This is strongly seen in the following extract from Sogyal Rinpoche's Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (p.121). Essentially, replace the term 'ego' in the following remarkable passage with 'civilisation,' and you'll get to the heart of the millennia of seduction and lies that come with civilised metaphysics.
In Tibetan ego is called dak dzin, which means "grasping to a self." Ego is then defined as incessant movements of grasping at a delusory notion of "I" and "mine," self and other, and all the concepts, ideas, desires, and activity that will sustain that false construction. Such a grasping is futile from the start and condemned to frustration, for there is no basis or truth in it, and what we are grasping at is by its very nature ungraspable. The fact that we need to grasp at all and go on and on grasping shows that in the depths of our being we know that the self does not inherently exist. From this secret, unnerving knowledge spring all our fundamental insecurities and fear.
So long as we haven't unmasked the ego, it continues to hoodwink us, like a sleazy politician endlessly parading bogus promises, or a lawyer constantly inventing ingenious lies and defenses, or a talk show host talking on and on, keeping up a stream of suave and emptily convincing chatter, which actually says nothing at all.
Lifetimes of ignorance have brought us to identify the whole of our being with ego. Its greatest triumph is to inveigle us into believing its best interests are our best interests, and even into identifying our very survival with its own. This is a savage irony, considering that ego and its grasping are at the root of all our suffering. Yet ego is so convincing, and we have been its dupe for so long, that the thought that we might ever become egoless terrifies us. To be egoless, ego whispers to us, is to lose all the rich romance of being human, to be reduced to a colorless robot or a brain-dead vegetable.
Ego plays brilliantly on our fundamental fear of losing control, and of the unknown. We might say to ourselves: "I should really let go of ego, I'm in such pain; but if I do, what's going to happen to me?"
Ego will chime in, sweetly: "I know I'm sometimes a nuisance, and believe me, I quite understand if you want me to leave. But is that really what you want? Think: If I do go, what's going to happen to you? Who will look after you? Who will protect and care for you like I've done all these years?"
And even if we were to see through ego's lies, we are just too scared to abandon it, for without any true knowledge of the nature of our mind, or true identity, we simply have no other alternative. Again and again we cave in to its demands with the same sad self-hatred as the alcoholic feels reaching for the drink that he knows is destroying him, or the drug addict groping for the drug that she knows after a brief high will only leave her flat and desperate.
Ego is so clever that it can twist the teachings for its own purposes; after all, "The devil can quote scriptures for his own ends." Ego's ultimate weapon is to point its finger hypocritically at the teacher and his followers and say: No one around here seems to be living up to the truth of the teachings!" Now ego poses as the righteous arbiter of all conduct: the shrewdest position of all from which to undermine your faith, and erode whatever devotion and commitment to spiritual change you have.
[Note: This point on hypocrisy is particularly pertinent for anyone who's ever tried to dialogue on the topics of civilisation or technology. Jibes of "well, you're writing this with technology" or "why don't you go live in the woods then?" are commonplace, yet entirely sidestep the point, without substantially engaging as Sogyal Rinpoche notes.]
Yet however hard ego may try to sabotage the spiritual path, if you really continue on it, and work deeply with the practice of meditation,you will begin slowly to realize just how gulled you have been by ego's promises: false hopes and false fears. Slowly you begin to understand that both hope and fear are enemies of your peace of mind; hopes deceive you, and leave you empty and disappointed, and fears paralyse you in the narrow cell of your false identity. You begin to see also just how all-encompassing the sway of ego has been over your mind, and in the space of freedom opened up by meditation, when you are momentarily released from grasping, you glimpse the exhilarating spaciousness of your true nature. You realize that for years, your ego, like a crazy con artist, has been swindling you with schemes and plans and promises that have never been real and have only brought you to inner bankruptcy. When, in the equanimity of meditation, you see this, without any consolation or desire to cover up what you've discovered, all the plans and schemes reveal themselves as hollow and start to crumble.