We live in a universe where access to and or understanding of the absolute is out of reach, for the finite, and thus relative being. We live in a relative universe, where uncertainty is ever present, and where even the most eloquent, most general knowledge is but relative. No, this isn't a call to active nihilism as Nietzsche would make us believe, but it is a conscious acknowledgment of our apparent nature, and a call to get pragmatic and thus draw the most utility from the realization that we might not only be living a lie, but have the potential (and that we ought) to successfully ride it as well.
Before we dive in, let's get our definitions clear: Deception, is the deliberate projection of information onto the mind of oneself or that of another, which information is claimed to be true, but which is actually either false or whose truthfulnes is not proven [yet]. By this definition, we acknowledge that deception must involve at the very least, the conveyence of unfactual information that is regarded factual to a recipient that doesn't know otherwise. For lack of a better term, it might seem like deception is an affair limited to humans or sentient beings - since we use the term "mind" in our definition, but essentially, "mind" here is a catch-all for any information sink (on the part of the recipient) or information source (on the part of the source), and thus, we can even possibly talk of deception in purely abstract or artificial contexts. Thus, a robot could lie to a bird in a cage, a lion might decieve its hunter, a hacker might lie to a computer, etc. Deception isn't necessarily limited to humans or animals for that matter. But, in the current scope, we shall limit ourselves to an exploration of deception as it occurs in nature - animals and plants, and especially in humans.
Deception (also commonly called "lying"), is often considered a bad trait by many people (regardless of whether they are righteous themselves or not). But it also can't be denied that lying, despite being condemned so much, is one of those great faculties possessed by the human (and some other lucky animals), which is not only essential to man's survival, but is also important in defining his character and guiding his active pursuit of progress. Without being able to lie, one could argue, man would quickly regress into a primitive state, become uninteresting and possibly extinct pretty much soon thereafter.
In this mini-book (which I shall finish someday), I present to you the essential principles of deception, as they really ought be developed and utilized by any person seeking to live a full and rewarding life (and some might add, afterlife). And, I'm not lying about any of this.
First, here's a quick highlight of some of the basic, important forms of deception, as utilized by man (and some other species) :
Deception for Survival: No ecologist or evolutionary biologist would be worth their salt, if they didn't acknowledge the fact that animals thrive on out-pacing and out-smarting their (potential) predators. It is within this form that we find one of nature's most advanced applications of deception, camouflage - the ability of something to lie to others about its identity, by skillfully manipulating its appearance (and often, behavior), to convince or exploit its predators (and or prey). It is because of this ability, in most animals, developed and applied purely based on instinct, but in humans, capable of being horned and applied consciously (to such a degree beyond what basic instinct can inspire or teach), that many species have been able to evolve and preserve themselves as they are today; man, chameleons, many predatory plant species, etc.
Deception for Relation: For any sane (potent or impotent) adult, who's had the chance to exercise or explore their ability to trap or attract the affection of another, (and maintain it,) little needs to be discussed about the importance of deception in love. The ideal, championed (and often merely dreamed of) by many people, is that; in that special relationship called "love", lying is the most destructive element one can bring to the affair - such is the unessential lie taught to both blossoming and seasoned lovers across many cultures and times. But ask anyone genuinely, especially those that have been lucky to master the art of "entering into and or persisting in relationships", and they will reveal both the utility and essential nature of deception in human relations. These folks are pragmatic liars - whether they acknowledge it or not, and they owe much of their success in human relations, to this ability. Interestingly too, it's not just humans who leverage deception as an aid to winning love, fulfilling the social instinct or gratifying the basic instinct of sex (as eminent philosopher on love, Schopenhauer prefers to call it), but many species (fish, reptiles, birds, apes and even plants!), rely on their ability to successfully lie, as a means to eventually mate or relate - which practically serves to preserve and advance their own kind. It could be considered a basic law of nature, that "only the best liars possess the highest likelihood of passing on their genes and surviving". To those having trouble initiating or persisting relation, deception might be the [best] answer.
Faith, Essential and Potent Self-Deceit: If anyone can dare challenge the importance and utility of deception as applied to others, they would hardly succeed in challenging the overwhelming legacy, utility and efficacy of man's ability to lie to himself. Of all the forms in which deception takes, this is the one most actively championed and most celebrated; so much, so that it warrants its own "deceptively innocent" name, FAITH. Basically put, faith is the ability of someone to lie to themselves, that something is true when it's not or when it can't be proved to be so, and undeniably (and often, fanatically) standing by this lie no matter what! Thanks to this form of deception, people have managed to live through the most grueling times; the sick have been healed without any provable or demonstrable external aids besides their ability to consciously leverage faith; soldiers and their commanders have been able to gain psychological advantage (and subsequently, success) over their victims and enemies, even where they possessed inferior physical weaponry or means to do so; ambitious, but practically inferior people have been able to outsmart and outperform all their competition, whether it be in business, education, sports or the arts, contrary to what convention purports; many saints and martyrs owe their apparent superhuman abilities to the conscious and successful application of self-deceit, as does the essential fabric of most, if not all successful religions throughout human history. There are many more, and possibly the most fantastic, most adorable applications of deception, under this form called faith.
The above are some of the most common, most essential forms in which deception manifests itself, and many other forms can be derived from, or are secondary to those highlighted above. Some of these derivative or secondary forms are:
deception as applied in the legal and political systems
deception in therapeutic medicine
deception in branding and advertising 
deception in film, music, literature and the news 
deception in parenting 
In many of the above illustrations, it should be noted how deception, in itself, is but a basic, unconditional faculty, whose applications and consequences thereof, are only implicitly related to its essential nature. To given an analogy, consider the ethical neutrality of fire, water, natural toxins, the instinctive tendencies of self-defense, mating, feeding, flight and many such things which in themselves possess no good or bad qualities, but which, based on context, can acquire these qualities (relative to some judge). Likewise one can logically see that deception not inherently good or bad, but that relative to some judge, it can seem so. The relativity of ethics doesn't exempt deception thus, and any contrary claim is possibly mere deception itself!
It is in this regard that I deem it fit and worthwhile for us to start looking at, studying and cultivating the essential skills of deception, just like we already do for other basic "human" skills such as communication, hygiene, self-defense, sex and feeding. In my opinion, unless approached from such a stance, we risk underutilizing and possibly suffocating one of nature's most remarkable gifts inherent in man. Deception ought be pursued for its own sake [first], and then astounding, beneficial results ought naturally follow. Of all species, man is best positioned to exploit this faculty - thanks to our ingenuity and enhanced cognitive potential, and this, among other traits, is what defines who we are. Humans are natural liars.
So, seeing as deception is such a powerful and important faculty to possess, how can it be learned or improved - assuming such a thing is possible?
First, like I've already indicated, the faculty of lying is not just limited to humans; nature has endowed many species with the ability to lie to others (and for man, the additional, possibly more advantageous ability to also lie to oneself). Thus, in some people, as with many natural abilities, there might be no need to actually "learn" anything new besides becoming conscious of the ability already possessed. For others still, there might be natural obstacles to both exercising and or developing this faculty, just like some humans are naturally constrained in their ability to hear, talk or mate. Where natural obstacles stand in the way (just as with any natural inefficiencies or disabilities), there are still means to find and exploit clever "hacks" in order to make or help those naturally disadvantaged, to effectively leverage or exhibit this skill. Interestingly, and this is something we've already seen in the above illustrations, faith, which is self-deceit, is one of the powerful "hacks" for overcoming many such disabilities!
Okay, so how can we learn or teach deception?
I shall resist the temptation to elaborate here, (leaving that for a more developed treatise,) and merely enumerate these methods below:
Start by understanding what deception is (and what it isn't)
Next, acknowledge and study the essential and natural occurrences of deception (especially as manifest in non-human species)
Next, understand why it's essential to employ deception sometimes.
Study and learn from the basic forms of deception as applied in human life and throughout human and natural history.
Get practical with at least one basic form of deception (see the list above). This means; practically, consciously, and progressively applying the chosen form of deception in ones life.
Seek: Invent or uncover new forms of deception (and document these).
Teach others how to successfully lie (and share the fun and profits too).
The above should offer us a much needed basis for reevaluating and appreciating the otherwise (foolishly) stigmatized faculty of deception. And while at it, let's not forget how humans have always been keen on (selfishly) painting the skillful application of deception as baneful, yet at the same time, they would acknowledge and celebrate those legendary icons of the art of deceit as anything but heroic and or exemplary; eminent politicians such as Adolf Hitler, eminent comedians like Richard Pryor or stage magicians like Robert Houdin, eminent fiction writers such as William Shakespeare, eminent doctors of faith such as Thomas Aquinas, eminent actors such as Tom Cruise, eminent artists such as Pablo Picasso and last but not least, the alleged Master of Deception across all domains (and even in celestial, spiritual realms), Satan, also alleged to be the greatest among his ilk! Such history and myths (successful, and culturally celebrated) ought teach us a thing or two about how important deception is (especially, to us humans). And then, don't forget that one of the more beautiful renderings of philosophical inquiry into the intricate, elusive nature of truth, started out by making the assumption that even God might be a liar.
Let's stop lying to ourselves here, let's go out there, and start truthfully lying our way to the perfection of this basic, essential and rewarding skill.
Important Note: this is not a work of fiction.
- Refer to Friedrich Nietzsche's "Book I: European Nihilism"
- Despite the apparent "fall" of idealism and or rationalism beyond the renaissance, philosophy was still able to give us something powerful to hold onto - Utilitarianism (John Stuart Mill) and Pragmatism (William James and John Dewey)
- Consider the foundations of Rene Descarte's epistemology, the relative universe of Herbert Spencer, the many worlds hypothesis, the world-as-a-simulation hypothesis, etc
- And we could also further argue that "any eminent civilization is defined by its repertoire of and active application of useful lies" - check this against any of the classical and or modern civilizations; the Egyptians, Greeks, Zulu, modern America, the modern Chinese, etc
- The ideas contained herein, occurred to me in the middle of the night one day, and not wanting to loose the opportunity, decided to start on this voyage and immediately start sharing its low-hanging fruit. Definitely, fair treatment of this topic would require a more voluminous treatise, beyond the sketch presented here. I welcome you to contribute in whatever way you can.
- Refer to the ideas on evolution as originally rendered by Charles Darwin and Herbert Spencer.
- Man's remarkable development and application of camouflage is best exhibited in such domains as the military - for vehicles, weapons and fatigues and in hunting - for both traps and the hunter themselves.
- Isn't it a popular truism that "love is blind"? That definitely means lots of things to different folks, but that "embracing a possible lie, for the sake of love" can not be doubted to be one of these.
- These claims are mostly selfish - people will claim how "lying" is bad, when its application doesn't benefit them, otherwise, they would furtively dismiss or ignore the claim (where they might benefit). It's basic, selfish, human nature.
- It is interesting to note, that one of the more "radical", but clearly powerful frameworks championed by modern coaches in human relations, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is essentially a set of elegant techniques concerning projecting a potentially false self to others (and the self) in order to attract or repel them, and these techniques, though potentially "freaky", are nevertheless garnering scientific support, thanks to advances in psychology.
- Refer to Schopenhauer's peculiar treatise on love, "Metaphysics of Love".
- Technically considered "Courtship Display", the use of ploys (not necessarily deceptive) to attract mates can be observed in such interesting cases as in the enchanting songs of the male nightingales, the male peacock's feather "spread", and most impressive of all, the persuasive nests (or traps?) constructed by the bowerbird to dazzle potential mates!
- And as a careful study of anthropology and archeology would reveal, this is a faculty traceable all the way back to our prehistoric ancestors.
- In purely metaphysical perspectives, some beliefs are considered truths, often based on some transcendental authority such as divinity. But practically speaking, beliefs, by their very nature are not only evasive of proof, but are often, and in contrast to scientific facts (themselves not essentially absolute truths), not falsifiable. But try if you might, and label or expose the beliefs of one or more people as potential lies (or unprovable truths for that matter), and you'll see how fanatical and irrational people can be when defending them!
- One of the very promising and exciting intellectual and spiritual developments in the modern times is the esoteric system of ideas known popularly as "Chaos Magic". These ideas, whose most visible proponent or patron is the British occultist Peter J. Caroll, can be summarized as "Faith is nothing but a tool. One can pick up [any] faith, and use it when and wherever it makes sense to do so - possibly discarding it [for later use] thereafter". Clearly, this is applied deception 101, and I can't wait to see where this movement takes mankind...
- Related to these practical applications of faith are such "modern" concepts as the "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy", the "Thomas Theorem" and the Placebo and Nocebo effects (popular in medicine).
- I know of no successful politician or lawyer who wasn't an eminent liar as well, and in those domains, deception is the norm, not the exception, regardless of what the insiders would want the uninitiated to believe.
- Luckily, in the modern times, brilliant scholars and mainstream science researchers, such as Harvard's Ted Kaptchuk, are starting to actively champion the conscious acknowledgment of the power of faith (as exhibited in cases where patients are clinically healed by nothing other than their trust in a otherwise "inert" therapies) as applied to the elicitation of the placebo (and the negative, nocebo) effects. Skillful deception is at the heart of these clinical marvels.
- As one of the greatest, most celebrated marketeers (read liars) of the 20th Century, Seth Godin, in his book "All Marketeers are Liars", clearly indicates how the skillful use of deception can bring many and all, [financial] success, by coercing consumers to accept the lies they are being told [by the marketeers], if they be told compellingly and consistently. Basically, Seth indicates that the best liars are those that know best, how to weave their lie into a sweeping story - because people are [kind-of] hardwired to believe these stories.
- Fiction is essentially deception. But good fiction is done in such a way as to make it seem like fact - that's the hallmark of all the remarkable, best-selling literary and creative fictional products throughout history, and in modern times, the borderlines between fact and fiction are more elusive, as deliberate mind-programming, propaganda, information and counter-information become heavily married with such works as movies, music and news. It's mostly for this reason that the purely paranoid would not even dare trust a media work clearly marked as fiction - because, as is becoming clearer with modern analytical psychology, even where the conscious mind acknowledges a lie, the [more influential] subconscious is liable to accept even the most naked lies as truth (and unnervingly, act on them as such!)
- As a young man, my parents (and other elders) lied to me. Mostly, it was for the better - lies can make a child, though, some lies turned out to be so bad (in their effects), I still resent those that told them to me. But then, as a parent myself, I can't avoid the application of conscious deception, even at this stage when my child is barely capable of being effectively lied to. Yes, some lies are better told than not - "spare the lie, and spoil the child".
- Self-deceit assumes consciousness and or self-awareness, and I can only speak of this (without lying), with regard to us humans or the very extreme, myself.
- Refer to any popular Christian myths book or more particularly, refer to the metaphor in Genesis 3, where it is clearly indicated that "the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made", and whose lie it is alleged brought upon us all, our current ill-fates!
- Refer to Psalm 116:11 : I said in my alarm, "All men are liars."
- Refer to Rene Descartes's "Meditations on First Philosophy", in which, though God is first assumed to be a liar, a "less radical" assumption is adopted, in which some demon is the posited as the ultimate, universal liar. From this basis, the philosopher sought to establish the foundations of all human knowledge and those truths about which we can't even lie to ourselves. Was this a work on deception? I think so...