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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shirley


Hi Guys. In this October 2020 blog (Issue11). I would like to contemplate the use of Hindu philosophy (Vedanta) and more precisely, the concept of Maya (Sanskrit meaning - ‘illusion’) to illustrate how, so called, ‘fake news’ possibly comes about.

As in my previous blogs, I will draw on the views and opinions of past and current masters, sages, mystics, gurus, philosophers and generally wise people. I also tap into all the worldly belief systems, religions and philosophies to draw on ancient knowledge and wisdom. These blog posts are designed to only give you a taste of the information, knowledge and wisdom that is out there.

Whilst the Hindu philosophy on Illusion/Appearance (Maya) can be very complicated in relation to the spiritual aspect of life, I think its principles and overall concept can also be applied to understand how you perceive things in the world generally (N.B. the concept is also evident in Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism).

I might be drawing a long bow with this particular approach, but any type of philosophy should be able to teach us things about how we operate in the world. And, that which is on offer from the complete range of eastern philosophy is very effective in this regard.

Maya, as translated, basically means illusion or appearance in the physical world, which is considered to be a temporary and continually changing, material world.

The Vedic texts describe the universe, and the human experience, as an interplay of the pure, perfect, and complete consciousness manifesting as the Self or Soul (known as Atman) and the changing material world (including nature, known as Prakriti) as Maya.

Maya is the appearance/perception of things differently from what they are actually. It is part of our normal existence and we do not have to be spiritually in tune to notice it.

We perceive everything through our senses, i.e. hearing, touch, sight, taste, smell and through our mind and we all tend to perceive differently. While our senses give us a certain view of the world, this is a paradox to those on the spiritual journey. In our search for inner knowledge of the higher Self, Maya is that which confuses us, mainly through the ego – Maya is considered as unconscious and Atman is conscious.

As discussed in my previous post on ‘the journey’, depending on how your own personality/nature evolves you may be ready and curious enough to recognise that you are more than your body or even an identity (i.e. in eastern philosophy the body, as merely a shell, dies but the soul is said to be immortal and can be reborn).

It is said that, the ego always wants to be in control and when you start to let undue/extreme attachments or compulsions happen (with circumstances, things and people) then you can be vulnerable to suffering or extreme experience – caused by the ego construct. This could lead to being severely restrained in your life-view and may result in being captured by beliefs/perceptions that you may not have completely worked out by yourself (e.g. those that are basically given to you).

Being caught up in the material world we also might tend to perceive ourselves as different, distinct and unique – brought up in ego programming. And, not as individual souls of pure consciousness, being the same as everyone else, but identifying as only beings of minds and physical bodies (i.e. almost all philosophy suggests we are a soul journeying or having an experience in a physical body).

Philosophers throughout the centuries have had differences about what is ‘knowing about something’. A few, talk about, ‘seeing is believing’ as a reality (dating from Greek times), but Eastern Philosophers talk about attaining a higher wisdom (i.e. internal reality - the Self) using the senses and then filtering through what is called the Buddhi (translated from Sanskrit as higher intellect).

To some people their entire world comprehension is seen through the physical material world, where they feel they have to conform to custom, culture, learned habitual thinking, peer and social pressure and influences from upbringing etc. Without any independent filter they then tend to cycle through ignorance, delusion, self-absorption, negativity, low self-esteem, intense emotions (including, anger and greed) and adopt others’ world views and beliefs.

The ultimate key is to be more aware of what is happening to you and around you, so that you can either accept situations as they unfold or let go of things that are not within your control (and also to be able to dwell in the present moment). To be able to grasp equanimity and not to have a strong opinion on everything and to almost be just an observer, is an ideal that Stoic philosophers, for instance, have strived for through the ages.

As in my previous posts, the main part of this ultimate key is to achieve Yoga which means union or mergence and thereby Self-realisation though a process of merging mind, the energy body and soul with the animating life force (consciousness). In other words, the raising and expansion of consciousness from oneself to being connected with everyone and everything. This is the goal of every truth seeker, those consciously on their journey or those who are posing early questions about the meaning of life.

As the great Eckhart Tolle indicates in his book, A New Earth (p4): “Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings’ perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life form, recognise it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves. Until this happens, however, most humans see only the outer forms, unaware of the inner essence, just as they are unaware of their own essence and identify only with their own physical and psychological form.”

Notwithstanding any spiritual position, in an age of alternative facts (i.e. rumour, conspiracy, propaganda or the repetition of a lie), how do you work out what is a fact and what is not? There is so much over-stimulus and so many sensory overloads battering us through various media at the moment.

As a matter of reference, check out the recent comments of Mr Tim Kendall, former Facebook Director, during testimony before the US Congress, House Consumer Protection and Commerce Sub-committee, published on 25 September 2020. Mr Kendall accused Facebook of building algorithms that have facilitated the spread of misinformation, encouraged divisive rhetoric and laid the groundwork for a ‘mental health crisis’. He said, “we took a page from Big Tobacco’s playbook, working to make our offering addictive at the outset.” He went on to say, among other things, “these algorithms have brought out the worst in us. They have literally rewired our brains so that we are detached from reality and immersed in tribalism.”

And, whether you have achieved a spiritual ‘aha’ moment and are seeking more awareness or just want to know how to cut through the crap, there has to be a better filter than just your ego and related biases.

Going straight to the heart of things, and in finding the courage to live a better life, there are a number of techniques to help you navigate through illusion and to discern both a practical truth and a spiritual one.

What is a basic fact? It is a thing that is known to have happened or to exist, especially something for which proof exists, or about which there is information.

What is clear thinking? Clear thinking is an ability you can develop regarding expressing your ideas in a straightforward manner. It also involves an approach to recognise and analyse questions or statements that are logically fallacious. There is a need to be inquisitive and to pay attention to every detail, to examine the validity, logic and truthfulness of others’ arguments and claims.

In terms of logic and the most basic approach, and a starting point of determining the truth of a matter, is by an inductive method. With inductive reasoning, you make observations to reach a conclusion – which brings you to a ‘general truth’, soft truth’ or an ‘educated guess’. Your conclusion may not always be true and may be probable or just be a theory, but it should be reasonable and based on evidence.

The next logical step is to take the general truth or theory and determine it further by the process of deduction (which is a very different approach).

Deductive reasoning (also known as deductive logic) is the process of reasoning from a number of statements (known as premises) to reach a logical conclusion. With this reasoning, the conclusion is necessarily true if the premises are true. So, you can take a valid statement (premise) and following on, in theory: If A=B and B=C, then A=C.

E.g., in practice if you consider the premise; ‘dolphins are mammals’ (A=B) and the premise; ‘all mammals have kidneys’ (B=C) then dolphins have kidneys (A=C). I.e. all dolphins have kidneys (conclusion).

And further illustrating with these two premises: (1) Cacti are plants (2) And all plants perform photosynthesis. Therefore, cacti perform photosynthesis (conclusion).

An example of invalid deductive reasoning using this method would be: All basketballs are round. The Earth is round. Therefore, the Earth is a basketball.

Note that the premises have to be valid to prove the conclusion.

There are other types of reasoning, but I will leave them for you to research.

As another example, as we might have generally observed, everyone’s senses provide their own unique version of events to a particular incident. This is supremely evident when we read, watch or have experience of criminal matters and the reason why witnesses are cross examined in court.

In that arena the main level of proving something to have a weight towards truth is the concept of proving something beyond a reasonable doubt (also known as the criminal standard of proof – where the starting point is the presumption of innocence in court).

In reality the main portion of this concept is about being in accord with the rules of evidence (where evidence has to be taken strictly within the rules or it won’t be accepted). It has to be direct evidence where witnesses have used their own senses to observe something and not hearsay (as told by someone else).

In a criminal matter points of proof include, proving the actual behaviour and the state of mind (intention). In essence this proof falls much closer to absolute certainty but if there is a scintilla of doubt then it fails (i.e. is there an alternative explanation to the facts that seem plausible). I will leave it there for you to explore/research further if you require.

A lesser proof is called, ‘on the balance of probability’ (also called the civil standard). This is also seen in courts of law as to what the defence only have to prove or rather disprove when up against the criminal standard of proof. Usually, as also seen in Civil Court matters, in can be interpreted in a number of ways but in its simplest form, should the decision maker deem that a version of events is 51% more likely to have occurred than the alternative version, then it meets the standard of proof on the balance of probabilities (but it must be to a comfortable degree and based on very clear and cogent evidence)

Intuition is also a really interesting proposition. It is defined as direct perception of truth or facts independent of any reasoning process, concerning an immediate apprehension. It is very difficult to explain but is more of a direct knowing or inner knowing without thinking it through. It is commonly referred to as a gut feeling, a hunch or thinking with your heart. It is said to be something that can be developed and is part of the mystery of life. Whether you use it as a guide or as an addition to the previous concepts discussed is for you to determine.

Biases are also something that we should perhaps be aware of (including unconscious bias). A bias is said to be an inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair. Recent research indicates; “that it appears that our biases are shaped by how we are brought up, what we see around us and the media we are exposed to. Knowing we can change their influence also means we can no longer shrug them off as beyond our control (see the great article on this and other prejudices in the New Scientist Magazine of 29/8/2020).

So, as we can see, there are a number of techniques/approaches to help us conclude whether something is right/wrong or helpful/unhelpful.


  • “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” (Socrates – Greek philosopher – died 399 BCE).

  • If you live only in one culture for the first 20 years of your life, you become conditioned without knowing it”. (Eckhart Tolle – Spiritual teacher and author – German born resident of Canada – age 72).

  • There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it”. (Charles. F. Kettering – American inventor, engineer – died1958).

  • False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing”. (Joseph de Maistre – French philosopher – died 1821).


  • Develop a filter – use reasoning/logic - don’t just take things at face value.

  • Don’t assume anything, question the information you receive.

  • Try reflection and contemplation. And ponder on issues before arriving at a conclusion.

  • Remember, the ego likes to be in control and will pull your strings to make you fall into using emotional evidence to make decisions.

  • Don’t shrug off your known biases.

  • Don’t forget intuition – trust in your own instincts when appropriate.

  • Try meditation, try yoga.

Compiled by Baz Shirley. Contact:

*See also:

Instagram: @ bazabstractart

Facebook: Barry Shirley

And all my previous posts on:

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