Wisdom for the Soul Wisdom for the Soul Thoughts to live by


Related States & Conditions | Syntonic | Dystonic

Who is it that affirms most boldly? Who is it that holds his opinion most obstinately? Ever they who hath most ignorance; for they also have most pride.
Khemetic Saying
Temt Tchaas: Egyptian Proverbs, Muata Ashaya Ashby, ed., 1994

The phenomena of life can be compared to a dream, a ghost, an air bubble, a shadow, glittering dew, the flash of lightning – and must be contemplated as such.
c. 563-483 BCE , Indian Prince, Mystic, Founder of Buddhism

Beware that you do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.
fl. c. 550 BCE, Khemetic (Egyptian) Fabulist

The worst of all deceptions is self-deception.
c. 427-347 BCE, Greek Philosopher
Cratylus , 360 BCE

Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self, for what we wish to believe, we readily believe, but such expectations are often inconsistent with the real state of things.
c. 384-322 BCE BCE, Athenian Statesman, Orator

No one was ever injured by the truth. But a man injures himself if he lives with self-deception and ignorance.
Marcus Aurelius
121-180, Roman Emperor, Stoic Philosopher
The Spiritual Teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Mark Forstater, tr., 2000

The awareness of mortals falls short. As long as they’re attached to appearances, they’re unaware that their mind is empty. And by mistakenly clinging to the appearance of things, they lose the Way.
440-533, Indian Prince, 28th Buddhist Master, 1st Zen Patriarch

Like an image in a dream the world is troubled by love, hatred, and other poisons. So long as the dream lasts, the image appears to be real; but on awaking it vanishes.
686-718, Indian Philosopher, Writer, Poet

Delusion completely overcomes man’s sense of right and wrong.
Srimad Bhagavata
Hindu Sacred Text

You should know that
The Buddha nature of the
Ignorant and of the
Enlightened are the same,
The only difference being
That the former are deluded whereas
The latter are awakened to it.
Altar Sutra
Buddhist Sacred Text

If you want to get rid of your enemy, the true way is to realize that your enemy is delusion.
Kegon Sutra
Buddhist Sacred Text

I beg you, cease going
From lecture to lecture;
It’s better to seek truth directly.
The nature of Diamond Wisdom
Excludes even a speck of dust.
From “Thus we have heard,”
To “This I believe,”
All’s but an array
Of unreal names.
Layman P'ang
740-808, Chinese Basket-maker, Buddhist Writer

If you love the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the sea of delusion … Because you grasp labels and slogans, you are hindered by those labels and slogans, both those used in ordinary life and those considered sacred. Thus they obstruct your perception of objective truth, and you cannot understand clearly.
Linji Yixuan
d. 867, Chinese Chan Master, Linji (Rinzai) School Founder
in Zen Essence: The Science of Freedom, Thomas Cleary, tr. & ed., 1989

Few people believe their
Inherent mind is Buddha.
Most will not take this seriously,
And therefore are cramped.
They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings,
Resentments, and other afflictions,
All because they love the cave of ignorance.
Fenyang Shanzhao
947-1024, Chinese Chan Buddhist Master

It is because you still have calculation in your mind and your views are limited to effect and cause: you are not yet able to transcend religious sentiments and get beyond the shadows and traces.
Huanglong Huinan
1002-1069, Chinese Chan Master
in The Pocket Zen Reader, Thomas Cleary, ed., 1999

When a buddha appears in the world and expounds various teachings according to people’s inclinations, all of the teachings are expedients, just for the purpose of breaking through obsessions, doubts, intellectual interpretations, and egocentric ideas. If there were no such false consciousness and false views, there would be no need for buddhas to appear and expound so many teachings.
Yuanwu Kekin
1063-1135, , Chinese Chan Master
in Zen Essence: The Science of Freedom, Thomas Cleary, tr. & ed., 1989

To start from the self and try to understand all things is delusion. To let the self be awakened by all things is enlightenment. To be enlightened about delusion is to be a Buddha. To be deluded in the midst of enlightenment is to be an ordinary person.
Eihei Dogen
1200-1253, Japanese Zen Master, Philosopher, Poet, Painter, Soto School Founder
“Genjokoan” (The Manifestation of Truth)
in The Enlightened Mind: An Anthology of Sacred Prose, Stephen Mitchell, ed., 1991

It’s this false thinking that blocks him
From the path that leads to himself.
By always saying, “Further on!”
He’s become estranged from “here”:
Because of a false fantasy
He’s driven from reality.
Jalaluddin Rumi
1207-1273, Afghani-Turkish Sufi Mystic, Poet
“False Thinking,” Mathnawi
Teachings of Rumi, Andrew Harvey, tr., 1999

Delusion is a Divine curse
that makes someone envious, conceited, malicious,
so that he doesn’t know the evil he does
will strike him back.
If he could see his nothingness
and his deadly, festering wound,
pain would arise from looking within,
and that pain would save him.
“Pain That Saves,” Mathnawi II, 2513-17
The Pocket Rumi Reader, Kabir Helminski, ed., 2001

In the fundamental ground, there is no sign of ordinariness or sainthood, no purity or defilement. Because of the "dream" of consciousness conditioned by unconscious habit, purity and defilement appear in the midst of formlessness, and one sees distinctions between the ordinary and holy in the midst of the uncreated. When you think you are an ordinary mortal, you go running around after honor and gain, disappointed if you do not get them. When you think you are wise, you look down on everyone and develop a conceited attitude. When you are fooled by such delusions, you do not even believe in the existence of a fundamental ground of peace and happiness, let alone experience it.
Muso Kokushi
1275-1351, Japanese Zen Master, Calligrapher, Poet
in Dream Conversations on Buddhism and Zen, Thomas Cleary, tr., 1994

The promises of the world are for the most part vain phantoms … to have faith in oneself and become something of worth and value is the best and safest course.
Michelangelo Buonarotti
1475-1564, Italian Sculptor, Painter, Architect

Nothing is so firmly believed as that which a man knoweth least.
Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592, French Essayist, Moralist
Essais, I. 230, 1580

Who are a little wise the best fools be.
John Donne
1572-1631, English Poet, Cleric

There are petty-minded people who cannot endure to be reminded of their ignorance because, since they are usually quite blind to all things, quite foolish, and quite ignorant, they never question anything, and are persuaded that they see clearly what in fact they never see at all, save through the darkness of their own dispositions.
Madame de Sable
1599-1678, French Epigrammatist
The Maxims of Madame de Sable, Arthur Chandler, tr.

Clear are the workings of cause
and effect
You become deluded, but
don’t know
It’s something that you’ve done yourself
That’s what’s called self-centeredness.
1622-1693, Japanese Zen Master
Bankei Zen: Translations from the Record of Bankei, Yoshito Hakeda, ed., Peter Haskel, tr., 1984

A man must be both stupid and uncharitable who believes there is no virtue or truth but on his own side.
Joseph Addison
1672-1719, English Essayist, Poet, Dramatist, Statesman

A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
Thomas Paine
1737-1809, English/American Political Theorist, Pamphleteer

There is nothing respecting which a man may be so long unconscious as of the extent and strength of his prejudices … Nothing is so firmly believed as that which is least known.
Francis Jeffrey
1773-1850, Scottish Jurist

The easiest person to deceive is one's own self.
Edward Bulwer-Lytton
1803-1873, English Writer, Politician

People only see what they are prepared to see.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882, American Poet, Essayist

There is no end to illusion. Life is a train of moods like a string of beads, and as we pass through them they prove to be many colored lenses which paint the world their own hue.

Perfection does not exist. To understand this is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.
Alfred de Musset
1810–1857, French Poet

It’s never too late to give up our prejudices.
Henry David Thoreau
1817-1862, American Essayist, Poet, Philosopher

No man is happy without a delusion of some kind. Delusions are as necessary to our happiness as realities.
Christian Bovee
1820-1904, American Lawyer, Writer
Thoughts, Feelings and Fancies, 1857

Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
Mark Twain
1835-1910, American Writer, Humorist

We all live in the protection of certain cowardices which we call our principles.
More Maxims of Mark, Merle Johnson, ed., 1927

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
William James
1842-1910, American Psychologist, Philosopher

We have unquestionably a great cloud-bank of ancestral blindness weighing down upon us, only transiently riven here and there by fitful revelations of the truth.
Talks to Teachers, 1899

Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze upon us, morose and gray. Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him!
Friedrich Nietzsche
1844-1900, German Philosopher, Critic, Poet

If a million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.
Anatole France
1844-1924, French Writer, Critic

Illusions command themselves to us because they save us pain and allow us to enjoy pleasure instead. We must therefore accept it without complaint when they sometimes collide with a bit of reality against which they are dashed to pieces.
Sigmund Freud
1856-1939, Austrian Physicist, Founder of Psychoanalysis

Genuine ignorance is … profitable because it is likely to be accompanied by humility, curiosity, and open-mindedness; whereas ability to repeat catch-phrases, cant terms, familiar propositions, gives the conceit of learning and coats the mind with varnish waterproof to new ideas.
John Dewey
1859-1952, American Educator, Philosopher, Reformer

The mind brings before us all our delusions – body, sex, creed, caste, bondage; so we have to tell the truth to the mind incessantly, until it is made to realize it. Our real nature is bliss, and all the pleasure we know is but a reflection, an atom, of that bliss we get from touching our real nature.
1863-1902, Indian Guru, Writer
The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, 1984-1987, 8:7, 1926

Men heap together the mistakes of their lives, and create a monster they call Destiny.
John Oliver Hobbes
1867-1906, American/English Writer, Dramatist

A universal stupidity is the belief that our neighbor’s success is the cause of our failure.
Charles V. Roman
1864-1934, African-American Opthalmologist, Writer
“What the Negro May Reasonably Expect of the White Man,” American Civilization and the Negro, 1916

But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Max Ehrmann
1872-1945, German-American Lawyer, Poet
Desiderata, 1927

The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know they are dogmas.
G. K. Chesterton
1874-1936, English Writer, Poet, Critic

If prejudice could reason, it would dispel itself.
William Pickens
1881-1954, African-American Educator, Orator
The New Negro, 1914

If you do not raise your eyes you will think you are the highest point.
Antonio Porchia
1886-1968, Italian/Argentine Writer
Voices, W. S. Merwin, tr., 1988

What is history after all? History is facts which become legend in the end; legends are lies which become history in the end.
Jean Cocteau
1889-1963, French Dramatist, Poet, Screenwriter, Director

In every age “the good old days” were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.
Brooks Atkinson
1894-1984, American Essayist
Once Around the Sun, 1951

One argues because one is confused. The man who knows does not argue; the man who argues does not know.
Lin Yutang
1895-1976, Chinese Writer, Dramatist, Translator
The Pleasures of a Nonconformist, 1962

Man has built in himself images as a fence of security – religious, political, personal. These manifest as symbols, ideas, beliefs. The burden of these images dominates man’s thinking, his relationships, and his daily life. These images are the cause of our problems, for they divide man from man.
Jiddu Krishnamurti
1895-1986, Indian Philosopher, Writer
Speech on leaving the Theosophical Society

It is precisely when the ground is pulled away and we plummet that we may suddenly sense a truth outside our normal way of seeing, and realize that the fixed values that used to be the whole story and formerly defined our own position are simply the objective correlative of a subjective stance that our own finite understanding has determined, and that has therefore cut us off from something that can never be determined.
Karlfried Durckheim
1896-1988, German Psychologist, Philosopher
Zen and Us, Vincent Nash, tr., 1987

Each thing we see hides something else we want to see.
René Magritte
1898-1967, Belgian Artist

Our greatest illusion is disillusion. We imagine that we are disillusioned with life, when the truth is that we have not even begun to live.
Paul Brunton
1898-1981, English Writer, Journalist

The subtlest and most pervasive of influences are those which create and maintain the repertory of stereotypes. We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception.
Walter Lippmann
1889-1974, American Journalist

There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as moral indignation, which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.
Erich Fromm
1900-1980, German/American Psychoanalyst, Writer

Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there. Eric Hoffer
1902-1983, American Writer, Philosopher, Longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, and Other Essays, Aphorism 217, 1955

Even though you think you are in delusion, your pure mind is there. To realize pure mind in your delusion is practice. If you have pure mind, essential mind in your delusion, the delusion will vanish. It cannot stay when you say, “This is delusion.” … When you just observe the delusion, you have your true mind, your calm, peaceful mind.
Shunryu Suzuki
1905-1971, Japanese Zen Master
Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, 1970

When you are fooled by something else, the damage will not be so big. But when you are fooled by yourself, it is fatal.

A “pattern of reaction” is the sum total of the ways we act in response to events, to words and to symbols … in their more obvious forms we call them prejudices.
S. I. Hayakawa
1906-1992, Japanese-American Educator

We want the facts to fit the preconceptions. When they don't, it is easier to ignore the facts than to change the preconceptions.
Jessamyn West
1907-1984, American Writer

Questioning illusions is the first step in undoing them.
Helen Schucman
1910-1981, American Psychologist, Channel
A Course in Miracles, 1975

There is a condition worse than blindness, and that is seeing something that isn’t there.
L. Ron Hubbard
1911-1986, American Science Fiction Writer, Founder of Scientology

The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealized past.
Robertson Davies
1913-1995, Canadian Writer, Journalist
A Voice from the Attic, 1960

We suffer not from our vices and our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in place of reality.
Daniel Boorstin
1914-2004, American Historian

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable.
James Baldwin
1924-1987, African-American Writer, Dramatist, Poet, Civil Rights Activist
Nobody Knows My Name, 1961

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, Scottish Psychiatrist, Psychoanalyst, Poet
The Politics of Experience, 1967

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1929-1968, African-American Civil Rights Leader, Cleric, 1964 Nobel Laureate

The first part of the spiritual journey should properly be called psychological rather than spiritual because it involves peeling away the myths and illusions that have misinformed us.
Sam Keen
1931-, American Writer, Educator

We have been raised to fear the yes in ourselves.
Audre Lorde
1934-1992, African-American Poet, Writer, Lesbian-Feminist Activist

It is easy to question apparently irrational, funny or bizarre beliefs of others, but one’s own are usually assumed to be true.
Frances Vaughan
1935-, American Psychologist, Writer

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.
Richard Bach
1936-, American Writer
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, 1997

It is essential to our spiritual growth for us to become scientists who are skeptical of the common notions and assumptions of our culture. But the notions of science themselves often become cultural idols, and it is necessary that we become skeptical of these as well.
M. Scott Peck
1936-2005, American Psychiatrist, Writer
The Road Less Travelled, 1978

To emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on Heaven is to create hell. In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line.
Tom Robbins
1936-, American Writer
Skinny Legs and All, 1990

But a human being is never reducible to biology … to enter the fallacy of physicalism – the idea that a human being can be defined and then treated as a material body … overlooks a world of emotion, memory, fantasy, and meaning, all of which more directly define a human being.
Thomas Moore
1940-, American Psychologist, Writer
Original Self, 2000

Identification of consciousness with ego consciousness leads to confusion of mind with intellect, to acceptance of appearance as reality, to materialistic formulations of the interaction of mind and matter, to isolation and fear, to increasingly negative conceptions of reality, and, ultimately and very logically, to disaster.
Andrew T. Weil
1942--, American Integrative Physician
The Natural Mind, 1986

It is hard to let old beliefs go. They are familiar. We are comfortable with them and have spent years building systems and developing habits that depend on them. Like a man who has worn eyeglasses so long that he forgets he has them on, we forget that the world looks to us the way it does because we have become used to seeing it that way through a particular set of lenses. Today, however, we need new lenses. And we need to throw the old ones away.
Kenich Ohmae
1943-, Japanese Management Consultant

We all create scenarios and then become convinced by them, down to our very cells.
Deepak Chopra
1947-, Indian/American Physician, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Writer
Journey Into Healing: Awakening the Wisdom Within You, 1994

The heaviest load that you can have is a chip on your shoulder.

To the ego, the present moment hardly exists. Only past and future are considered important. This total reversal of the truth accounts for the fact that in the ego mode the mind is so dysfunctional. It is always concerned with keeping the past alive, because without it – who are you? It constantly projects itself into the future to ensure its continued survival and to seek some kind of release or fulfillment there … Even when the ego seems to be concerned with the present, it is not the present that it sees: It misperceives it completely because it looks at it through the eyes of the past. Or it reduces the present to a means to an end, an end that always lies in the mind-projected future.
Eckhard Tolle
1948-, German/Canadian Spiritual Teacher
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, 1999

End the delusion of time. Time and mind are inseparable. Remove time from the mind and it stops – unless you choose to use it. 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 present 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.

Tomorrow’s bills are not the problem. The dissolution of the physical body is not a problem. Loss of Now is the problem, or rather: the core delusion that turns a mere situation, event, or emotion into a personal problem and into suffering. Loss of Now is loss of Being.

Fixed beliefs are typically very dangerous, if for no other reason than their fixedness. Consciously or otherwise, you have stopped seeking or receiving and processing new information. You’re treating the belief as fact, and will no longer subject it to debate or modification. In this condition, you will not only miss new information, you will overlook important changes in yourself or other people that would negate the fixed belief.
Phillip McGraw
1950-, American Psychologist, Litigation Consultant, Writer
Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters, 1999

When a magician is successful making a stone vanish, and then plucking it back into thin air, or making a coin float from one hand to the other hand, it leaves us without any framework of explanation. We are suddenly floating in that open space of direct sensory experience, actually encountering the world without preconceptions, even if just for a moment. The magician is one who frees the senses from the static holding patterns that they are held in by assumptions, by outmoded ways of thinking, and by the styles of speech and discourse.
David Abram
1957-, American Philosopher, Ecologist, Magician
Radio interview, "Insight & Outlook," by Scott London, 1999

Rinsing away dreams is a way of saying that we must not only dispel the illusions and anxieties of our sleeping moments but those of our waking ones as well. All life is a dream, not because it isn’t there, but because we all project different meanings upon it. We must cleanse away this habit.
Deng Ming-Dao
Contemporary Taoist Master, Writer
365 Tao: Daily Meditations, 1992






























This cross-index may help identify and delineate more closely subjective realities often hard to pin down.
  • Related states elucidate shades of meaning and amplify nuances of feeling
  • Syntonic elements foster and enhance well-being
  • Dystonic factors are contraindicated and should be minimized.
Related States & Conditions Attitude | Avoidance/Denial/Refusal | Belief/Religion | Complacency | Conformity | Conviction/Principle | Criticism/Judgment | Dependence | Distraction/Diversion, Failure/Error, Idea/Opinion, Insanity, Limitation, Perspective, Shadow
Syntonic Attention/Awareness | Creativity/Discovery/Innovation | Determination/Persistence/Resolve, Determination/Persistence/Resolve, Diligence, Focus/Intention, Insight/Instinct/Intuition, Inspiration, Learning, Preparation/Readiness, Renewal, Responsibility, Truth, Understanding, Vision/Visualization, Wisdom
Dystonic Anger | Attachment | Chaos/Uncertainty | Depression/Despair/Distress, Fault, Fear, Guilt, Habit, Worry


Pardon us for the Author links which do not work and incomplete Subject cross-references. This is a life-work-in-progress and, like Penelope's tapestry, proceeds bit by bit.
- Webmeister
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Thoughts to live by
Wisdom for The Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing , © 2004