It is a man's own internal defects which often conspire against him and which show their faces in many of the external troubles that beset him. Yet it is hard for him to accept this truth because his whole life-habit is to look outwards, to construct defensive alibis rather than to engage in censorious self-inquisition. Sheikh al Khuttali, a Sufi adept, addressing a disciple who complained at his circumstances, said: "O my son, be assured that there is a cause for every decree of Providence. Whatever good or evil God creates, do not in any place or circumstance quarrel with his action or be aggrieved in thy heart." Therefore, the aspirant who is really earnest about the quest should develop the attitude that his personal misfortunes, troubles, and disappointments must be traced back to his own weaknesses, defects, faults, deficiencies, and indisciplines. Let him not blame them on other persons or on fate. In this way he will make the quickest progress whereas by self-defending or self-justifying or self-pitying apportionment of blame to causes outside himself, he will delay or prevent it. For the one means clinging to the ego, the other means giving it up. Nothing is to be gained by such flattering self-deception while much may be lost by it. He must bring himself to admit frankly that he himself is the primary cause of most of his ills, as well as the secondary cause of some of the ills of others. He must recognize that the emotions of resentment, anger, self-pity, or despondency are often engendered by a wounded ego. Instead of reviling fate at each unfortunate event, he should analyse his moral and mental make-up and look for the weaknesses which led to it. He will gain more in the end by mercilessly accusing his own stubbornness in pursuing wrong courses than by taking shelter in alibis that censure other people. Like a stone in a shoe which he stubbornly refuses to remove, the fault still remains in his character when he stubbornly insists on blaming things or condemning persons for its consequences. In this event the chance to eliminate it is lost, and the same dire consequences may repeat themselves in his life again.
The faith of the lower ego in itself and the strength with which it clings to its own standpoint are almost terrifying to contemplate. The aspirant is often unconscious of its selfishness. But if he can desert its standpoint, he shall then be in a position to perceive how large an element it has contributed in the making of his own troubles, how heavy is its responsibility for unpleasant events which he has hitherto ascribed to outside sources. He shall see that his miserable fate derives largely from his own miserable faults. He is naturally unwilling to open his eyes to his own deficiencies and faults, his little weaknesses and large maladjustments. So suffering comes to open his eyes for him, to shock and shame him into belated awareness and eventual amendment. But quite apart from its unfortunate results in personal fortunes, whenever the aspirant persists in taking the lower ego's side and justifying its action, he merely displays a stupid resolve to hinder his own spiritual advancement. Behind a self-deceiving facade of pretexts, excuses, alibis, and rationalizations, the ego is forever seeking to gratify its unworthy feelings or to defend them. On the same principle as the pseudo-patriotism which prompted the Italians to follow Mussolini blindly throughout his Ethiopian adventure to its final disaster, the principle of "My country! right or wrong," he follows the ego through all its operations just as blindly and as perversely, justifying its standpoints merely because they happen to be his own. But the higher Self accepts no rivals. The aspirant must choose between denying his ego's aggressiveness or asserting it. The distance to be mentally travelled between these two steps is so long and so painful that it is understandable why few will ever finish it. It is only the exceptional student who will frankly admit his faults and earnestly work to correct them. It is only he whose self-criticizing detachment can gain the upper hand, who can also gain philosophy's highest prize.
-- Notebooks Category 11: The Negatives > Chapter 2: Their Roots in Ego > # 19
-- Perspectives > Chapter 11: The Negatives > # 17