Hypocrisy—in other words, the practice of lying about lying—shields us from seeing ourselves as we are: a collocation of fragments that fit together as a biological unit but not as anything else, not as that ghost which has been called a self, a phantasm whose ecotoplasmic unreality we can never see through. By staying true to the lie of the self, the ego, we can hold onto the illusion that we will be who we are all our lives and not see our selves die a thousand times before our death. While some have dedicated themselves to getting to the bottom of how these parts create the illusion of a whole, this is not how pyramids are built. To get a pyramid off the ground takes a lot of ego—the base material of those stacks of stones that tourists visit while on vacation. Of course, a pyramid is actually a polyhedron, that is, a mathematical conception which pyramids in the physical world resemble . . . at least from a distance. The nearer one gets to a pyramid, the more it reveals itself to be what it is: a roughly pyramidal conglomeration of bricks, a composition of fragments that is not what it seems to be. This is also how it works with humans. The world around us encourages the build up of our egos—those pyramids of self-esteem—as if we needed such encouragement. Although everyone is affected by this pyramid scheme, some participate in it more than others: they are observably more full of themselves and tend to their egos as they would exotic plants in a hothouse. It helps if they can wear down the self-esteem of others, or simply witness this erosion. As the American novelist and essayist Gore Vidal said famously and often: It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail. None of this could work without the distance we put between what we are and what we think we are. Then we may appear to exist apart from our constituent elements. Self-esteem would evaporate without a self to esteem. As with pyramids, it is only at a distance that this illusion can be pulled off. Hypocrisy is that distance.
Thomas Ligotti