Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Deception

Espionage, spy, and detective stories (cf. Sherlock Holmes and The Americans) depict how easy it is to deceive and how common. We believe people’s acts, seldom become aware of their true selves… by design? Natural Selection’s way of assuring the survival of the species? Are we somehow served by believing in the illusions? Can braving the dangers of seeing things as they really are bypass the natural disasters of social ostracism, depression, and despair? Finding this balance may open the doors of creativity, innovative problem-solving, and inventive solutions.

Deceiving ourselves and other has obvious, short-term advantages. Evolutionary biologists even argue that the ability to delude ourselves increases our ability to delude others which makes us more successful in life. This success has produced more offspring which has increased and passed on this particular trait. The “success” of self-deception however has serious down sides and easily becomes a selling of our souls to the devils of materialism. It pads us in a cocoon of illusion that blinds to any kind of authentic, truly meaningful life. If—as Sun Tzu said—the art of war is deception, the art of peace is authenticity.

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Quotes (94)

“It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 5
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Deception

44. Fame and Fortune

“Words have influence only when they are pertinent and clearly related to definite circumstances… If words and conduct are not in accord and not consistent, they will have no effect.”

Fu Xi 伏羲 c. 2852–2737 BCE via Richard Wilhelm, Hexagram 37, “The Family”​
Emperor/shaman progenitor of civilization symbol
from I Ching

Themes: Deception

48. Unlearning

“Flattery's the food of fools and whoso likes such airy meat, will soon have nothing else to eat.”

Aesop 620 – 546 BCE via Oliver Goldsmith
Hero of the oppressed and downtrodden
from Aesop's Fables, the Aesopica

“When leaders work for personal reward, honesty fails and deception rules.”

Lao Tzu 老子 604 BCE - via Shan Dao
(Lǎozǐ)
from Tao Te Ching 道德经 Dàodéjīng

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak.”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist
from Art of War 孙子兵法

Themes: Deception

“the greatest deception leaves no trace”

Sun Tzu 孙武 544 – 496 BCE via Denma Translation Group
(Sun Zi)
HIstory's supreme strategist

“Those who make the most appealing display, hide the most deceit.”

Pericles 495 – 429 BCE via Thucydides, Shan Dao
Disprover that all power corrupts

Themes: Deception

“We all sit around complaining that we have never been worse governed... but really listen only to those who support our desires... the masses like better a person who flatters them than one who really benefits them.”

Isocrates Ἰσοκράτης 436 – 338 BCE via Edith Hamilton

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.”

Plato Πλάτων 428 – 348 BCE
from Republic Πολιτεία

41. Distilled Life

“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”

Demosthenes Δημοσθένης 384 – 322 BCE

“What does ‘understanding words’ mean? With half-truths, it means knowing what is concealed; with seductive words, knowing the trap created; with deceitful words, seeing the lies; with evasive words, understanding the desperation behind the language.”

Mencius 孟子 372 – 289 BCE via Daniel K. Gardner, Shan Dao
(Mengzi)
from Book of Mencius 孟子

“When those above treat those below with dishonesty, those below respond with deceit.”

Heshang Gong 河上公 202 – 157 BCE
(Ho-shang Kung or "Riverside Sage”)

Themes: Deception

17. True Leaders

“Clarity is the enemy of self-deception and of the larger deception know as ideology.”

Anonymous -800 to present
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Deception Belief

“Be careful when a naked person offers you a shirt.”

Anonymous -800 to present via Maya Angelou
Freedom from the narrow boxes defined by personal history

Themes: Deception

“Fools admire and love falsely claimed truths that only sweetly stroke the ears.”

Lucretius 99 – 55 BCE
(Titus Carus)
from De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things)

Themes: Deception Truth

“One may rely on strategy and deception to impress but these can hardly compare with an impression made without these.”

Yang Xiong 揚雄 53 BCE – 18 CE via Michael Nylan, Shan Dao
from Fayan 法言, Exemplary Figures or Model Sayings

“Merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by their sorcery.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Revelations
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“Unless you become like little children, you cannot know the meaning of Life, for your minds must be cleared of the falsehoods of this realm if you are to be taught Eternal Truth.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Didymos Thomas
from Gospel According to Thomas

55. Forever Young

“Not creating delusions is enlightenment.”

Bodhidharma 菩提達磨 5th-6th C. CE
(Daruma)

“Put an end to wisdom that leaves tracks and reason that deceives and people will benefit greatly.”

Wang Zhen 809 – 859 CE via Ralph D. Sawyer
from Daodejing Lunbing Yaoyishu, The Tao of War

Themes: Deception

19. All Methods Become Obstacles

“To see truth, contemplate all phenomena as a lie… contemplate all experience as inherently deceptive, all form as inherently deceptive, all sound as inherently deceptive. In time, you will discover that even your belief in deception is a lie.”

Thaganapa 11th C. CE

Themes: Deception

49. No Set Mind

“Directness can be used in governing, but nowhere else. Deception can be used in warfare, but that is all. Only those who practice non-action are fit to rule the world.”

Wang Anshi 王安石 1021 – 1086 CE

Themes: Deception Wu Wei

57. Wu Wei

“Only if you can forget the words and embody the meaning will you (have)... the ability to kill people's false selves and conditioned perceptions”

Yuanwu Keqin 圜悟克勤 1063 – 1135 CE via J.C. and Thomas Cleary
(Yuánwù Kèqín)
from Zen Letters

48. Unlearning

“Without deceit, spiritual and temporal affairs are one;
With deceit, spiritual and temporal affairs are different.”

Sakya Pandita ས་སྐྱ་པཎྜ་ཏ་ཀུན་དགའ་རྒྱལ་མཚན། 1182 – 1251 CE
(Kunga Gyeltsen)
from Ordinary Wisdom, Sakya Legshe (Jewel Treasury of Good Advice)

Themes: Oneness Deception

“If a statement is true or false depends on the heart of the speaker, not on the words he uses. Without meeting the person in question, it is impossible to tell.”

Bassui Tokushō 抜隊 得勝 1327 – 1387 CE
Meditation master without distraction

Themes: Lies Deception

“Prejudice and partisanship obscure the critical faculty and preclude critical investigation… lies are accepted and transmitted”

Ibn Khaldun أبو زيد عبد الرحمن بن محمد بن خلدون الحضرمي 1332 – 1406 CE

Themes: Deception

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“And what is all this life but a kind of comedy, wherein men walk up and down in one another's disguises and act their respective parts… Thus are all things represented by counterfeit, and yet without this there is no living.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"
from Praise of Folly

“Men are so simple of mind, and so much dominated by their immediate needs, that a deceitful man will always find plenty who are ready to be deceived.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

Themes: Deception

“There is nothing more important than appearing to be religious.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

“Never suppose that either the evil or the good that you do will remain secret, however strict may be your enclosure.”

Teresa of Avila 1515 – 1582 CE
from Way of Perfection

Themes: Evil Deception

70. Inscrutable

“Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE

Themes: Deception

71. Sick of Sickness

“Reducing democracy to ‘government by the best orator,’ political rallies and popular assemblies are as subject to evil counsel and the seduction by orators as a monarch by flatters.”

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE via Shan Dao
from Leviathan

“Distinguish people of words from people of deeds and never accept wages in windy words or in politeness which is only polite deceit.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao chapter #166
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

“It's imprudent to like people too easily because lies may be told by deeds as well as in words and this kind of deception is more dangerous.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, Shan Dao chapter #148
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

“Deceit rules and things are judged by their surface.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs and Shan Dao, chapter #130
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Deception

“People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Belief Deception

“The supreme mystery of despotism, its prop and stay, is to keep men in a state of deception, and with the specious title of religion to cloak the fear by which they must be held in check, so that they will fight for their servitude as if for salvation.”

Baruch Spinoza 1632 – 1677 CE

71. Sick of Sickness

“What is history? The lie that everyone agrees on…”

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet 1694 – 1778 CE

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“We retail and mangle truth. So that we may deceive others with a tranquil conscience, we begin with deceiving ourselves.”

William Godwin 1756 – 1836 CE
Provocative and influential social, political, and literary critic
from Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

Themes: Lies Deception

“The charlatan… is a man who cares nothing about knowledge for its own sake, and only strives to gain the semblance of it that he may use it for his own personal ends, which are always selfish and material.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“The bad thing about all religions is that, instead of being able to confess their allegorical nature, they have to conceal it.”

Arthur Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860 CE

56. One with the Dust

“Falsehood is a scorpion that will sting itself to death.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE
from Notes on Queen Mab, 1813

Themes: Deception

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

Abraham Lincoln 1809 – 1865 CE

Themes: Deception

“If dishonesty can live in a gorgeous palace, can get into Parliament and deal in millions, then there seems to be reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable, that the dishonest after such a fashion are not just low scoundrels.”

Anthony Trollope 1815 – 1882 CE
Novelist as teacher

from The Way We Live Now, 1875

Themes: Deception

“Perseus wore a magic cap that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over eyes and ears as a make-believe that there are no monsters.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE
from Das Kapital; Capital: Critique of Political Economy

Themes: Deception Magic

“when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself.”

Herman Melville 1819 – 1891 CE
from Moby Dick or The Whale

Themes: Deception

“Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

Themes: Deception

“It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Deception

61. Lying Low

“Everybody lies...every day, every hour, awake, asleep, in his dreams, in his joy, in his mourning. If he keeps his tongue still his hands, his feet, his eyes, his attitude will convey deception.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

Themes: Dream Deception Lies

49. No Set Mind

“The history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill and that a lie told well is immortal.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“There has never been a just [war], never an honorable one--on the part of the instigator of the war… Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked… and thus he will by and by convince himself the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception.”

Mark Twain 1835 – 1910 CE
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
America’s most famous author

69. No Enemy

“Black sheep dwell in every fold;
All that glitters is not gold…
Gild the farthing if you will,
Yet it is a farthing still…”

W. S. Gilbert 1836 – 1911 CE
Innovative, influential, inspiring dramatist

from H.M.S. Pinafore, 1878

Themes: Deception

“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one's self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE
from Picture of Dorian Gray

Themes: Deception Love

“Just as the spider weaves his silky web, to lure flies into the larder of his banqueting hall in order that he may at his leisure, pick the flesh off their bones, so deceitful Ideals are cunningly woven by dexterous, political spiders, to capture and exploit Swarms of human flies.”

Arthur Desmond 1859 – 1929 CE
from Might Is Right

Themes: Deception

“In the end deceivers deceive only themselves.”

Mahatma Gandhi 1869 – 1948 CE

Themes: Lies Deception

“We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.
There are a terrible lot of lies going around the world, and the worst of it is half of them are true.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Deception

20. Unconventional Mind

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”

Winston Churchill 1874 – 1965 CE

Themes: Deception Lies

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“Do you believe in this false measure, that laughter is lower than worship?”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE via Shan Dao
Insightful shamanistic scientist
from Red Book, Liber Novus

“only when we have found the sense in apparent nonsense can we separate the valueless from the valuable.”

Carl Jung 1875 – 1961 CE
Insightful shamanistic scientist

Themes: Deception

49. No Set Mind

“People rarely tell a deliberate lie, in most cases they think they speak the truth. And yet they lie all the time, both when they wish to lie and when they wish to speak the truth, both to themselves and to others. This is why most never understand either themselves or anyone else.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

Themes: Lies Deception

“It is very difficult to have a free, fair, and honest press anywhere in the world. In the first place, as a rule, papers are largely supported by advertising, and that immediately gives the advertiser a certain hold over the medium”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

Themes: Deception

“‘You can’t fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”

Will (and Ariel) Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
from Lessons of History

“We can always trust the tongue to conceal the heart.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Transition

Themes: Deception

“If a person tells me he has been to the worst places, I have no reason to judge him; but if he tells me it was his superior wisdom that enabled him to go there, then I know he is a fraud.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889 – 1951 CE via Rush Rhees
One of the world's most famous philosophers
from Personal Recollections (1981)

Themes: Deception

“Advertisers are a far greater threat to journalistic freedom than government censorship.”

George Seldes 1890 – 1995 CE
Pioneering investigative journalist and champion of the exposé

Themes: Deception

“Never have so many capable writers warned mankind against the dangers of wrong speech—and never have words been used more recklessly by politicians or taken more seriously by the public.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE

66. Go Low

“Deception arises when I want, when I am greedy, when I say, 'All experience is hollow, I want something mysterious'—then I am caught.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)
from Awakening of Intelligence

Themes: Greed Deception

“The ‘speakers of fine words’… were the itinerant sophists and sages who at that time went round from capital to capital, selling their services to the ruler who offered them the highest inducements.”

Arthur Waley 1899 – 1969 CE
from The Way and its Power

Themes: Deception

62. Basic Goodness

“Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell 1903 – 1950 CE
English, poet, humanist, apostle of doubt, and powerful political influence

Themes: Deception

“"I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight."”

Anais Nin 1903 – 1977 CE

Themes: Deception Lies

20. Unconventional Mind

“The naked truth, terrifying to behold, is not to be covered with robes of self-deception. This is the first vow of the scholar. Please keep it though it costs you your life.”

Gendün Chöphel དགེ་འདུན་ཆོས་འཕེལ། 1903 – 1951 CE via Donald S. Lopez

Themes: Truth Deception

“All governments lie.”

I. F. Stone 1907 – 1989 CE
One of the greatest 20th century reporters

Themes: Deception

“It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles; a world where we are always moral and our enemies always immoral”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“All thoughts are completely without substance… Once you recognize this, they can no longer fool you.”

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

11. Appreciating Emptiness

“Human beings seem to have an almost unlimited capacity to deceive themselves, and to deceive themselves into taking their own lies for truth.”

R. D. Laing 1927 – 1989 CE
from Politics of Experience

Themes: Deception Lies

“'Sir, you are offering a fake, an imitation of the authentic'… Akin to primal childhood awakening; facts of life… Synthetic image distilled from hearing assorted talk. Myth implanted subtly in tissue of the brain.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“By refusing to face facts… they accelerate the tendency toward greater tour de force adventures, less predictability, less stability in general. The cycle of manic enthusiasm, then fear, then desperate solutions… all this tends to bring the most irresponsible and reckless politicians to the top.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE via Shan Dao
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Man in the High Castle,

“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –

39. Oneness

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –

Themes: Deception

“entertainment has the merit not only of being better suited to helping sell goods; it is an effective vehicle for hidden ideological messages… the contemporary equivalent of the Roman ‘games of the circus’ that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that preserves the status quo inequality”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

“When news is packaged as entertainment, the inevitable result is disinformation—misleading, misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented, superficial information. We begin to take ignorance as knowledge.”

Neil Postman 1931 – 2003 CE via Shan Dao
from Amusing Ourselves to Death

“Every war results from the struggle for markets and spheres of influence, and every war is sold to the public by professional liars and totally sincere religious maniacs, as a Holy Crusade to save God and Goodness from Satan and Evil.”

Robert Anton Wilson 1932 – 2007 CE
from Cosmic Trigger II

31. Victory Funeral

“It's a Barnum and Baily world, just as phony as it can be. But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me.”

Billy Rose and Yip Harburg 1933 CE –
It's Only a Paper Moon
from It's Only a Paper Moon

49. No Set Mind

“First impressions - almost always based on the new person’s acting skills, are almost always far from truth.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Deception

20. Unconventional Mind

“Fake news isn’t the problem. There has always been and probably always will be fake news. The problem is only people believing it which seems to be an increasing trend in our digital age.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

Themes: Deception Belief

“It was a dance of masks and every mask was perfect because every mask was a real face and every face was a real mask”

Leonard Cohen 1934 – 2016 CE
from Beautiful Losers

Themes: Deception

“There are enormous problems with thinking that we can only trust in what we were told rather than in how we feel… we are trying to become perfect actors rather than real people.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE
from Journey Without Goal

Themes: Deception Belief

14. Finding and Following the Formless Form

“Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime, life outside goes on
All around you”

Bob Dylan 1941 CE –
from Bringing it all Back Home

Themes: Deception Victory

“People adhere to ideas that explain and offer psychological compensation for their position in the class system of their time… People thus very often act against their own interests… It happens in all class systems, all cultures in recorded history, since the first agrarian and urban civilizations.”

Kim Stanley Robinson 1952 CE –

Themes: Deception Culture

“You can always fool yourself into seeing a decline if you compare rose-tinted images of the past with bleeding headlines of the present.”

Steven Pinker 1954 CE –
Humanistic scientist, insightful cultural commentaror
from Enlightenment Now

Themes: Deception

“Natural selection may favor males that are good at deceiving females about their future devotion and favor females that are good at spotting deception… the better one side gets, the better the other side gets.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Moral Animal — Why we are the Way we Are

Themes: Deception

“Self-deception may be a natural by-product of features of brain organization that help us deceive others... flourishing in precisely the areas of life where these costs matter most: in business, in politics, and in love.”

Paul Seabright 1958 CE –
Author and British Professor of Economics
from War of the Sexes

Themes: Deception

“Science, like a general, is identifying its enemies: received wisdom and untested assumptions; superstition and quackery; the tyrants' fear of educated commoners; and , most pernicious of all, man's fondness for fooling himself.”

David Mitchell 1969 CE –
from Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

“Voltaire said about God that ‘there is no God, but don’t tell that to my servant, lest he murder me at night’. Hammurabi would have said the same about his principle of hierarchy, and Thomas Jefferson about human rights. Homo sapiens has no natural rights, just as spiders, hyenas and chimpanzees have no natural rights. But don’t tell that to our servants, lest they murder us at night.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Deception

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