“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking

Mr. Stephen Hawking – an astounding scientist

Arthur Errickson, a Canadian Architect, once said “Illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within.” In a way, his words aver the role illusion plays in our life. The ‘emptiness’ that he speaks about is the incomplete knowledge. When a human craves for entitlement and compromises in knowledge, he is often self- convinced about his intellect. It is hence an illusion of completeness that debars him to address the void. The reverse is also true. It can be said that a human whose senses are driven by illusions is empty within. Similarly, when Stephen Hawking says that illusion of knowledge is the greatest threat to knowledge, he clearly refers to the inability of such humans to address the void as a consequence of illusion. Due to this inability such humans remain incomplete in their knowledge until a proper realization. Ancient Indian myths and Indian culture have always been a source of inspiration and justification of the concept.

The epic legend of Ramayana is firmly based upon the defeat of ignorance and illusion. Ravana, the lord of Lanka, was an unequaled devotee of the supreme Lord Shiva. His ardent faith had moved Lord Shiva and thus he was blessed with super natural powers and strength of highest magnitude. Ravana was the uttermost scholar of his times. However in the process of attaining knowledge, he ignored the wisdom of ethics. His ignorance had never let him learn his limits. Still this was not the exact reason for his defeat. The fact that Ravana later committed a series of sins, envisioning himself to be the smartest ever led to his defeat. This illusion of a complete knowledge fueled his actions and resulted in his end. Lord Rama had made multiple attempts to educate Ravana of his limits before the battle, however the illusion of knowledge shielded him against the teachings.

It was immoral to kidnap Goddess Sita as an act of revenge against Lord Rama. When a grand scholar like Ravana, the proprietor of knowledge could fall prey to the illusion of knowledge, what is it if not the greatest threat to knowledge?


Even in the much modern chapters of human life the illusion of knowledge was a driving force in the elite groups of our society. For example, in the years of research of Mr. Galileo Galelei when he made a lot of contributions to the space science, with every new claim that he made about our universe and with every conclusion that he presented to the elite church of his times, he was criticized. The elite church had its own standard understanding of our universe based upon primitive observations. They not only ignored any amendments to its standards but had an illusion that their standards were the ultimate truth. When Mr. Galelio bravely attempted to present the church a true structure of the solar system, he was sued.

The church rejected his claims backing their illusions and hanged Galileo to death for going against it. Today, it is a universally accepted truth that the Sun is the center of entire universe but Mr. Galileo had to sacrifice for proving it. Had the church been simply ignorant, there was a lot of scope for enlightenment. Since the illusion of ultimate knowledge persisted, it proved a threat.

This trait of shielding against new teachings dwells into our societies even today. For the young generation pursuing academic education in various fields, it would be next to impossible to successfully grasp the academics with such an illusion at the back of their mind. To learn something, it is immensely important to have an empty mind. A simple solution to the greatest threat to knowledge is ‘Art of unlearning’.

The ‘Art of unlearning’ says that to learn something, we must unlearn a great deal. The human body houses a brain that has its own limits. Just like a pot already filled with water accepts no more water, a pre-educated human brain tends to dodge new entries. To realize the ultimate truth or the ultimate knowledge, we must learn to forget everything that we know.

Maharishi Patanjali – the father of Yoga

The state of unrest of mind due to material aspects of life can be cured by Yoga, where Yoga is nothing but the practice of unlearning the garbage of mind to attain peace. With a completely empty mind and brain, we are free to accept the truth in its pure form. In this way the Art of unlearning provides no air for ignorance and for the illusion of knowledge, thus eliminating the threats to knowledge.

15 thoughts on ““The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Stephen Hawking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s