Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Illusion

"Illusion and self-deception stand in the way of an honest, penetrating and fearless self-appraisal. Though it would appear that we have access to the innermost core of our individual being, and that there is nothing in the world with which we are on more intimate terms than our own self, the self remains an elusive object of knowledge and understanding." - Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren

"It is when we detect our own weaknesses that we come to pity or despise mankind. The human nature from which we then turn away is the human nature we have discovered in the depths of our own being. The evil is so well screened, the secret so universally kept, that in this case each individual is the dupe of all: however severely we may profess to judge other men, at bottom we think them better than ourselves. On this happy illusion much of our social life is grounded." - Henri Bergson, aka Henri-Louis Bergson

"Pleasure can be supported by the illusion, but happiness rests upon truth." -

"Some people gauge their value by what they own. But in reality the entire concept of ownership of possessions is based on an illusion. When you obtain a material object, it does not become part of you. Ownership is merely your right to use specific objects whenever you wish and that no one has a right to take them away from you. How unfortunate is the person who has an ambition to cleave to something impossible to cleave to. Such a person will not obtain what he desires and will experience suffering." - Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler

"There is no more dangerous illusion than the fancies by which people try to avoid illusion. It is imagination which leads us astray; and the certainty which we seek through imagination, feeling, and taste, is one of the most dangerous sources from which fanaticism springs." - François Fénelon, fully Francois de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon

"What we give out as scientific truth is only the product of our own needs and desires, as they are formulated under varying external conditions; that is to say, it is illusion once more. Ultimately we find only what we need to find, and see only what we desire to see. We can do nothing else. And since the criterion of truth, correspondence with an external world, disappears, it is absolutely immaterial what views we accept. All of them are equally true and false. And no one has a right to accuse any one else of error." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"The function of values is to give us the illusion of purpose in life." - John P. Grier

"The longing for certainty and repose is in every human mind. But certainty is generally illusion and repose is not the destiny of man." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"If most of us remain ignorant of ourselves, it is because self-knowledge is painful and we prefer the pleasures of illusion." - Aldous Leonard Huxley

"Our unconscious existence is the real one and our conscious world a kind of illusion, an apparent reality constructed for a specific purpose like a dream which seems a reality as long as we are in it." - Carl Jung, fully Carl Gustav Jung

"The God-relationship determines what love is between man and man, then love is kept from pausing in any self-deception or illusion, while certainly the demand for self-abnegation and sacrifice is again made more infinite. The love which does not lead to God, the love which does not have this as its sole goal, to lead the lovers to love God, stops at the purely human judgment as to what love and what love’s sacrifice and submission are; it stops and thereby escapes the possibility of the last and most terrifying horror of the collision: that in the love relationship there are infinite differences in the idea of what love is." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"In the last twenty years we have developed this treadmill mentality. We think that by always reaching higher, accomplishing more - more money, a better body, the perfect mate - that we will automatically be happy. That’s an illusion. All this reaching is just making us crazy. We need to rest." - Melvyn Kinder

"The soiled mirror never reflects the rays of the sun; so the impure and the unclean in heart that are subject to Maya (illusion) never perceive the glory of Bhagavan, the holy One. But the pure in heart see the Lord as the clear mirror reflects the sun. So be holy." - Ramakrishna, aka Ramakrishna Paramhamsa or Sri Ramakrishna, born Gadadhar Chattopadhyay NULL

"Regardless of how much honor he receives, an honor-seeker will feel upset if even one person does not show him the honor and approval he demands. There will never be an amount of honor that will satisfy him. Physical desires have a saturation point, but the desire for honor is based on falsehood and illusion and is really nothing in itself." - Chaim Leib Shmuelevitz

"In the root divine Wisdom is all-Brahman; in the stem she is an all-Illusion; in the flower she is all-World; and in the fruit, all-Liberation." - Tantra Tattva

"The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed pint of view kills anybody who has one." - Brooks Atkinson, fully Justin Brooks Atkinson

"Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises... If life is an illusion, then so is death-the greatest of all illusions. If life must not be taken too seriously-then neither must death." - Samuel Butler

"We must select the illusion which appeals to our temperament and embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy." - Cyril Connolly, fully Cyril Vernon Connolly

"Who knows what true loneliness is - not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion." - Joseph Conrad, born Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski

"If these distracted times prove anything, they prove that the greatest illusion is reliance upon the security and permanence of material possessions. We must search for some other coin. And we will discover that the treasure-house of education has stood intact and unshaken in the storm. The man of cultivated life has founded his house upon a rock. You can never take away the magnificent mansion of his mind." - John Cudahy, fully John Clarence Cudahy

"Love is greater than illusion, and as strong as death." - Alberto Casella

"It may be difficult, too, for many of us, to abandon the belief that there is an instinct towards perfection at work in human beings, which has brought them to their present high level of intellectual achievement and ethical sublimation and which may be expected to watch over their development as supermen. I have no faith, however, in the existence of any such internal instinct and I cannot see how this benevolent illusion is to be preserved. The present development of human beings requires, as it seems to me, no different explanation from that of animals. What appears in a minority of human individuals as an untiring impulsion towards further perfection can easily be understood as a result of the instinctual repression upon which is based all that is most precious in human civilization." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"Philosophy is not opposed to science; it behaves itself as if it were a science, and to a certain extent it makes use of the same methods; but it parts company with science, in that it clings to the illusion that it can produce a complete and coherent picture of the universe, though in fact that picture must needs fall to pieces with every new advance in our knowledge." - Sigmund Freud, born Sigismund Schlomo Freud

"Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want." -

"I drink the wine of aspiration and the drug of illusion." - John Galsworthy

"The highest problem of any art is to cause by appearance the illusion of a higher reality." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"Men as yet need some help to their imagination. There remains still room for a little illusion. It is better for men, it is better for women, that each somewhat idealize the other. Much is lost when life has lost its atmosphere, and is reduced to naked fact." - Gail Hamilton, Pseud. of Mary A. Dodge

"All of us must rid ourselves of the illusion that we can buy our way out of the problems of today by mortgaging the future." - Edward Heath, fully Sir Edward Richard George "Ted" Heath

"An illusion is the false appreciation of real sensation." -

"Rob the average man of his life-illusion and you rob him of his happiness at one stroke." -

"A man’s life begins with the illusion that a long, long time and w hole world lie before him, and he begins with the foolish conceit that he has plenty of time for all his many claims." - Søren Kierkegaard, fully Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

"Death is an illusion; its ritual uncleanness is the symbol of falsehood. What people call death is the intensification and reinvigoration of life." - Abraham Isaac Kook

"Society's preservation and man's happiness depend on illusion. Nature itself, which certainly represents the will of God, deludes us in many respects, as when it leads us by the cords of love to reproduce the race. If a youth would consider the trouble in rearing a family, not one in a thousand would marry, but nature closes our eyes to the future (and indeed, wherever popular knowledge rises, the birth rate declines). The same is true of the other passions, which nature utilizes to deceive man and goad them toward the attainment of ends which, when attained, turn out to be but vanity." - Samuel David Luzzatto, aka by acronym of SHaDaL or SHeDaL

"The great artists are those who impose their peculiar illusion on the rest of mankind." - Guy de Maupassant, fully Henri Rene Albert Guy de Maupassant

"Time is change - on all sorts of different scales; and the phenomenal world is made up of this continual changing, at different rates, of everything, like an enormous clock full of wheels. Outside, there is this stream of becoming; and within, a stream of ever-changing thoughts and feelings, a succession of different I’s, of fragmentary bits of ourselves - an inner world of becoming in which nothing is, in which we possess nothing and do not possess ourselves. We think of all this changing in time as progress; and not only do we have this extraordinary and absurd illusion, but we imagine that the stability that we all secretly crave can be sought for in all this machinery of change, in the turning wheels of this enormous clock. But we know that what is stable was always beyond time... The real distinction, therefore, between time and eternity is qualitative and so must lie in the realm of psychological experience." - Maurice Nicoll

"To live unto eternity is to live unto aeon, unto unity, unto wholeness, completeness, unto the integration of all the life. And this is now. The enemy to now is the illusion of passing-time... When we reach the now the world is turned the other way round. We are at the centre of things. The responsibility is ours. Had we now in our lives we would cease to blame.... Universe evolves out of one’s own mind... because the WORLD is a series of possible mental transformations" - Maurice Nicoll

"Under the illusion of passing-time we can have no unity. To be is to have the permanent sense of something else... For integration, ideas that halt time are necessary, and these ideas must feed us continually... The mystery of time is in ourselves... The mystic ocean of existence is not to be crossed as something outside ourselves. It is in oneself... Every further stage of ourselves is within us, above us... Outside us is outer truth; within us, inner truth, and both make up All - the WORLD." - Maurice Nicoll

"The divisions and boundaries that we perceive based upon our five senses are, in effect, an illusion. It’s my belief that the meaning of life changes from day to day, second to second. I believe we’re here to learn that we’re part of a creative force - I would go so far as to call that force divine. We’re here to learn that we can create a world and that we have a choice in what we create, and that our world, if we choose, can be a heaven or hell." - Thomas E. O’Connor

"Art is not imitation, but illusion." - Charles Reade

"The illusion of art is to make one believe that great literature is very close to life, but exactly the opposite is true. Life is amorphous, literature is formal." -

"The chief value of history, if it is critically studied, is to break down the illusion that peoples are very different." - Leo Stein

"As long as we, in philosophy, ask questions concerning reality, while we are bound in the illusion of our relative standpoint, and then try to deal with these faculty questions by means of the intellect, which is the mind functioning in the realm of relativity, it is quite impossible to come to a realization of living truth." - J. J. van der Leeuw

"Our greatest illusion is to believe that we are what we think ourselves to be." - Henri Frédéric Amiel

"Time is the supreme illusion. It is but the inner prism by which we decompose being and life, the mode under which we perceive successively what is simultaneous in the idea. Time and space are fragments of the Infinite for the use of finite creatures." - Henri Frédéric Amiel

"History is chaos and every attempt to interpret it otherwise is an illusion." -

"For boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life--...the lesson of your utter insignificance. It is valuable to you, as well as to those you are to rub shoulders with. 'You are finite,' time tells you in a voice of boredom, 'and whatever you do is, from my point of view, futile.' As music to your ears, this, of course, may not count; yet the sense of futility, of limited significance even of your best, most ardent actions is better than the illusion of their consequence and the attendant self-satisfaction." - Joseph Brodsky

"Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows what he wants, while he actually wants what he is supposed to want." - Erich Fromm, fully Erich Seligmann Fromm

"Law is not served by power is an illusion, but power not ruled by law is a menace." - Arthur Goldberg, fully Arthur Joseph Goldberg

"Do you have the courage of your desires, or have you always considered your yearnings as idle and unproductive? Do you feel the wonder of existence, your own and that of everything? Does it truly do justice to that wonder to see it as an illusion or as a product of chance?" - Os Guiness

"Reality is the ultimate illusion." - Mal Hancock, formally Malcolm "Mal" Hancock