The concepts of reality and deception are discussed in most religious traditions, spiritualites and philosophical thought. The underlying theme which seems to be present in all schools of thought, is the fact that it is of great importance that one distinguishes the difference between reality and deception. The Greek philosopher Plato provided us with food for thought with his ‘allegory of the cave’ which discusses the idea of reality, and how we are often decieved by what we see. Theists, rationalists, secularists and atheists will all generally agree that this ephemeral yet (often) deceiving world, which we inhabit, makes us forget the bigger picture (whatever that may be). But theists will go a step further and claim that one cannot afford to forget that this life is short-lived, and just a mere journey we all have to go through in order to get to the next life.
It is easy for a human being to become engrossed, consumed and then swallowed up by this life. The Hindu and Buddhist concept of ‘Maya‘ generally denotes the idea of an illusion, in particular, the illusory nature of this life. People misunderstand themselves and reality, we believe objects and everything around us to be independently real. In the Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, ‘Maya’ is purely physical, limited, and deceives our everyday consciousness. Similarly, in the Islamic tradition, the world for this world is ‘dunya’-which, in fact, has a negative connotation. The word ‘dunya’ purports that we live in an illusory world that will constantly delude you. This life makes you think you can transgress, that you are here permanently, and you are dependent from God. One of the root meanings of the word ‘dunya’ is to reach for grapes you will never be able to grasp. And this is the exact essence of this life-we will never be satisfied nor will we be able to achieve all that we want in this life, and, essentially, it will always elude us.
In the Bible, a similar message is given, in the book of Romans 12:2: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
One of the names of Satan in the Quran is the ‘chief deceiver’. Satan is the one who makes us forget our purpose and reason for being here, and causes us to forget ourselves, which, in turn, corrupts our minds/ souls. ‘’Know thyself’’ the Delphic oracle told the philosopher. If one does not know themselves, their purpose and where they are heading, our lives become meaningless and wasteful.
Science also confirms that we are constantly beguiled by deceptions, because, as I said in a previous post of mine: The way in which we see is by watching images inside our brain. We observe images through electrical signals transmitted through our brain which then forms a picture. The same thing applies to all our other senses-touch, smell, hearing etc, they are all perceived in the brain as electrical signals. So it is reasonable to presume that we do not confront matter in its original form- which exists outside of us- but rather we produce an electrical copy of it which is produced as a signal formed inside our brain. We are therefore mislead in assuming these copies are instances of real matter outside of us. To imagine matter to have an existence outside the mind is a deception, but it is the Being that created the mind, and transcends the transient creation which is the only reality-and this is God.
The fourth caliph of Islam once said that: We are sleeping now (in this life) but it is once we die that we will truly wake up.