What is the Meaning of Life
Discussion on Man’s Personality
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 166 Discussion on Man’s Personality By Ernest O’Neill
We are talking on this program about the meaning of life. We’ve reached the point in our discussion where we have established some of the basis upon which we think life is settled. That is, the creation of the whole world and of you and me by an intelligent, personal Being, and the communication of that personal Being’s plans for us through a human being who was much more than a human being, His own Son, who lived in the first century of our era.
Now, we have come to the point where we are studying carefully how that particular person explained reality and what He said about His Father, the Creator’s, plans for your life and mine. We are looking especially at, first of all, the makeup of our personalities, because so many of us are simply bewildered at the way we operate and we cannot understand ourselves and it’s very difficult to make sense out of the way we should live life and the way we should think and the way we should feel.
So, that’s what we’ve been doing first of all. We’ve been looking into the three levels of existence that the Creator has given us in our own personalities: the physical level, our bodies by which we perceive through our five senses the world of circumstances and things and people; the soul, which is our psychological part and the part of us which is conscious primarily of ourselves; and the spirit, the inner essence of you through which you do have contact with your Maker and Creator.
We’ve been talking at some length these past days about the spirit and its functions. Today, let’s just look for a moment at the soul. The word, soul, really comes from the Greek word, “psuche” and the “psuche” translates into our Anglo-Saxon sound change into English as “psyche”. That’s the part that is referred to in a very basic quotation that we took from the New Testament part of the Bible.
It’s in 1 Thessalonians, a letter written to the people at Thessalonica in the first century. 1 Thessalonians 5:23. It runs like this: “May the God of peace, himself, sanctify you wholly and keep your spirit, soul, and body blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus.” That’s one of the many verses where we get the three levels of personality. It’s not that we have three definite, different pieces inside us like an appendix that you can take out, but it does mean that there are three levels on which we operate.
The soul level is one of them. Some philosophers and some psychologists argue, however, that you only operate on two and that there is no spirit level. But God, our Creator, has made it very clear that there is a spirit level, there is a part of you that is the very essence of you. There is a part of Churchill that is the very essence of Churchill. When you talk about the spirit of Churchill, you’re talking about something that is uniquely Churchill. It’s the same with you. You have a unique part of you that is able to contact the Creator of the world. That part of you is unique to you. It’s the very essence of you.
The part that surrounds the spirit is the soul. You remember, we said that our personality is like a series of coats: the overcoat is our body, the physical part of us that we can see and touch and hear; the next part of us is like the suit, it’s the soul; and then, inside that is the spirit, the inner part of us.
We have talked a little about the spirit and what it is made up of: communion, intuition and conscience. Now, we are talking about the soul, or the psychological part of us, the part that is referred to in Greek by the word, “psuche” and that’s the word that becomes “psyche” in our English language and gives way to psychology, psychiatry, all those words that indicate the part of us that man can get at himself in some way.
You may say, “Well, what does that consist of?” Again, I don’t want to drown you with quotations from the Bible, lest you say that I’m some mad, old evangelical who is trying to lay scripture on you, but the fact is we’ve discovered, you remember, through our examination of the documentary backing to the Bible — via manuscripts like the Codex Alexandrinus, Vaticannus and Sinaiticus, some of which you can see in the British Museum — we’ve seen that the Bible is actually utterly reliable history and that what it describes is reality.
It describes the life of this man, Jesus, and what He explains is actual truth. It’s the truth that He knows from the fact that He pre-existed with the Creator from before the foundation of the world. What He describes and what His followers and what those who preceded Him, who prepared the way for Him, describe in that Bible is that the soul consists of at least three functions.
In other words, if you look up the word “soul” in the Bible, you’ll find that at times it performs the function of the intellect, or the mind. So, a vital part of our psychological being is the mind. The mind, your mind, is the instrument of your thoughts. It’s the means by which you can judge things. It’s your intellectual power. It’s where you have wisdom and knowledge and where you have reasoning.
Of course, where a man or a woman would lack mind or has the mind affected adversely in any way, they become dull and stupid, and really animalish. The mind is the part of you that enables you to reason, to argue, to discuss, to size up things, to evaluate things, to judge things. Someone, I think it was Ian Whitehead, who was an educator who did some work with Einstein, said intellect or I.Q. is the ability to perceive relations and correlates.
Now, your mind is able to do that. It’s able to perceive the relations between things, and the correlations between things, where things are the same, where things are different. It’s able to balance things and reason about things. So, your mind is a vital part of your soul. There are many parts of the Bible that refer to the mind as part of the soul. Many of us, of course, make the error of thinking that we find God in our mind. Now, we don’t.
The mind, itself, is a pretty neutral entity and actually will argue and support whatever you choose that it should argue and support. That’s why we are rather foolish in even our political debating or our philosophical meanderings late at night in dormitories because we think the mind will somehow discover truth on its own. Well, the mind is a little bit of a slave. The dear soul just supports what you decide it should support.
That’s why you can get brilliant men and women of all kinds who can equally well support either side of an argument. Indeed, barristers could hardly operate at all or attorneys, or judges or lawyers, if they weren’t able to do this, if the mind was not able to support almost whatever you chose for it to support. The mind is really incapable of finding truth on its own. It just examines what is presented before it and evaluates it. It cannot tell whether there is other truth that it has not discovered.
All it can do is discover and examine certain truths, but it can never tell if it has found all the truth. That’s why when someone said, you remember, “Oh, I can’t find God anywhere. Even the astronauts have been up in space and haven’t found Him.” Of course, one theologian said, “Have they looked everywhere?” and, in fact, they hadn’t looked everywhere and we actually can’t physically look everywhere because we have not come to the end of space yet in our universe.
So, the mind is only able to evaluate what is presented to it. It’s limited by what is presented to it, by the facts that are presented to it. It, in fact, is not an instrument of truth. It’s an instrument of sizing
up things and reasoning about things. The mind is limited in its ability to get you into contact with the Maker of the universe. Let’s talk a little more about the functions of the mind and the rest of the soul tomorrow.