Where Does The Root Of The Illusion Lie?

Now let us examine where illusion lies hidden from the view of these

religionists. It lies deeply rooted in the misconstruction of

reality, grows up into the illusive ideas of appearances, and throws

its dark shadow on life. The most fundamental error lies in their

construing reality as something unknowable existing behind


According to their opinion, all that we know, or perceive, or feel,<
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or imagine about the world, is appearances or phenomena, but not

reality itself. Appearances are 'things known as,' but not 'things

as they are.' Thing-in-itself, or reality, lies behind appearances

permanently beyond our ken. This is probably the most profound

metaphysical pit into which philosophical minds have ever fallen in

their way of speculation. Things appear, they would say, as we see

them through our limited senses; but they must present entirely

different aspects to those that differ from ours, just as the

vibration of ether appears to us as colours, yet it presents quite

different aspects to the colour-blind or to the purblind. The

phenomenal universe is what appears to the human mind, and in case

our mental constitution undergoes change, it would be completely


This argument, however, is far from proving that the reality is

unknowable, or that it lies hidden behind appearances or

presentations. Take, for instance, a reality which appears as a ray

of the sun. When it goes through a pane of glass it appears to be

colourless, but it exhibits a beautiful spectrum when it passes

through a prism. Therefore you assume that a reality appearing as

the rays of the sun is neither colourless nor coloured in itself,

since these appearances are wholly due to the difference that obtains

between the pane of glass and the prism.

We contend, however, that the fact does not prove the existence of

the reality named the sun's ray beyond or behind the white light, nor

its existence beyond or behind the spectrum. It is evident that the

reality exists in white light, and that it is known as the white

light when it goes through a pane of glass; and that the same reality

exists in the spectrum, and is known as the spectrum when it goes

through the prism. The reality is known as the white light on the

one hand, and as the spectrum on the other. It is not unknowable,

but knowable.

Suppose that one and the same reality exhibits one aspect when it

stands in relation to another object; two aspects when it stands in

relation in two different objects; three aspects when it stands in

relation to three different objects. The reality of one aspect never

proves the unreality of another aspect, for all these three aspects

can be equally real. A tree appears to us as a vegetable; it appears

to some birds as a shelter; and it appears to some worms as a food.

The reality of its aspect as a vegetable never proves the unreality

of its aspect as food, nor the reality of its aspect as food

disproves the reality of its aspect as shelter. The real tree does

not exist beyond or behind the vegetable. We can rely upon its

reality, and make use of it to a fruitful result. At the same time,

the birds can rely on its reality as a shelter, and build their nests

in it; the worms, too, can rely on its reality as food, and eat it-to

their satisfaction. A reality which appears to me as my wife must

appear to my son as his mother, and never as his wife. But the same

real woman is in the wife and in the mother; neither is unreal.