The “Real” McCoy

Many humans will only purchase brand name items. They wouldn’t be caught dead buying anything less. They want the genuine article, the best of the best; and yet how easily they are fooled into buying into a false “i”-dentity. The latter was certainly true of me. With regard to the subject of “Know Thyself,” we most often–through lack of awareness–settle for a knockoff. The origin of the expression that serves as the title of this article is debatable; but several sources state that it relates to Elijah McCoy. Born in Canada in 1844, he was the inventor of a lubricating device for steam locomotives that worked exceptionally well. Other inventors came up with imitation devices; but theirs were considered far less effective. Therefore, when persons desired the best, they asked for the “Real” McCoy. Do you?


Without knowing it, the majority of persons are letting the imitation McCoy run their lives without permission. This occurs for one simple reason: they’re unaware that it’s happening. The false self to which they’re accustomed seems to get the job done with varying degrees of success; although most individuals admit that it swings between happiness and despair–often dramatically, within a short period of time. However, because the imitation McCoy is all that they consciously know, they put up with its imperfections and often patch it (the ego) up with a drink (or three), an affair, or a new car. Thus, happiness is regained, albeit temporarily. Without knowledge of the Real McCoy, we dwell in poverty. In the spiritual classic, I Am That, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj summarized the situation through the following words:

Your begging bowl may be of pure gold, but as long as you do not know it, you are a pauper.”

We can logically understand that individuals never seek what they don’t know is missing. That’s why suffering–which no one would consciously invite–often provides the fertile ground for the growth of self-inquiry. When the imitation McCoy isn’t functioning well (perhaps due to divorce, financial struggles, or health issues), we may finally open our consciousness to a spiritual solution. We might find ourselves listening to a spiritual teacher, purchasing a book about our essential nature, or praying to God for the first time. The key that unlocks awareness of our deeper dimension is often handed to us very subtly.

There’s a simple test that can help you know if this is occurring in your life. Question: Do you believe that all you are is a person? If so, the false self (which is merely a collection of habitual thoughts and beliefs) has misdirected you with conceptual sleight of hand and convinced you that it is your sole identity. It’s not. As for the body, it’s a representational form within consciousness, whose apparent credibility is supported by sensations. The real “You” is removed from the polar swings that occur within the false self. It has no fear of death whatsoever because It knows that it is Life, Itself; therefore, beyond time, space, and all objects that apparently come and go.

We needn’t let the egoic self, which is rendered by the finite mind, rob us of our birthright of a joyful life. Our Real McCoy is Awareness, aka Consciousness. For some persons, it may feel more appropriate to refer to It by a reverent term such as God. Please realize, however, that the term can never be It. In daily life, all of us informally refer to it as “I.” To know our Real McCoy is to live an abundant life–to live from the still point of our Being. Investigation into our essential nature (called self-inquiry) will help us discern the difference between the little “me” and true Self. The Real McCoy is immortal and irreducible. It is prior to the mind. Anything less is a poor imitation.

Dare to dream (and care for one another).

With hearfelt regards,


Copyright © – 2022 – R. Arthur Russell


If you enjoyed this article (originally published in 2021), you can find more of my writing at my personal blog at My YouTube videos may be found through this link. May the content of either or both help you along your spiritual journey.

3 thoughts on “The “Real” McCoy

  1. What a lovely analogy to draw to the real McCoy, Art! I love the sentence, “The key that unlocks awareness of our deeper dimension is often handed to us very subtly.”

  2. Great post Art! “suffering–which no one would consciously invite–often provides the fertile ground for the growth of self-inquiry.” Suffering is designed to wake us up. It is telling us that we need to change something, that we need to change how we relate to ourselves.

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