What is the Meaning of Life
Our Inward Evil Nature
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 102 Our Inward Evil Nature by Ernest O’Neill
We’ve been talking for some months now about the meaning of life. Why you are here. Why I am here. What’s the point of it all? What’s the purpose of this existence that we are involved in? We have discussed one explanation of that reality. Now what we are doing is looking at some of the phenomena or some of the experiences of our everyday lives to see if the explanation of reality that we have been discussing matches those phenomena.
In other words, does the explanation of reality that we are looking at meet some of the needs and problems that we have in our everyday life. Because, of course, if there is a need that is answered by the explanation, then it confirms that that explanation may well be the true one. Whereas, in fact, if the explanation of reality or the meaning or purpose of life does not match the experiences and the situations that you and I meet in our everyday lives, then it is questionable if that is reality.
So, pragmatism believes that whatever works is true, and certainly that seems to many of us an invalid philosophy. Nevertheless, it does seem correct that if a thing is true, then it will also work. When things do not work, normally you tackle the theory and you see that the theory is invalid. Rather than to say that the theory is correct, but that the way it is being operated is wrong.
So, that is what we are doing. We are looking at some of the phenomena in our everyday life to match it up with the explanation of reality that we have been studying and discussing and talking about together over these months. One of the phenomena that we have just mentioned yesterday is the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome. You remember, we have been discussing the novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson where that Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome is described so graphically.
We talked yesterday about how in the beginning of that novel Stevenson describes a callous, cruel hunchbacked creature called Hyde, who begins to roam the streets of a certain area of London late at night, doing all kinds of cruel and dastardly and violent deeds, and how he strangely enough connected up with a character that is the very opposite of himself, a character called Dr. Jekyll.
On one occasion, when he was caught in the very act of mistreating a young girl, the crowd demanded compensation. He produced check for one hundred pounds signed by a Dr. Jekyll, who was known throughout that area of London as a philanthropic, kindly, elderly doctor who was in every way the opposite of Hyde’s callous, cruel personality. As we begin to follow the story, we find that towards the end of the novel Dr. Jekyll committed suicide.
He left a letter explaining the reason for his suicide. In it, he first of all talked about himself as the public knew him, a kindly, generous, elderly doctor, who spent a great deal of his time looking after the poor and the needy. Then he goes on to explain that along with these noble feelings of unselfishness and desire to help suffering humanity, he discovered deep within himself another set of feelings that were completely different, the very opposite of these good motives and impulses.
Deep from within, at times, there rose up passions of lust and hatred, of anger and resentment, of self-gratification and temper that he could not control. He says he wasn’t really a hypocrite, because a hypocrite is one who pretends to be what he isn’t. Dr. Jekyll said he really was both these characters. He really was the elderly, kindly doctor, who organized church groups to help the poor and needy, but he also was
really the impatient, restless, licentious creature that resented others and lived only for his own satisfaction.
Then he goes on to tell that as the years passed, the war between these two natures became unbearable and began to so wear down the respectable Dr. Jekyll, that even his good actions and kind deeds were threatened by the sheer weariness and effort of holding down the evil part of his nature. He found that, increasingly, as he wanted to help people, and to love them and to show kindliness to them, there rose up within him these evil thoughts and these unclean motives and these violent desires that he could not in any way express and yet which he had difficulty holding down as the years passed.
At last he found the solution. In his laboratory, he devised a drug that was designed to separate the two parts of his personality, and to give to each a physical body through which it could fully express itself, without being held back or restrained by the other part. In other words, he theorized to himself that if he could only give this ugly creature part of me a physical expression, then it can express itself freely. And so in my normal times I’ll be able to continue to express my kindly, loving nature through my own physical body.
Thus, one night he drank the potion, the drug that he had made. Looking into the mirror, he saw the mild, kindly features of the elderly Dr. Jekyll change into the young, brutal, cruel features and body of the hateful and hated Mr. Hyde. You, of course, can guess the rest of the story, even if you have never read it, because the story is true to human nature.
Anger, of course, does not diminish or disappear as you express it. That is a naive lie that some counselors try to make us believe. In fact, whatever you express grows in strength. That’s what happened. Mr. Hyde grew in strength and stature and shrewdness. Dr. Jekyll became more and more addicted to the drug as his alter ego demanded release to roam the streets of London, first one night a week.
So the Mr. Hyde within him was satisfied to express himself just one night a week. Then twice a week. Then three times. Then every night, until a hideous night arrived which Jekyll describes in his suicide note. One evening at home, before he had even thought of taking the drug at all, suddenly the features of Dr. Jekyll began to fade and the hideous, contorted features of Mr. Hyde began to appear. He realized that he had now lost control and could no longer keep his good self uppermost, but was now at the mercy of his evil nature, which could take over whenever it wished. At that point, the murdering and the violence of his night life made it impossible for Dr. Jekyll to retain any separation between himself and Mr. Hyde. Of course, you can see what happened.
The evil part of him got so used to expressing itself through a physical personality and appearance that was appropriate, that it grew in strength increasingly as the years passed until the point where it became his main personality and took over completely from the kindly, generous Dr. Jekyll that he had once been. That’s, of course, the basic problem of human nature.
It’s put in different words in part of that old book which is called The Bible. It’s found in a piece near the end of the Bible which was written to people in Rome near the end of the first century. (Romans, Chapter 7, verse 15). It’s the expression of what Jekyll experienced. It says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” That’s what Jekyll found.
I think you will probably agree, if you’re like me and the rest of the 5 billion of us on the earth. It’s probably what you experienced, too. “I do not understand my own actions, for I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” In so many of us the Dr. Jekyll is being suppressed by the Mr. Hyde. Let’s talk a little more about that tomorrow.