-present ‘traps’ of the psyche on the spiritual path. . .’, here echoing what I alluded to with my reference to the seeker’s supposed ‘truths’ having a ‘sliding floor’, and noting that these traps have the potential to make us look like an ‘ass’. This area of ‘truth’ discovery, I feel, is one which is deeply alluring to the unwitting aspirant, and if we haven’t been there ourselves, we are likely to know of others who have ‘shown their ass’. One thinks of the Zen adept Qingyuan Weixin who said :

      ‘I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.’

      As to any further references to asses and the like, then if you watched the video – which you indicate you may have done – then you will know that a good double-entendre is never lost on me; and doubtless the same is true of you.

      Thank you once again dear Amanda; it is always nothing but a delight to engage with you.

      Hariod. ❤

  3. I also really appreciate this piece; there is so much substance here.

    The two sentences that drew me the most were:

    “the balance of accumulated knowledge leads to the recognition that truth has a sliding floor, and that to seize upon this or that experience as indicative of spiritual terra firma is simply desire hedging its bets again.”


    “Wisdom prevails in a tremor of the psyche, the floor slides, and though a freefalling is sensed, in fact a higher ground is reached.”


    • Thank you very much for reading this article Karuna, and also for letting me know which points seemed to chime most with you.

      You quite correctly identify that we must guard against complacency in this arena, and what makes this difficult to accomplish is that there are often phases in our so-called ‘spiritual’ development which are characterised by deeply attractive states. These may periods in which we enjoy manifestations such as say, equanimity, tranquillity, one-pointedness, joy and so forth; all of which can deceive the aspirant in their assessment of progress.

      Thank you once again Karuna.

      Hariod. ❤

  4. Thanks Hariod. A reminder to be mindful of what’s here. With all the stimuli around us, and the way values seem to be prioritized, this can sometimes be difficult. I’m finding the meditation in one of your recent comments helpful though – ‘Where is awareness?’ It seems to work like a koan, taking the mind past the perceived tangible and the ‘confirmation biases’ you reference (have I understood this term correctly?) Thank you again.

    • Thank you Michael, for reading the article and for adding a reflection of your own. The term ‘confirmation bias’ could in fact be fairly used in respect to the consensual awareness in which permanence and selfhood, subjectivity and objectivity, are taken as givens in the way they are erroneously apprehended. We continually perceive the world and our being in ways that support our beliefs, and those of others; in other words we regard everything in terms of selfhood and otherness – a differentiation that is absolute and final, or so it would appear to consensual awareness.

      Still, this would be using the term ‘confirmation bias’ in such a way as to say that virtually all consciousness is a bias against an understood actuality. However, as this actuality is generally not understood, then here in this article, I use the term to indicate a self-deceiving mechanism of the kind which the spiritual seeker may fall prey to: ‘. . . the deluded spiritual aspirant interprets experience falsely in an unconscious bid to support both their wishes and any imagined signposts as to their state of advancement.’

      With much gratitude and respect as always Michael.


      • Thanks Hariod.

        One of the things I take from this is the need for self-awareness and an openness to introspection to know if we’re deceiving ourselves. At the same time, admitting that we might be ‘interpreting experience falsely in an unconscious bid to support both our wishes and imagined signposts’ can be challenging in that sometimes our ‘identities’ are constructed around these false interpretations.

        Lots of food for thought here Hariod.

        Thank you again for the time you put into your writing and the thought it provokes.

        Michael. 🙂

  5. The play is wonderfully entertaining, so thank you for this interlude.

    History continues to repeat itself and it occurs to me that we are studiously schooled in the perception that, as human beings, we are superior. . . perhaps made in the image of something greater, but superior in relationship to all that is tangible. All this separation and ‘otherness’ opens the playing field we’ve come to accept as reality.

    “The privileged, as we all know, are immune from hypocrisy.” In this game, the ‘privileged’ hold to the illusion they are more skilled at avoiding the manipulation they diligently practice. Hypocrisy then is relative!

    The comeuppance is that ‘progress’ in any endeavor then, is monitored by time and its circular gravity until we realize we are all playing in the same sandbox. . . including our spiritual pursuits when considered from this all encompassing perspective.

    Your blog is a lot of fun Hariod. . . thank you for the entertainment and thought provoking stimulation!


    • First things first Jana; if I may, I would like to introduce your sublime site to readers here, wherein you so eloquently speak of rolling over mountains as the ocean’s water and salt fill your bones, and then at last, the rain leaves softer footprints. . . [ http://poetryoflight.org/ ]

      I am pleased you enjoyed the video, and must apologise again for the poor quality. Watching it again after thirty or more years I still get shivers down my spine, and laughs aplenty, at Anthony Sher’s performance. Sadly, this production is not available as a DVD, and I was surprised and thankful to have found portions of it on YouTube.

      Your words here are at once incisive and insightful in their resonant velocity – there I go again, plagiarising your exquisite turns of phrase. I only do so as I suspect, and hope, that you will not hesitate in forgiving me. I had best not sully their content by attempting to expand upon them; save to say, what a privilege it is to have you consider my own feeble efforts.

      With much gratitude and respect Jana.


  6. So powerful, clever and insightful Hariod.

    The ego is so complex and adaptive it is often too difficult to see the truth through our own thinking; especially when our own image of our self becomes one of a highly spiritual being, or an enlightened guru, for the world to follow.

    It is always easier to see it in others rather than ourselves. And of course, what we see in others may be a reflection of what we are hiding from ourselves as well. . .

    There is a lot of ‘guru ego’ around. There probably has always been. . . and always will be.

    I agree, humility and non attachment are the answer. And not taking how we see ourselves so seriously.

    My thanks to you and Moliere. 🙂

    Val. ❤

    • A thousand thanks Val for taking the time to consider this article and for contributing so insightfully to the discussion; I greatly appreciate it, particularly as I imagine you to be very busy with your many students and clients.

      You raise a very interesting point in that delusion is somehow always easier to see in others, whilst necessarily remaining obscured to ourselves; and further that what we recognise may be echoed in our own unacknowledged traits. I have heard tell of many examples of this over the years, and have come to the conclusion that the phenomenon can only safely be wiped away from any potential arising in a powerful dissolution of selfhood – even though such an insight may of itself be fairly short-lived.

      I think that for this reason and as well for others, then if an authentic teacher can be found, then a period of one’s life spent in their company can be invaluable to the spiritual aspirant; and in fact, this is the subject of an article I aim to work on shortly.

      Once again Val, very many thanks for your interest and for your much respected, unique contribution.

      Hariod. ❤

  7. So true. Humility is a virtue that I often have to remind myself to hold above all of my presumed knowledge. Great connection to the theater. I’m not familiar with this particular one but I’ll be on the look out now. 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and commenting upon the article V.A.; I greatly appreciate your interest and involvement here.

      You are right of course, humility is never a bad idea, and although it might appear to go against the grain of this article, then if all else fails in persuading the aspirant that they’re really not seeing the bigger picture, then they should be advised to fake it. Some people find it all but impossible to accept that their view of themselves is less than complete, and even a sham humility will in time incline them to a more open-minded approach.

      Having said that, I know for sure that this is not applicable to yourself; and I remain greatly respectful of your ready willingness to absorb and reflect upon interests and ideas that perhaps are new to you. This is what makes your own site so often such a fascinating place to visit in my view; and the eclectic nature of the subjects you cover there bears testament to your own broad-minded approach.

      With all best wishes and much respect as ever.


      • Thanks for your reassurance, Hariod, but in this case it might be unwarranted. Your article invites the reader to do a self-examination and re-evaluate the knowledge, assumptions and perceived spiritual accomplishments that go so easily unvetted because they are so deeply subjective.

        I appreciate your critical perspective. I certainly have learned over the years that my own mental picture of myself is like the birthday cake that’s been half-eaten before the party and has been stuffed with tissue, covered with icing and called whole for the sake of appearances. I definitely have my share of gaps and blind spots.

        I think I get what you’re saying. Maybe the only protection against the appeal of charlatanism, and one that you call out, is honesty. The honest aspirant continues to strive while the hypocrite works hard to put on airs and make believe they are already whole.

        Like Lauren @ KarmaMamma, I too learn new words each time I read one of your articles; so I apologize if I initially missed your point. 🙂

        • What a beautifully eloquent response V.A.; and one full of the honesty of which you speak. I think it’s largely a balancing act that’s required – one that clearly you are performing in any case. It is, after all, only natural and healthy to be encouraged and energised by our hard-won insights; though we need take care in not over-stepping our appraisal of the same. This means not assuming anything too meaningful, or necessarily unique, to be bound up within particular ‘spiritual’ experiences – there may be, though the passage of time tends to be the sole signifier. If our responses to the world and our circumstances alter as a result of our insights, then I think we can say they are indeed meaningful, and perhaps, unique too. Much of what we think of as ‘progress’ can often be measured effectively against our reactions to events; I am sure you well understand why I say this here V.A.

          With much gratitude and respect as always to you my learned and poetic friend.


    • Thank you very much Julie, for reading this article and for adding a comment. If ever you get the opportunity to see a production of Tartuffe then do let me know what you think; the video clip here is poor quality I’m afraid, though at least you can get a sense of what it’s all about (bums and liars). 😉

      Hariod. ❤

  8. The ‘no’ that contains within it all the promises of fulfilment. . .

    Certain pleasures are forbidden by God, but there are ways of getting round this. . .

    Man, can we do a number on ourselves at times! Self-deception is such a precious awareness to be brought to, even if initially it is a painful path to tread. Recompense and humor has been the way forward for me. Making amends and giggling at my immaturity and daftness is an on going process as I am in motion in my life. I hope to keep uncovering new layers of awareness and laughing often.

    Excellent post. Charlatans (inner and outer) give our discernment a wonderful place for strength training. The secret is to turn that space into a spa rather than a smelly gym. Orchids on the check-in desk with a soft fluffy white towel in a peppermint steam at the workout end of awareness?!


    • Thank you for watching the video M, and for reading my offering. Most of all, thank you for your continued inspiration and presence, the latter being all the more appreciated since your recent hiatus.

      Along with many others, I too missed you and took to much wondering, replete with a melancholic knowing, as to what whiskers of earthly time remained for one L-shaped pelage.

      Ms. Garbarek’s ‘particles in the air’ will, in time I’m sure, speak to you through the static; and as ‘one’ is read backwards, so it is with love from England that we say ‘always returning’.

  9. This is fabulous and beautifully crafted. I love that I need a dictionary on hand when I read your work. And this piece left me both cracking up and getting wrapped in ego and self doubt, relating a tad too closely to those dubious souls of which you speak.

    • I am indebted to you Lauren, for pointing out my unhelpful sesquipedalian tendency. The fault, so I am beginning to suspect, lies in my proclivity to work in the wee hours of the night whilst under the influence of an ample infusion of sherry, whereupon a certain periphrastic form of lucubration results. o_O

      Seriously though, I deeply appreciate your compliment, coming as it does, from one who writes so eloquently herself, and in a related sphere. It’s also good to know that Molière has (not for the first time?) tickled your fancy Lauren; though I can attest that even he would have been hard-pushed to match your own speed of wit!

      As to ‘ego and self doubt’, then surely these are good bed fellows are they not? In any case, the whole is relative, and anyone in the sphere of spiritual endeavour who claims never once to have erroneously imagined themselves to be possessors of ‘advanced’ stages of insight does so disingenuously in my view.

      With much gratitude, and a respect that you once again demonstrate to be so well-deserved.

      Hariod. ❤

        • Yes, I agree with Vegter’s comment below. And how thoughtful of you to provide definitions; though I’ll joke that I also was getting tripped up by the smaller words. Or shall I say the ones that aren’t sesquipedalian or whatever t. f. (We’ll blame Jersey again. Easy and forgiving scapegoat.)

          And I’ve not seen The Wire but I’ll attempt to – Baltimore?

          What a great and active forum you have created, Hariod! So cool.

          • Hey Lauren, there’s no problem whatsoever with you using a few choice Jersey Shore expletives to get your points across. I swear quite a bit myself . . . oh alright then, I swear a lot. As long as we do it with soft intent, as you most certainly do of course, then I think it’s a great way of enriching expression.

            The Wire is a quite outstanding sociological study of a city (and yes, it is Baltimore), and if you have the time to take in all five seasons then you will undoubtedly come away deeply enriched, and possibly much more. HBO are currently re-mastering the series so you may want to take that route.

            On a related note, The Wire creator’s David Simon has a website which is an interesting place to gain fresh perspectives on a whole host of things American: http://davidsimon.com/ Yes, I know Lauren, so much to do, so little time. And with that in mind, let me thank you again for engaging here; I truly appreciate it.

            Hariod. ❤

            • Oh, Hariod, please accept my sincere apologies for my lack of mindfulness above in regards to my choice of language. Expletives will remain in my head and not on the page in the future. I got caught up in our humorous back and forth banter and lost sight of the bigger picture of the public forum. I am so sorry!

              And I send gratitude for your recommendations. I’ve added The Wire to my viewing list and have just checked out Simon’s site. Thank you again!


              • Read my lips: ‘. . .there’s no problem whatsoever with you using a few choice Jersey Shore expletives.’

                If I was in the least worried about profanities dearest Lauren, then I certainly wouldn’t have posted that little clip of Omar from The Wire, nor admitted to my own frequent indulgences. Anyway, the cat’s out of the bag now, you foul-mouthed hussy! 😉

                Hariod. ❤

  10. Thank you, Hariod, for this lovely and cautionary essay. It reminds me of two enjoyable quotes:

    Nagarjuna said “Those who grasp at the notion, ‘I will be free from grasping and Nirvana will be mine’, have a great grasp on grasping.”

    And when asked if he were enlightened, Hakuin replied “If I say I am not, I am lying; but if I say I am, I’m not!”

    So I must beware of the know-it-all sage – especially if he is me!

    • This is excellent indeed John!

      As I see it, both of these wonderful quotes point up the erroneous yet perfectly understandable notion that any talk of Nibbana/Moksha/God implies the possibility of a personal enlightenment as to their realisation. How can the seeker otherwise contemplate the matter?

      The seeker necessarily conceives of themselves as personally unenlightened. That is to say, there is believed to be a differentiated, enduring subject (‘me’) which in time will acquire, or absorb into, an again differentiated object of fixity (Nibbana/Moksha/God ) – or vice versa. The whole conception is predicated on this false dichotomy.

      As to the ‘know-it-all sage’, then I think it’s at least fair to say that most(?) seekers, following transformative insights, have a tendency to regard their moments of illumination as somehow uniquely profound, at least for a short while. And then the sliding floor of ‘truth’ removes this false grounding, and we fall, in time, to rest in a deeper knowledge.

      With much gratitude and respect to you John, as ever.


      A polite note to readers – this is a really good one: http://love-of-wisdom.com/

  11. Hello Hariod,

    Another fine and insightful composition that my delay in finding has allowed me to enjoy on a breezy autumn afternoon here. I’m with V.A. and Karma Mamma, by the way, when it comes to enjoying the mind-tickling repertoire of words at your disposal. Don’t apologize for it. It’s a marvelous and truly enjoyable facet of time spent here.

    Your writing here brought to mind the extent to which true humility is a type of middle way, the opposite pole that you’ve not delved into, except perhaps briefly in your reply to Karma Mamma, being the ‘self’ that forms around doubt – the self that is too little and too powerless to be authentic. These are the seekers that never find. The unworthy. From experience, I can say this is a trap as well, an artifice that let’s us quite clearly draw a line between ourselves and the charlatans, but keeps us stunted and ultimately, suffering.

    It strikes me that true humility involves a claiming of the authentic genius inherent within. ‘Genius’ is a word that has come to imply an exclusivity, but I mean it in the sense that Walter Russell once used it when he said, “Mediocrity is self-inflicted; genius is self-bestowed.” He meant ‘genius’ as the authentic expression of what lies within us, not the self of ego, but the expansiveness we can tap into and that each of our lives can become an expression thereof. We bestow it through in-dwelling contemplation, and the expression of what we discover.

    For me ‘spiritual’ trappings are slowly being left behind in favor of companionship, dialogue between equals, episodes of mutual discovery and extension. It’s a fine line, this authenticity. I wobble from side to side. The daily round, to borrow a phrase from your writing I much enjoy, affords ample opportunities each day for awareness and course correction. . .

    Thank you for the dialogue and companionship that is unfolding here. . .


    • Hello to you my dear and admirable friend,

      Thank you so much for once again considering an offering of mine Michael; and thank you also for sharing your own deeper reflections upon the same. In the few short weeks the two us have engaged here and there, the experience has always been playfully didactic, at least as I perceive it, and you already feel to me like a cherished companion, or as Buddhists say, a kalyāṇa-mitta, meaning an admirable spiritual friend. Here is what the Buddha is reputed to have said on this conception of spiritual friendship:

      ‘And what is meant by admirable friendship? There is the case where a lay person, in whatever town or village he may dwell, spends time with householders or householders’ sons, young or old, who are advanced in virtue. He talks with them, engages them in discussions. He emulates consummate conviction in those who are consummate in conviction, consummate virtue in those who are consummate in virtue, consummate generosity in those who are consummate in generosity, and consummate discernment in those who are consummate in discernment. This is called admirable friendship.’

      In your second and third paragraphs, whilst I can’t be certain, I think you may in part be alluding to what perhaps might be called the flip-side of what is generally regarded as egocentric conceit, and within which the person neurotically appraises themselves in the negative. I wrote about just this in a piece called ‘The disease of conceit’. [ http://wp.me/p4wkZJ-a3 ] If this is broadly correct, then I think it brings into question the need for a certain courage if we are to risk everything in diving deep for those pearliest jewels of ontological knowledge. A fortitude and conviction is needed that never can be summoned is we are in constant doubt as to our worth, or indeed, the very presence of such pearls within.

      A final note: You appear to have joined forces with my very good and noble friends Vegter Animus and Lauren (a.k.a. ‘Karma Mamma’), in both putting up with, and mercilessly reminding me of, my continued indulgence in grammatical contortions, some of which, doubtless to say, serve only to irritate those less forgiving. Much of this tendency, I suspect, the devil in me likes to exaggerate as I undertake my crepuscular blogging activities with my North American friends. I am making a stand for obscurity and independence, for a very English obscurity no less. You do realise that one of the great fears we English harbour is that we should become subsumed in the cultural hegemony of you Americans don’t you? 😉

      Hariod. ❤

      • Hariod, from my own experience I’d say you’re entirely correct that a certain courage must be mustered to navigate the shift into authenticity, and I would say it is required whether the starting point is a self-exalted hypocrisy or a self-defaming unworthiness. Either way, a certain courage, expressed as willingness to consider that one’s perception might not be the last word on things, is essential.

        In this regard, it is good to have admirable spiritual friends around, particularly those who offer polite, periodic samples of how to deploy a language properly, thereby resisting the advance of cultural hegemony. I daresay I have too few of such friends in my life, though I am finding but one is enough to suggest quite a range of rewarding rhetorical research. 🙂


  12. Hello Hariod,

    I have always struggled with the term ‘enlightenment’, or any terms that posit some state to achieve, especially if someone else seems invested in your achieving a state that they are making claims for and have not themselves an experience of.

    The discovery that there are people around who are wholly invested in achieving some state that they have no experience of surprised me. Seems like a Catch-22. Without knowing what enlightenment is, how will one know when they have experienced it? Will it come with a little voice saying, “you are now enlightened, my dear one?” Does the idea that there is an enlightenment to achieve mean that in the meantime I am, endarkened?

    In spite of the problematic issue of knowing, the very people who were peddling this achievement to me, were very good teachers of a technique of meditation that I feel benefitted me at the time. Gifts are everywhere and I suppose that those like-minded ones who desire to search for something grossly ill-defined are harmed primarily through their own innocence, or, and this is more to your point, I think, by a wilful deception by someone taking something from others that they know does not belong to them.

    Thanks for the great post and lovely conversation below.


    • Dear Debra,

      Thank you so much for adding, what by my lights, is a much valued and greatly respected perspective on this issue. Some of your own writings leave me wanting for a lack of knowledge as to your specialisms, though I sense also there is some terrain that I am able to cross with you, and do so very willingly.

      I have had a brief exchange above with Professor Hanagan on the subject of ‘spiritual enlightenment’, and so will not rehearse it further just here for fear of boring all concerned. Save to say, I have had quite a few cold shoulders shown to me as a result of my insistence that a personal spiritual enlightenment is no more than a mythical construct predicated on false conceptual underpinnings.

      As to any state of ‘endarkenment’ ( XD ), then if forced to describe myself in either this or its counterpart category, I would unhesitatingly opt for your altogether more amusing signifier. At least then I leave open the possibility of learning from others, such as yourself and the many good commenters here. I have done more than my share of conceit and arrogance in the past, and yet to say there is no more that I could discover on the nature of being, would surpass even my own former egregious sins.

      In closing, I would echo your caution in subscribing to any peddler of ontological knowledge. Tradition and lineage can be a good thing, though even they may not prevent corruption of authentic doctrine over time of course. A good test, I think, is simply to gauge the degree to which we become more mindful over time when under instruction. Maintaining a sense of humour in it all, and not grasping after, or waiting upon, this or that ‘spiritual’ experience, are helpful adjuncts to earnest spiritual endeavour. And if we get to the end of the path, so to speak, we will see there never was any attainment to be acquired by our putative ‘self of me’.

      With much gratitude and respect to you dear Debra.

      Hariod. ❤

      • Dearest Hariod,

        You most certainly hold your own in these wonderful dialogues.

        I’m just borrowing Bob Dylan’s dump truck to do a little unloading from time to time here.

        I’m not sure what to make of enlightenment. Maybe some people do experience a sort of leveling up in their understanding, I might agree with them there. Years ago, I did experience a kundalini energy thing, but at the time it happened, I had no idea what it was, and I thought for sure I was going to die! In the subsequent years, I gradually felt changed. Some old stubborn thinking patterns revolving around issues of identity dissolved and I felt occasional states of ecstacy, which I still do from time to time.

        I do agree that we make constructs, I think we live primarily through our ability or inability, as the case may be, to imagine and sense the world, but also to make adjustments based on our relationships to the ten thousand things, the people, the environment and all that the human experience consists of.

        But yes, we all need a well developed charletan detector (I’d say B.S. detector hoping that’s not offensive to you), for both the interior and exterior furnishings engaging us. Who can stand an empty room? . . . which, if torture were your favorite pastime, might be an acceptable hiding place to shelter in.

        Yes, that’s not attainment, and thankfully not ownership either. If I had to own every idea that streams into my thoughts, I’d be in jail by now.

        Besides, when we convince ourselves there’s something to attain, it’s for sure we’re missing something. Oh, the irony of it all. Of course that’s not to say that we have it all either, especially if we can’t define what ‘it’ is.

        Maybe that is what finally sank in for me; that the way we tell ourselves the story defines the way we conduct our lives. If I’m convinced there’s some state of consciousness to achieve, I’ll forever live inside of that want. If that state is attractive to me, it might mean I carry an expectation for life to be other than what it is, a moment to moment exchange between my sense awareness of experience and my ability to let it come and go with a willing openness to the senses.

        To feel, think, touch, see, hear, with a willingness to be touched in any given moment and with a willingness to let go in the next moment, that to me is being alive. There’s only a hierarchy of consciousness in the sense of feeling more deeply, being more open to the slipperiness of life’s passing. Intensity waxes and wanes. If we can feel love for being alive most of the time, it’s a good day, yes? If not, “this too shall pass.” Besides, some things are worth crying over, especially love.

        You’re hitting all the good points in your reply here. Humor, that’s a big one, but it too can occasionally have a dark side and be used to hurt ourselves and others. I probably should laugh more. . .

        You might agree though that we all can use a good teacher now and then, and even that requires discernment. There’s no guarantees when it comes to other people. All we can do is be vigilant and attentive, to our motives as well as other’s.

        I do so enjoy conversations with you. I love your language sensibility and ability to speak to many different ideas.

        Thank you too, for your kind words!


        • This is so gracious and generous of you dear Debra. [Though now I wonder whether I should regard you as one ‘junkyard angel’, or perhaps as our very own ‘soulful mama’. I think the latter, with your and Mr. Zimmerman’s permission, of course.]

          Seriously though, it is wonderful to have this insight into your life and experience, the sum of which sounds nothing short of exceptional. Being a blogging neophyte, I am as of yet to become familiar with those with whom I’ve begun to engage, both here and on their own sites, and so having this perspective that you so kindly afford me is greatly appreciated.

          Bullshit deflectors are mandatory when entering spiritual circles; you are so right Debra. I would always recommend purchasing the very highest quality ones though, as even shit can be nuanced so as to appear sweet-smelling, and this, of course, is largely the great skill of the casuist guru; and turd polishing sophists more generally.

          With deep gratitude and respect.

          Hariod. ❤

  13. I think there can be many charlatans out there in many guises Hariod, each consumed with their own ego. I think many enjoy their guru status too. Once upon a time I would mop up words from those who called themselves enlightened beings; and as I grew within my spiritual circle I witnessed many who were far from spiritual in their nature as they trod upon others to better themselves.

    Today I think I am guided more by intuition; and we all need to but look in the mirror to see if we like what is reflected back. And even I need to dust it once in a while. 😉

    Lovely post Hariod. Tartuffe is new to me, so I was educated also this evening. Great to be here and catching up once again.

    Love, Sue. xox

    • Thank you very much Sue, both for reading this article and for adding your own perspective to the discussion. I would guess that your past experience is not so rare, in so far as the old truism ‘power corrupts’ seldom takes too long before it can be seen to be applicable. It is a tricky one, as opening to any authentic teaching does require a certain surrender, and that in turn necessarily entails suspending belief (as to what we thought we knew). We make of ourselves vulnerable as children in this process, correctly sensing that cynicism will only thwart our endeavours. And this is the opening for the charlatans, the sophists, the casuists, and those whose only interest is in gaining power over others. Your intuition clearly serves you very well Sue.

      With gratitude, love and respect.

      Hariod. ❤

  14. What a post! Your words alone are brilliant, but to illustrate the point with that clip was spot on. Oddly enough, only minutes before reading and watching the clip, I was watching Alison Steadman on television in a series called ‘Christmas Crackers’ where different actors, comedians and the like, write a small piece on an event in their life that they deem interesting and exciting. A defining moment one might say. All the actors in the above play are excellent, but she is one of my favourites and has been for a long time.

    I’ve not seen the play, but by gum I enjoyed that clip immensely! The dialogue is clever, fast and sharp as a knife. Anthony Sher was wonderfully creepy too. I envy your seeing him live in the role. The tangled web that those who deceive weave. . . There are many for whom the deception has spread so far as to become a part of their own minds – they believe their lies eventually as truth, and when it comes to the spiritual, the whole show is rife with such behaviour.

    This line in the play, timing-wise had me laughing a lot:

    She – “I don’t think it would help much to suck anything”

    Hahahaha. Of course the whole piece is very funny, yet the point is driven home well. It reminds me of ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ actually, one of my favourite films.

    The turbulence on the Cloud was, and is, health related; and I needed to go and fly through the universe for a while until I could bounce around the blogosphere as usual. I run a happy Cloud you see. *smiles*. (It is nothing to worry about.)

    Thank you Hariod, I enjoyed that immensely. *beams*. ❤

    • I am so pleased that you found much pleasure in the video clip Sonmi; it is quite delightfully brilliant I think. The line of Steadman’s that you cite works rather well, as does Sher’s response to it: “Well, that is trying”. XD I wonder if the poor quality meant that you missed Sher’s silent gesture (the lapping tongue) at the end of the sequence that runs from 8.24 to 8.44; and also his not-so-subtle hand movements at 9.08. XD

      Thank you for the further detail as to the causes of that recent turbulence up there. Such things can leave us feeling so vulnerable; the world made to seem uncomfortably intense a place; yet if it truly is nothing to worry about, then the high pressure will hopefully normalise as nature, cure or acceptance take their course. I am only delighted that I was able to assist the process in some tiny way by the inclusion of the humorous video; laughter is a healer is it not?

      Hariod. ❤

      • My health issue is on-going; but laughter, well yes, it most surely is a healer. Without laughter, why there’d be no Cloud at all in fact; it is vital to keeping both body and mind intact and running as smoothly as possible; and I’m always pleased to meet someone such as yourself (not that there are many if any quite like you mind 😀 ), who has a great sense of humour along with a sharp mind. ❤

        – Sonmi smiling at the gestures in the play, upon the Cloud.

        • That expression of yours, “as smoothly as possible”, is one that I’ve found increasingly necessary to apply in regard to my own health as I have aged. A new norm appears each year; and one hobbles on, thankful that one hasn’t yet joined the many old acquaintances that thin in number with increasing frequency.

          On the other hand, the old sods might be having a whale of a time up there, looking down and laughing at me for feeling grateful that I continue in this earthly play. And as to those for whom it’s more a case of being ‘down there and looking up’, well, it was fun while it lasted. What do you think Sonmi – is metempsychosis a runner?

  15. It’s a fine word isn’t it? ‘Metempsychosis’. Yes. Well, as one who considers all possibilities, and then chucks out the nonsense, (as she sees it), then when I was a child – say, 8 or 9 years old – and the meaning of the theory of reincarnation was explained to me, I was absolutely horrified. I still am to some extent.

    To have no choice but to return again and again, and in some belief systems only to have your life ‘improve’ – depending upon whether one thinks going from a worm to a human is improving – to my mind the jury is not just out on that, it is down the pub getting hammered, boarded the ferry to France, went wild and got a dodgy flight to Thailand and then turned stowaway on the next flight to Mars.

    Indeed, I might actually prefer the worm option what with the simplicity and basic “chop me in half and still, still I return in a terminator-type fashion mwahahaha” etc. Where was I? Oh yes; nothing is impossible.

    However, I lean towards that most likely, and I think, if not indeed know, that there are a billion trillion Sonmiclouds, in alternate dimensions. Some are typing this sentence, some are being absolute arseholes, (very, very, very few of them mind you – hahaha). One of them is an absolutely brilliant drummer.

    Echoes reverberate. Coincidences are beyond coincidence and into other realms in this existence alone, and there’s every chance that someone, somewhere, is holding the biggest goddamn gaming handset you ever could conceive of. They are beyond our conception so far as size and capabilities go, and they are in terms of relative perspective – around seven to eight years old.

    And they are playing one hell of a brilliant game that requires no conscience whatsoever on their part at all, but is kinda fun to tweak every now and again to see what happens when you press ‘this’ button. The characters have to do most of the work themselves and they make their own beds, so to speak. And perhaps, if they score well enough, then they get to play again in the next round, different character/species/bag of crisps.

    I’m not sure I answered the question properly. *Laughs*

    Is there more? Yes. Be it atoms or sitting on a humongous quite sarcastic Cloud in the sky.

    There is more.

    – Sonmi hoovering cosmic dust off the Cloud.

    • And now I am confused; how am I to know which Sonmi is sending me messages? In this MWI* of yours, do email addresses alter in each world? Possibly not; and so I have no idea if I now am addressing the drummer or the hooverist. I had better devise a system whereby you knock on the door before entering the land of contentedness; and if your knocking speeds up, well, then you must be the drummer.

      How pleasing it is to me that you like that word ‘metempsychosis’; in my mind, it ranks alongside ‘absquatulate’ in order of quality. My crepuscular lucubration may sometimes entail some ordering of words into leagues of pleasantry, such is the meaningless of my apparent life. Still and all, whilst I get what you mean as regards the worm’s commendable capacity to endure the chop, the wriggly ones’ lack something in their cylindrical little lives; exemplars of your beloved MWI though they are in their infinite chopability.

      You are wise to consider all possibilities as such Sonmi, horrific though you may find some to be. This averts unpleasant surprises being sprung upon us, such as in becoming a worm – or two. I was once told by a wicked Buddhist nun that in a former life I had been a nightclub dancing girl – the risqué kind. The good news is that having experienced that, I shall never again have to bare all whilst clasping to a pole in an upside down position. I suppose there are upsides and downsides to metempsychosis. And backsides too.

      * http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141030101654.htm

      • MWI – They stole the whole idea from me you know. *winks*

        Nice link.

        – Sonmi fighting the Sandman upon the Cloud in two dimensions – in one, he wins; in the other, she wins and has eyes like golf balls for the next 24 hours at least.

    • Quite a few actually, but discretion, as they say . . . Glad you enjoyed the wicked humour in the video, and many thanks for having a trawl through this one; I appreciate your interest.

    • I think it best if I desist from commenting upon your ‘inner ass’ Candia, yet nonetheless would like to thank you for showing an interest in mine. I take it from your comment that you viewed the video of Mr. Sher performing Tartuffe, and only hope you found his electric performance more than compensated for the rather low-definition of the reproduction. Best wishes to you Candia, Hariod.

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