What is the Meaning of Life
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WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE? Program 173 Slave to our Bodies by Ernest O’Neill
Many of us who are in very intellectual professions, such as doctors or stock brokers or university professors, are amazed at how physically we live our lives. We teach all kinds of high-minded standards and ways of thinking to our students and we operate in our businesses on the basis of intellectual and analytical thinking. But when it comes to our own weekend lives, we find ourselves descending to the lowest levels of physical stimulation and we regard that as our greatest happiness.
We are baffled at ourselves, because, on the one hand, our Monday through Friday lives tend to elevate the intellect and the mind, but our weekend lives tend to elevate the physical and the more animal side of our natures. We are, of course, more and more bewildered at this when it begins to blow our domestic scene apart, or destroy our own personal lives. We wonder why on earth do we, who know so much better, end up doing what we know is not the highest and not the best and not the greatest quality of life.
That’s the kind of question we’re discussing on this program, because we are talking about how our personalities were intended to work by the One who originated life and who made us. We have been discussing the way in which the Supreme Being behind the universe made our personalities on three different levels: on the physical level, on the psychological level, and on the spirit level.
What we have done is to take a page and then divide it into three parts. The top third of the page we’ve called body; the middle third we’ve called soul, and the bottom third we’ve called spirit. We have drawn a line or an arrow from the top of the page to the bottom — from body through soul and then through spirit. What we mean by soul comes from the Greek word “psuche”, which becomes our English word “psyche” or psychological. The soul is simply the psychological part of us.
The outline of our personality that has been given by our Creator through His Son in that old book that we often just allow to gather dust, is that we have within us our own interior selves the very essence of you which is your spirit. Around that you wear like an overcoat your soul, or the psychological part of you — your mind, and will and emotions. Around that you wear another outside overcoat, which is your body.
So the body has contact with the world of things and circumstances and people through its five senses. The soul has contact with itself; it is the self-conscious part of us. The spirit is the part of us that has contact with the Supreme Being behind the universe. The way our personalities normally work is the way we have just drawn them on the page. That is, we stimulate the body by a kiss or an embrace, or by a good meal or by a pint of beer or by a fifth of whiskey, or by a shot of heroin. By that means we stimulate the emotions which are, of course, connected so tightly to the body.
We hope in that way to somehow stir the spirit into life. Indeed, many of us, when we have a high caused by drugs or caused by alcohol, we think we have reached some kind of spirit sphere. Well, the truth is we haven’t even touched the spirit. Normally the old spirit is lying there absolutely dead and asleep, except maybe for one of its functions, which is the conscience. The conscience is usually somewhat alive in us, because of our upbringing.
Our spirits, as a whole, are normally fairly dead. All of us are little soul-body animals that operate just at a slightly higher level than the animal. Rarely do we operate very much above the animal, because, as we said yesterday, most of us find ourselves on this planet flying through space at thousands of miles an hour,
feeling very insecure and driven by the need to get some security — at least to get a roof over our heads, at least to be left not without a home when our parents die, and or to have some clothes on our backs.
So, most of us see the tremendous need to establish some kind of physical security for ourselves. That communicates itself through our body, which feels the cold and feels hunger, to our emotions usually, where we feel dreadfully abandoned and dreadfully desolate and exposed once our parents die. That communicates itself to our mind, which then begins to manipulate the money on the earth or the jobs on the earth, or the other people on the earth, so that somehow we will be able to get some security for ourselves in a good education that will give us a good job, that will give us enough money to buy food, shelter and clothing.
So, most of us operate just between the body and the soul in almost that kind of response-reflex, Pavlov’s dog kind of way. Most of us don’t operate much above the level of Pavlov’s dog. You remember when they brought the food out, the dogs began to secrete saliva. Most of us exist that way. We say we operate on the level of our souls, but it is virtually not at all. Our souls have become the slaves of our bodies. On the level of security that’s the way we operate.
We look around and see there are five billion people on the earth, and they all think they’re unique. We know we’re alone unique, but they just don’t seem to notice it. We are overcome by the dreadful insignificance of our lives. We feel we need to get some significance, and we need to get somebody else’s respect. So we try to manipulate the people around us to respect us and look up to us.
The body, therefore, sees when the boss notices you, or the body sees when the children respect you or when they don’t respect you. That sends a signal to the emotions, which are accordingly elated or depressed. That sends a signal to your mind which, in turn, manipulates that person — so they will, in fact, give you the respect that you feel you deserve. So, we operate simply as little, physical soul beings with little that touches our spirit at all. All the time our spirit is virtually dead and asleep.
We continue in this kind of existence year after year. The difficulty is that we never actually get a permanent sense of significance or self-esteem or self-worth, because the esteem we are looking for has to come from a deeper part of our being than just the approval of other people, or the recognition of our peers.
We, of course, are running simply a little, internal, closed-circuit that operates from the outside world (people and their opinion),to our emotions which are pleased when they approve of us or when they give us some reward. Then, to our minds, which then in turn manipulate them further, or simply lie dormant. Then we go back to the people again, and what they think of us. So, it’s a little vicious circle that operates simply between the body and the soul.
It’s the same with the security situation. We never do get a complete sense of security, because, of course, an incurable disease can always strike you anyway and wash you out financially. So, we never do get a complete sense of security, and, indeed, finally we know that there is ultimate insecurity in lying in a box in the ground deteriorating and being eaten by the worms. Finally, security is a mirage and a horizon that we never reach. But we still run that little vicious circle between our body and the things we put in our tummies or that we wear on our bodies or that we cover our heads with in the way of houses.
We run that between the things that we can get hold of, the emotions that result from that and the mind’s response to that situation. So, we’re running all the time in vicious little circles that operate simply on the top two-thirds of the page there — between the body and the soul. That’s why we never gain any permanent satisfaction from them.
How was it meant to work? Let’s talk about that tomorrow.