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[W]hat the eyes see and the ears hear, the mind believes ~ Harry Houdini
Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them. ~ George Lucas

An Illusion is an appearance which is in some manner deceptive, or at least divergent from norms of truth or expectations. These can be sensory, as with optical illusions, or conceptual. Stage magic is a form of entertainment based on illusions, while various forms of fraud are oppressive exploitations based upon them.

CONTENT : A - F , G - L , M - R , S - Z , See also , External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

What is life? A madness. What is life? An illusion, a shadow, a story. And the greatest good is little enough: for all life is a dream, and dreams themselves are only dreams. - Pedro Calderón de la Barca.
  • Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river... The current of the river swept silently over them all — young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self. ... Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. ... But one creature said at last, 'I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom.'... The other creatures laughed and said, 'Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed against the rocks, and you will die quicker than boredom!'... But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed... Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. ... And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried 'See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah come to save us all!'... And the one carried in the current said, 'I am no more messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure.' ... But they cried the more, 'Savior!' all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.
  • The problem of Illusion lies in the fact that it is a soul activity, and the result of the mind aspect of all the souls in manifestation. It is the soul which is submerged in the illusion, and the soul that fails to see with clarity until such time as it has learnt to pour the light of the soul through into the mind and the brain. p.21
    It is in meditation and in the technique of mind control, that the thinkers of the world will begin to rid the world of illusion. Hence the increasing interest in meditation as the weight of the world glamour is increasingly realised, and hence the vital necessity for right understanding of the way of mind control. . . . Only the intuition can dispel illusion, and hence the need for training intuitives. Hence the service you can render to this general cause by offering yourselves for this training. p. 22/3
  • Illusion is primarily of a mental quality, and was characteristic of the attitude of mind of those people who are more intellectual than emotional. They have outgrown glamour as usually understood. It is the misunderstanding of ideas and thought-forms of which they are guilty, and of misinterpretations. p. 26
    Today illusion is so potent, that few people whose minds are in any way developed, but are controlled by these vast illusory thought-forms, which have their roots and draw their life from the lower personality life and desire nature of the masses of men. p.32
  • Most of us, no matter what we say, are walking in the dark, whistling in the dark. Nobody knows what is going to happen to him from one moment to the next, or how one will bear it. This is irreducible. And it's true of everybody. Now, it is true that the nature of society is to create, among its citizens, an illusion of safety; but it is also absolutely true that the safety is always necessarily an illusion. Artists are here to disturb the peace.
  • ¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.
    ¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,
    una sombra, una ficción,
    y el mayor bien es pequeño;
    que toda la vida es sueño,
    y los sueños, sueños son.
Ambition and intrigue abuse the credulity and experience of men lacking all political, economic, and civic knowledge; they adopt pure illusion as reality; they take license for liberty, treachery for patriotism, and vengeance for justice. - Simón Bolívar.
  • That which is changeless, existent only, and beyond both mind and speech, which shines as the Truth amidst the illusion of the three worlds, is the Brahman according to its real nature. That Brahman is known in samddhi-yoga...
  • [In] 'Democratic' societies ... the state can't control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it's much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think... One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate.
  • Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths...The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must — namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.
  • Walter Lippmann ... described what he called “the manufacture of consent” as “a revolution” in “the practice of democracy”... And he said this was useful and necessary because “the common interests” - the general concerns of all people - “elude” the public. The public just isn't up to dealing with them. And they have to be the domain of what he called a "specialized class" ... [Reinhold Niebuhr]'s view was that rationality belongs to the cool observer. But because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith. And this naive faith requires necessary illusion, and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course... you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda, manufacture of consent, creation of necessary illusion. Various ways of either marginalizing the public or reducing them to apathy in some fashion.
  • You can't live without illusions even if you must fight for them. Such as "love conquers all." It's not true, but I would like it to be so.
    • Marlene Dietrich, in "Marlene Says Only the Idle Grow Old," The Atlanta Constitution (November 29, 1966), p. 22
  • say that the universe is an illusion (māyā) is not to say that it is unreal; it is to say, instead, that it is not what it seems to be, that it is something constantly being made. Māyā not only deceives people about the things they think they know; more basically, it limits their knowledge.
    • Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty (1986), Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226618555, page 119
To help him, he can indicate the possible alternatives, with sincerity and love, without being sentimental and without illusion. The knowledge and awareness of the freeing alternatives can reawaken in an individual all his hidden energies and put him on the path to choosing respect for “life” instead of for “death”. ~ Erich Fromm
  • This has been the cause of a great deal of wasted time and effort, and industry, which needs young men who are healthy, tractable, unpretentious and, I would even say, full of illusions, often receives engineers who are tired out, weak in body, and less ready than one could wish to take modest jobs and work so hard that everything seems easy to them.

G - L

Among their fold were engravers, painters, cartoonists and sculptors, and their commander, Major Geoffrey Barkas, was an Oscar-winning film director. The brief was to support the Army using a combination of concealment and embellishment created with whatever came to hand. The Surrealist Roland Penrose tutored them, his lover Lee Miller posing nude in camouflage cream and netting as inspiration. And one of the more grandiose members was the Piccadilly magician Jasper Maskelyne, a Chancer tasked with experimental developments, who fogged his own reputation as much as any desert convoy. ~ Christian House
And if workers ever thought that the day would come when personal appropriation of capital would profit all by turning it into a stock of wealth to be shared by all, this illusion is vanishing like so many others. - Peter Kropotkin.
  • The prophet is not diverted by illusions of past, present and future. The fixity of language determines such linear distinctions. Prophets hold a key to the lock in a language. The mechanical image remains only an image to them. This is not a mechanical universe. The linear progression of events is imposed by the observer. Cause and effect? That's not it at all. The prophet utters fateful words. You glimpse a thing "destined to occur." But the prophetic instant releases something of infinite portent and power. The universe undergoes a ghostly shift. Thus, the wise prophet conceals actuality behind shimmering labels. The uninitiated then believe the prophetic language is ambiguous. The listener distrusts the prophetic messenger. Instinct tells you how the utterance blunts the power of such words. The best prophets lead you up to the curtain and let you peer through for yourself.
  • With regard to nuclear weapons, the situation is far more dangerous than the last Doomsday Clock report. New weapons systems under development are much more effectively dangerous. The Biden administration, expanding upon Trump’s confrontational approach, has Chomsky at a loss for words to describe the danger at hand. Only recently, Biden met with NATO leaders and instructed them to plan on two wars, China and Russia. According to Chomsky: “This is beyond insanity.” Not only that, the group is carrying out provocative acts when diplomacy is really needed... Chomsky says: “We’re living in a world of total illusion and fantasy.... Unless this is dealt with soon, it’ll be impossible to deal with the two major issues within the time span that we have available, which is not very long.”
  • From the way in which this experience is spoken of by those who have had it, it would appear to be an extremely definite and positive state of mind, coupled with a belief in the reality of its object quite as strong as any direct sensation ever gives. And yet no sensation seems to be connected with it at all... The phenomenon would seem to be due to a pure conception becoming saturated with the sort of stinging urgency which ordinarily only sensations bring.
    • William James (1890; 1950). Principles of Psychology, Volume II. New York, Dover Publications, pp. 322-3.

M - R

...I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing: and what a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralization. - Petronius.
Acting is illusion, as much illusion as magic is, and not so much a matter of being real. ~ Laurence Olivier
If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of illusion is also its ending. Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality. ~ Eckhart Tolle
  • Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
    The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
    Criticism has plucked the imaginary flowers on the chain not in order that man shall continue to bear that chain without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall throw off the chain and pluck the living flower.
  • Huey Freeman: Obi-Wan Kenobi once said: "Your eyes can deceive you, don't trust them." Seems to be getting harder distinguishing reality from the illusions that people make for us OR from the ones that we make for ourselves... I don't know, maybe that's part of the plan. To make me think I'm crazy.
...It's working.
  • The real sky is (knowing) that samsara and nirvana are merely an illusory display.
    • Mipham Rinpoche, Quintessential Instructions of Mind, p. 117; in: Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light. Edited and introduced by Michael Katz, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, NY, ISBN 1-55939-007-7, pp. 117.
  • As a magician creates a magical illusion by the force of magic, and the illusion produces another illusion, in the same way the agent is a magical illusion and the action done is the illusion created by another illusion.
    • Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika Prajna Nama, J.W. DeJong, Christian Lindtner (eds.) quoted in Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction, Jan Westerhoff, Oxford University Press, New York, 2009. p. 163
  • We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.
  • “Seeing an illusory object (māyā)”: Although what one apprehends is unreal, nothing more than an illusory sign. If one does not admit this much, then an illusory sign should be non-existent. What is an illusory sign? It is the result of illusion magic. Just as one with higher gnosis can magically create forms, likewise this illusory sign does actually have manifestation and shape. Being produced by illusion magic, it acts as the object of vision. That object which is taken as really existent is in fact ultimately non-existent. Therefore, this [Māyājāla] Sūtra states that it is non-existent, due to the illusory object there is a sign but not substantiality. Being able to beguile and deceive one, it is known as a “deceiver of the eye.
    • Nyānānusāra Śāstra, Shi Huifeng. Is “Illusion” a Prajñāpāramitā Creation? The Birth and Death of a Buddhist Cognitive Metaphor. Fo Guang University. Journal of Buddhist Philosophy, Vol. 2, 2016
  • Suppose, monks, that a magician (māyākāro) or a magician’s apprentice (māyākārantevāsī) would display a magical illusion (māyaṃ) at a crossroads. A man with good sight would inspect it, ponder, and carefully investigate it, and it would appear to him to be void (rittaka), hollow (tucchaka), coreless (asāraka). For what core (sāro) could there be in a magical illusion (māyāya)? So too, monks, whatever kind of cognition there is, whether past, future, or present, internal or external, gross or subtle, inferior or superior, far or near: a monk inspects it, ponders it, and carefully investigates it, and it would appear to him to be void (rittaka), hollow (tucchaka), coreless (asāraka). For what core (sāro) could there be in cognition?
    • Pheṇapiṇḍūpama Sutta, Shi Huifeng. Is “Illusion” a Prajñāpāramitā Creation? The Birth and Death of a Buddhist Cognitive Metaphor. Fo Guang University. Journal of Buddhist Philosophy, Vol. 2, 2016
  • This gnosis shows him all beings as like an illusion, Resembling a great crowd of people, conjured up at the crossroads, By a magician, who then cuts off many thousands of heads; He knows this whole living world as a magical creation, and yet remains without fear.
    • Prajñaparamita-ratnaguna-samcayagatha, Rgs 1:19; Shi Huifeng. "Is “Illusion” a Prajñāpāramitā Creation? The Birth and Death of a Buddhist Cognitive Metaphor". Fo Guang University. Journal of Buddhist Philosophy, Vol. 2, 2016.
  • Those who teach Dharma, and those who listen when it is being taught; Those who have won the fruition of a Worthy One, a Solitary Buddha, or a World Savior; And the nirvāṇa obtained by the wise and learned— All is born of illusion—so has the Tathāgata declared.
    • Ibid, Rgs 2:5,
  • Perhaps these were the errors of others rather than his [Jesus] own; and if it be true that he himself shared the general illusion, what matters it, since his dream rendered him strong against death, and sustained him in a struggle to which he might otherwise have been unequal?

S - Z

Love is a simple thing and a deep thing: it is an act of life and not an illusion. Art is an illusion. ~ George Bernard Shaw
The fundamental principle of art is deception. A work of art is either an illusion or delusion. It is never an exact reproduction of nature or facts. A portrait which accurately represents an original is not artistic. A painting, a photograph, an engraving is such a disposition of white upon black or of colours as to produce the illusion of relief. ~ Dr. C.W. Super
  • Nirvana is a state of pure bliss and knowledge... It has nothing to do with the individual. The ego or its separation is an illusion. Indeed in a certain sense two "I"'s are identical namely when one disregards all special contents — their Karma. The goal of man is to preserve his Karma and to develop it further... when man dies his Karma lives and creates for itself another carrier.
    • Erwin Schrödinger, in writings of July 1918, quoted in A Life of Erwin Schrödinger (1994) by Walter Moore.
  • Illusions will not last. Their death is sure, and this alone is certain in their world. It is the ego’s world because of this. What is the ego? But a dream of what you really are. A thought you are apart from your Creator and a wish to be what He created not. It is a thing of madness, not reality at all. A name for namelessness is all it is. A symbol of impossibility; a choice for options that do not exist.
  • Illusions are always illusions of differences. How could it be otherwise? By definition, an illusion is an attempt to make something real that is regarded as of major importance, but is recognized as being untrue. The mind therefore seeks to make it true out of its intensity of desire to have it for itself. Illusions are travesties of creation; attempts to bring truth to lies. Finding truth unacceptable, the mind revolts against truth and gives itself an illusion of victory.p. 25
    Every illusion is one of fear, whatever form it takes. And the attempt to escape from one illusion into another MUST fail. p. 385
  • Know ye not then the Riddling of the Bards?
    Confusion, and illusion, and relation,
    Elusion, and occasion, and evasion?
    I mock thee not but as thou mockest me,
    And all that see thee, for thou art not who
    Thou seemest, but I know thee who thou art.
    And now thou goest up to mock the King,
    Who cannot brook the shadow of any lie.
  • Identification with your mind creates an opaque screen of concepts, labels, images, words, judgments, and definitions that blocks all true relationship. It comes between you and yourself, between you and your fellow man and woman, between you and nature, between you and God. It is this screen of thought that creates the illusion of separateness, the illusion that there is you and a totally separate "other." p. 15
  • To be identified with your mind is to be trapped in time: the compulsion to live almost exclusively through memory and anticipation. This creates an endless preoccupation with past and future and an unwillingness to honor and acknowledge the resent moment and allow it to be. The compulsion arises because the past gives you an identity and the future holds the promise of salvation, of fulfillment in whatever form. Both are illusions. p. 36
  • To perceive yourself as a vulnerable body that was born and a little later dies - that's the illusion. Body and death: one illusion. You cannot have one without the other. You want to keep one side of the illusion and get rid of the other, but that is impossible. Either you keep all of it or you relinquish all of it. p. 124
  • If you can recognize illusion as illusion, it dissolves. The recognition of illusion is also its ending. Its survival depends on your mistaking it for reality. p. 20
  • When the ego is at war, know that it is no more than an illusion that is fighting to survive... All that is required to become free of the ego is to be aware of it, since awareness and ego are incompatible. Awareness is the power that is concealed within the present moment. p. 50
  • The atman believes that "it is a consistent reality, but this is an illusion: There is only one reality, which is that of 'God' (i.e. Brahman). In the classic formula, Âtman is Brahman, but until I have attained 'liberation' I am under the contrary illusion."
  • The term Maya has been translated as 'illusion,' but then it does not concern normal illusion. Here 'illusion' does not mean that the world is not real and simply a figment of the human imagination. Maya means that the world is not as it seems; the world that one experiences is misleading as far as its true nature is concerned.
You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain...that it is juicy...and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss. ~ Larry and Andy Wachowski

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