Various philosophical traditions, both East (Advaita Vedanta, e.g.) and West (certain esoteric systems), have been criticized for positing that what we humans normally think of as reality is actually an "illusion". In a critical essay on the cinematic phenomenon entitled The Matrix, an insightful commentator contrasts the radically non-dualist notion of "illusion" and the Christian belief that reality, or creation, is "good":
Christians don't believe that this whole world is deceptiveCertainly, one can interpret the radically non-dualist idea of the phenomenonal creation as "illusion" in a negative manner: since creation is illusion, it must be deceptive, untrustworthy, false; and thus living a normal life within the family, within the world, within phenomenal creation, must be abandoned, ignored, and rejected. But to interpret "illusion" thusly is to forget the total context that "illusion" operates within radical non-dualism. To interpret "illusion" thusly would be analogous to focusing on the Christian idea of eternal damnation at the expense of the more primary idea of God's infinite mercy and love. It would also be analogous to stressing the Buddhist idea of all phenomenal events as "dukkha", or "unsatisfactory", while forgetting that the very existence of the "un-satisfactory" in Buddhism guarantees the possibility of realizing the "satisfactory", or nibbana/nirvana.
illusion ("maya"). We believe that it is created good, very good, and filled
with the presence of God. "The heavens are telling the glory of God" (Ps
19:1). All creation reveals his presence. It isn't saying, "Look over there!"
to keep us distracted from him.
There are two senses in which "illusion" is used. In the radical non-dualism suggested by Meher Baba, "illusion" is contrasted with permanence-constancy-infinity: "illusion" is thus that which is impermanent, inconstant, and finite. However, permanence-constancy-infinity, being truly infinite, also indeed contains and includes "illusion", ultimately. Thus, the impermanent, the inconstant, the finite is really God, or Reality, or Truly Good.
However, most of us haven't realize this equation. So the second sense of "illusion" means "false attachment". False attachment to lust, anger, and greed perpetuates the belief that the impermanent, the inconstant, and the finite are not really God, not really Reality, not Truly Good. It is illusion-as-false-attachment that is truly deceptive and debilitating, because it blocks and prevents seeing God, Reality, and the Truly Good in, through, and as the impermanent, the inconstant, and the finite. However, even false attachment to lust, anger, and greed serves a higher purpose: they allow us to fully experience what it means to be distanced and separated from God, and thus to infinitely appreciate the Godness of God when God is realized.
Consciousness and awareness of the non-God, of creation, of the impermanent, of the inconstant, and of the finite, is the only way to allow consciousness and awareness of God to flower. To be deceived into thinking that the non-God exists is part of the process of spiritual maturation. The purpose of creation is to see God in, through, and as creation. The purpose of creation is truly good, even if our current perception of creation as non-God is a perception that does not represent the ultimate fulfillment of human happiness.