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Life’s Bus Ride -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Life’s Bus Ride
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life, this life that we’re now living? Why are we here? What’s the purpose of it?
Maybe you say to yourself, “Ah, give me a break. What is the meaning of life?! I can’t tackle that this
evening.” Well, let’s begin to talk about it together just in a casual way. We can carry on the conversation
tomorrow. What is the meaning of life?
What is the point of being here? You’re staring, perhaps, at the stop-lights in front of you. Why? You’re
perhaps on your way home to dinner. Why? Why are you here? Why have you ever ended up on this planet at all?
What is the point of it? Maybe you say, “Look, that’s too big a question. I can’t tackle that! I have other
questions that have to be answered. How can I pay my bills next week to the electric company? How can I get my
salary in time? How can I buy food for this evening’s meal? I have other questions that are more pressing than
Yet, isn’t it true that we’ve kept putting that question off day after day, week after week, month after
month, year after year, until you’ve arrived at your present situation where your life may be one-third, a
half or even three-quarters over. Still, you don’t have a very good answer to the question, “What is the
meaning of life?”
Maybe, like me, you thought you’d form a philosophy of life. Perhaps in the first twenty years of your
existence you lived by that philosophy. Yet, it is amusing how many of us have failed to establish a
philosophy of life that will even guide us through a day or a week, let alone a whole lifetime. You may say,
“Well, why bother? I mean, life is here to be lived. Why work out what the meaning of life is? Why deal with
the question of a philosophy of life?”
Well, there are several plain, obvious reasons. One you could find illustrated in this story. Let’s imagine,
for instance, that one of those large touring buses draws up at the door of your house someday, and there is a
whole crowd of us on it. We’re calling you to come get into the bus. It swings out onto the main road, then
gets onto the motorway and begins to cruise down the motorway at about 65 miles an hour.
Then you turn around to someone and say, “Now, where is this bus going?” They say, “Ah, don’t worry about
that! There’s some food in the back. Let’s break out the sandwiches, break out the drinks and let’s enjoy
ourselves.” So you go along with that and think, “Everybody else is doing it, so let’s do it.” You break out
the sandwiches; you break out the drinks; you have a really good time.
You enjoy the food and then the people start singing. You join in the singing. Then later on, as it gets
toward evening, you turn around to this person again. You say, “But wait a minute. Where is this bus going?
Why are we in it?” He replies, “Don’t worry about that. Let’s just sing a few more songs. Then we’ll get
some more drinks.” So you go along with it and it gets to night time. So you lie back in the seat and you
begin to relax. You have some kind of a night’s sleep and you wake up in the morning.
The bus is still trundling down the freeway at 65 miles an hour. Then, you lean over to the person in front
of you, because you’ve decided the guy beside you doesn’t know what he’s about. You say, “Listen. Where is
this bus going? Why are we on it?” That guy says, “Don’t worry about that. Let’s just keep cleaning the
windows. Let’s keep enjoying ourselves. Let’s keep eating and sleeping. That’s all we need to do.”
As the hours and the days go by, you get more and more frustrated. Gradually, other people get frustrated. In
fact, after about twenty years, the anxiety becomes unbearable, and everybody is not having just as good a
time in the bus as they were having. Some of them are sick. Some of them have died and been thrown off the
bus. Some of them have become enemies of each other and get on each other’s nerves. Some crowd together in
one corner to protect themselves against the others. Some people have no food and others have too much.
Yet, as children begin to be born to people in the bus, they are told by their parents, “Just keep on cleaning
the windows. Keep on singing. Keep on laughing. Keep on having a good time. That’s all you need to do.” Even
as the children ask the question, “But what’s the point of it? Where are we going? Why are we on the bus?”
gradually, everybody begins to get a very anxious, worried feeling that no one really knows the answer to that
People begin to wonder, “Is there any reason to it at all? Is there any meaning? Is there any point in being
on this bus? Is this bus ever going to arrive anywhere, or is it going to go on and on forever? Gradually, of
course, it begins to strike some of us that there is only one way to get off the bus. We have seen that that
way has worked for others. We’ve begun to consider the possibility for own lives, because the only way to get
off this bus is to die and to be thrown off it.
So gradually, more and more of us start to study the question of death and suicide, how to end this nightmare
that we’re involved in that has no meaning at all. That’s one of the good reasons for beginning to think about
the question, “What is the meaning to life? Why are we alive, or what is the purpose of your being here on
earth?” If we don’t attempt to get some kind of answer that is half-sane, we ourselves will begin to consider
what more and more people are thinking about in our western world. Hideous though the thought may be, more
and more people in our western world are considering suicide.
In a sense, we’re on a spaceship that is travelling through space at thousands of miles an hour. It will
surprise you, perhaps, to realize that the greatest killer of school children in the United Stated is suicide.
It seems that children have less skill at pretending than we adults have. They seem to have less and less
ability to ignore the plain, straight, ordinary questions of life.
One of the most obvious to them is, “What’s it all about anyway? Why are we alive, and what’s the purpose of
being here?” That’s the kind of question that I would ask you to think about during these next days at this
time on radio. I’ll try to suggest some of the reasons that many of us have seen for being alive. But the
most important thing is that you yourself would think about it and you would begin to think, “Why am I here?
What’s the purpose of this life? What is the meaning of life? Why am I sitting here in this car? Why am I
sitting here in this pub, or why am I sitting here in this living room doing what I’m doing, breathing,
sleeping, thinking, talking. What is the point of it? Why am I here? Is there any reason for it at all? Is
there any reason beyond the fact that it keeps me from moving?”
This planet is very like that bus in many ways. It is whirling through space at thousands of miles an hour.
It’s certainly traveling somewhere, and it’s certainly going to end up somewhere at sometime. You and I are
going to end up somewhere in a matter of years. Why are we alive? What is the meaning of life? Join me
tomorrow as we talk about this further.
Life is Meaningless -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Life is Meaningless
by Ernest O’Neill
We’re talking these days together about the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Why are we here? What’s
the point of it all? How did we end up on this planet passing the time the way we’re doing? What is the
meaning of life?
Yesterday, you remember, we likened our situation to a group of us getting onto a bus and traveling along the
freeway at about sixty-five miles an hour, being happy for the first hour or so while we broke out the drinks
and shared the sandwiches. But then beginning to get worried as hour after hour followed, then as day after
day followed and we kept asking the question, “Where are we going? Why are we on this bus?” Nobody seemed able
to answer the question. They all just kept on saying, “Oh, keep on cleaning the windows. Keep on drinking.
Keep on eating. Keep on sleeping. Don’t worry about such unimportant questions as that!”
Really, that’s the same situation as we are in here on this planet. The planet is traveling through space at
thousands of miles an hour. It does admittedly happen to be on one orbit at the moment, but none of us knows
who controls that orbit or what controls that orbit. We can’t guarantee that it will stay in that orbit
forever, but the most important thing is that many of us have no idea where it’s going. Yet, we are on a bus
that is, as it were, traveling toward a concrete wall. In about seventy or eighty years it’s going to smash
into that concrete wall. You and I are going to smash with it. Yet, we seem bent on avoiding the question,
“Where are we going?” or “Why are we here?” It seems just a piece of almost deliberate deception on our part
to keep from thinking about that question.
Our children, of course, are not as sophisticated or, should we say, as naive as we are about these things.
They still think about this kind of thing. Unfortunately, many of us have so mesmerized ourselves or become so
hypnotized, with our own activities on this planet that we have almost persuaded ourselves not to think about
this kind of thing. I don’t know if you were the same as I was, but at times my mother would say to me, “Oh,
don’t think about that kind of thing. Don’t think too deeply. You can think too much.” Of course, the truth
is you can’t think too much. We’ve been given minds and we’ve been given reasoning powers. It’s up to us to
think about these things.
It’s vital that we do. It’s what distinguishes us from the animals. The animal keeps on going without ever
thinking why he’s doing it. But we are human beings. We have minds that can reflect on what we’re doing. We
have self-critical faculties. It’s vital for us to apply to this issue of life and its meaning and its
purpose, the same reflective, critical, analytical powers that we apply to our everyday lives. So, that’s why
I’m inviting you to think with me a little these days about the question, “What is the meaning of life?”
One of our English poets put it like this. He was, of course, A. E. Housman, who many of us know as a Greek
professor in one of our leading universities in past years. He wrote poetry. One of his poems runs like this:
Yonder see the morning blink,
The sun is up, and up must I;
To wash, and dress, and eat, and drink,
And look at things, and talk, and think,
And work, and God knows why!
Oh, often have I washed and dressed,
And what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie in bed and rest;
Ten-thousand times I’ve done my best,
And all’s to do again.
Though we may at first sight say, “Oh what pessimism, what dreadful pessimism!” — some of us might wonder
“what poetry” or “what doggerel”. Yet, it expresses very well what many of us think in these days. We get up
in the morning and we think, “yonder see the morning blink, the sun is up and up must I, to wash and dress and
eat and drink, and look at things and talk and think, and work, and God knows why!” Why are we here? What is
the purpose of it?
You might be like many of us. You might say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know what the purpose is. I don’t know
what it is, but I can see one thing these days, that there’s only so much in this world for everybody and I’d
better hurry up and get my piece of it as well as I possibly can.
Of course, it’s reinforced by our parents’ encouragement when we’re young. They say, “Well, if you don’t look
after yourself, nobody else is going to look after you.” We get it beaten into our heads very firmly that the
basic need we have is to supply ourselves with food, shelter and clothing, because that, at least, man has
been able to do ever from his early days in the iron age, or when he was a caveman.
So, we grew up with the strong realization and strong compulsion that we had better, for whatever reason we’re
here for, or whatever purpose there is to life. There’s nobody that’s going to look after us except ourselves.
We had better make sure that we get the right kind of education that will give us the right kind of job, that
will give us the right kind of money, that will enable us to buy the right kind of food, the right kind of
clothing and the right kind of shelter, so that at least we can stay alive. So, many of us are dominated by
simply that survival mode. That’s what we’re in; we’re just in a survival mode.
If you say to us, “Why are you eating? Why are you sleeping? Why are you drinking?”, we say, “Look, I don’t
know, but I can see this….that I won’t be doing it very long if I don’t give myself to ensuring some kind of
physical security for my life.” So, we very quickly descend from the big philosophical to the very practical
physical necessity of keeping ourselves here.
So, we begin to give ourselves, as you know, to school and to getting the best kind of education that we can.
You know how that tends to dominate our thoughts. We certainly think about our abilities: artistic ability or
our writing ability, our mechanical or practical ability. We certainly think of the things that we might be
able to do for humanity, but overall we tend to be dominated by one thought…”How do I ensure that I continue
getting the next bite into my mouth?”
That tends to dominate our school years, you know. Then we go to school. We graduate or we get to university
and we graduate or we go to technical college and we get out of that. Finally comes the “big, real world” as
we were told. We would soon go out into the big wide world. We’ll meet life as it really is.
So that’s what we do. We get out into the job. You know how we scramble to parley our degree, or our academic
qualifications or our training for the best job that we can. Then we try to ensure that it will be permanent.
We try to win tenure in education or in faculties, or we try to win stability from guarantees by the union or
by our employers, but we spend the next years of our lives trying to ensure security, trying to ensure the
food and clothing that is needed to keep us alive. So, that begins to dominate our lives.
Actually, that not only dominates our lives, but it becomes almost a neurotic preoccupation that we have. So
many of us, if we’re asked, “Why are we alive?”, we say we’re alive to keep ourselves alive. In other words,
if you ask us why we are getting a good education, we say we’re getting ourselves a good education so that we
can get a good job, so that we can get food, so that we can stay alive, so that we can have children, so that
we can give them a good education, so that they can get good jobs, so that they can get food, so that they can
stay alive, so that they can have children, so that they can get a good education, so that they can….and so
on…forever and forever ad absurdum.
Until we begin to realize, wait a minute, is that why we’re alive, in order to stay alive? Well, maybe you’d
think about that and we could talk about it a little more tomorrow.
Why Are We Alive? -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Why Are We Alive?
by Ernest O’Neill
Yonder see the morning blink.
The sun is up, and up must I,
To wash, and dress, and eat, and drink,
And look at things, and talk, and think,
And work, and God knows why!
That was a poem that was written by A. E. Housman some fifty years ago, but it expresses what a lot of us feel
about life today. That’s what we’re talking about at this time on this program each day. What is the meaning
of life? Why are we here? What’s the point of it all? How come we ended up in this situation on this planet?
Yesterday, you may remember us saying that a lot of us answer that question by saying, “Ummm. I wish I had the
luxury of thinking of such a high-flown philosophical issue as ‘Why am I alive?’ My problem is how to stay
alive. That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer for the past forty years of my life.”
Many of us are in that position. We say, “Well, I don’t know why I’m alive, but I know I am. I know this world
has only limited physical resources and I’d better make sure I get my part of the pie. So my job is to get a
good education, to get a good job so that I can buy whatever food, shelter and clothing I need so that I can
stay alive.” Of course we ended up yesterday’s program, you remember, by summarizing the answer in this way.
We said, “Why am I alive? I am alive to get a good education.”
“Why am I getting a good education? So that I can get a good job. Why do I want a good job? Not only to
fulfill myself, but so that I can get enough food, shelter and clothing to keep me alive.”
Why do you want to stay alive? “So that I can have children.” Why do you want to have children? “So that they
can get a good education, so that they can get a good job, so that they can have enough food and shelter to
keep them alive. So that they can have children, so that they can …” and so on.
Of course, the sheer viciousness of the circle fills us with almost a horror when we think of it. That lies at
the base of the sense of futility that many of us feel in these days. Indeed, it fills many of us with that
hopelessness with which we get on the bus, or the train each morning to go to work. We wonder why are we are
doing this, so that we can keep ourselves on this treadmill or so that we can keep our children on this
treadmill? Behind it all we feel we were made for security. We do feel we were made to be safe and secure.
So, we would say, “Well, the reason we do it is that we are just driven by a need. We are like little animals.
We have an instinct for self-preservation and we can’t get anywhere above that.” We know we’re supposed to be
higher than the animals, but, really, we live like little animals and we’re trying to establish our own
security, because somehow or other there is deep within us a strange feeling that we were made to be safe. We
were made to be secure.
Indeed, we might almost say there’s a deeper feeling than that. There’s almost a feeling that we were made to
outlive this life. Yet we don’t know why we have that feeling. Part of the difficulty we have in conceiving of
the fact that if we’re on a bus that is traveling towards a concrete wall that is going to hit after seventy
or eighty years of our lifetime’s existence is that we have a strange other feeling inside us that makes us
feel we will actually transcend that concrete wall.
We have some feeling (I don’t know that we’d call it eternity), but we have some feeling that we were made to
live beyond the insecurity that we feel in this life. Somehow we’re trying to get at that sense of security by
our jobs and our food, and shelter and clothing. We’re trying to raise this physical, mental, emotional and
economic security to the nth degree, somehow hoping that by that means we’ll break through the roof and break
into the final security that we think we were made for. But that becomes so ephemeral for so many of us that
we don’t go too far in that direction.
But perhaps if we were asked why we are working away like little beavers to establish our security, we might
in some moments of poetic fantasy begin to touch that kind of emphasis that maybe it is that we were made for
a security that is beyond the security that we can actually establish. Of course, we are constantly
tantalized, indeed tortured, by the thought that men and women who have done far better than we will probably
ever do at establishing their own physical, economic and financial security, have failed miserably.
In other words, many of us who are trying to build up enough stocks and shares, or enough investments, or
enough of a bank balance, or enough equity in the house, many of us who are trying to do that are continually
reminded of the fact that men and women who have done far better at this than we have ever done, finally had
to admit their insecurity and often died in the midst of their own insecurity.
Many of us can think of Howard Hughes, the billionaire in America who owned the Howard Hughes Tool Company,
then parlayed it into what was really the most powerful armaments company virtually in the world, but
certainly in America. You remember he had so many millions and billions that he hardly knew how much he had.
Yet, our minds are frustrated and tantalized by the figure of that old man.
Old Howard Hughes, you remember, in his seventies, dying in the top apartment of one of the big hotels in
England, in the midst of the Kleenex tissues that he surrounded himself with because he was afraid of dying
from a virus as his father had done. He actually died of malnutrition, a thin, emaciated old man in the midst
of his bodyguards, in the midst of all his millions. He died from fear, fear that he would die if he didn’t
abstain from the right foods and protect himself from the right viruses and infections.
So, many of us are really haunted by that figure and we realize that after you’ve done everything you can to
establish physical security, finally you can’t. You can’t be deaf. Finally it’s going to get you. Finally
you’re going to die without any food inside you. Finally you’re going to die without your money around you, or
without your clothes around you, or your house around you. Finally you realize if I’m living in order to
establish my own security, I’m living in a fool’s paradise, because I’m never going to finally be able to
establish security completely. I’m actually, finally going to be beaten by the system.
So, many of us answer the question “Why are we alive?” — we’re alive to stay alive. Well, the truth is we’ll
finally be beaten by that. That is a course that is bound to be frustrated, because sooner or later we all
die. Sooner or later, you’re going to die. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of yourself. You’re going
You remember, I think, it was one of our famous British comedians who was also a drama producer or drama
director and was a very able medic at either Oxford or I think it was Cambridge, and I remember him say, “Why
is everybody so busy doing all this running and all this jogging? They are making life miserable for
themselves in order to prolong the misery as long as they can.” For many of us that’s what we’re doing when we
answer the question, “Why we are alive?” We’re alive to stay alive.
Really, finally, we won’t be able to do it. Finally, you won’t be able to stay alive. Finally, the system will
beat you. Well, why are we alive then? Perhaps you’d join me tomorrow and we will progress towards a real
answer to this question.
We Are All Unique -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
We Are All Unique!
by Ernest O’Neill
Why are we alive? What is the meaning of life? That’s the subject we’re discussing at this time each day. You
remember, yesterday we dealt with the possible answer to that question. It is the answer: We don’t know why
we are alive, but we’d better stay alive as long as we can. So, we really answer the question with: we’re
alive to stay alive.
We’re alive to get a good education, to get a good job, to get to stay alive. And we don’t know why we’re
here, but we’d better stay here as long as we possibly can. Of course we concluded yesterday by saying that
this finally is bound to end in futility, because actually we’re not going to be able to establish final
security in this world. Finally death is going to get us in the end and we’re not going to be able to stay
alive. That haunts many of us who are living for that purpose.
We’re living to stay living, and, really, that’s what gives a lot of us a feeling of anxiety and angst in our
lives. We know that really we’re just distracting ourselves from the main issue which is the purpose of life
and what we’re here for. We’re trying to distract ourselves from it by short-sightedness, by nearsightedness,
by getting preoccupied with the food, the shelter and clothing that is needed to stay alive.
So, many of us realize that this is a bit like being a fiddler on a roof. We are little fleas standing on a
sphere that is flying through space at tremendous speed. We don’t exactly know why people in Australia don’t
fall off. We give it the name of the Law of Gravity very learnedly, but we really know that all we’re doing is
giving a title to a thing and not really explaining why that gravity remains as it is. So we are like fiddlers
on a roof. We are stuck like little fleas on this sphere.
We are trying to give ourselves some sense of security and stability because we think we’re made for it. We
realize full well that the security and stability that we’re giving ourselves is purely temporary. Indeed
compared with the size of the sphere that we’re standing on and compared with the mighty forces that could
pull us off at any moment we’re doing anything but ensuring our own security.
So, that’s part of the reason why so many of us with even good bank balances and good investments still feel a
tremendous sense of insecurity. That’s why incurable diseases and terminable diseases frighten us so much.
They really just highlight the fear and anxiety that we feel even when we’re in the best of health, because we
realize we don’t know why we’re here, and we don’t think we can guarantee our staying here as long as we want.
We feel, “What else can you do? There’s nobody else to look after us. We’d better look after ourselves.” And
so it casts us into that kind of mode that we’ve described — a security syndrome that is bound to end in
It’s a little the same with the old significance syndrome that we get into, because many of us say, “Why are
we alive? We don’t know why we’re alive, but we do know that there are four billion others and they’re all
trying to make themselves important in some way. They probably are doing it because of the same reason that
we’re doing it.”
We feel that there are four billion of us. “I am only one little flea in the midst of this mass of fleas. I
don’t know why I’m alive, but boy, I feel I’m important. I feel there’s something about me that’s different. I
feel that there’s something unique about me. I feel I’m of some value. I know I can’t say I’m of more value
than the others, but still I don’t feel I’m just a number. I feel somewhere, somehow, somebody knows I’m here
or they ought to know I’m here.” And, most of us would say that.
We would feel a bit like John Milton the poet, you remember, who felt he was born for some great purpose in
life. He felt there was some special reason for him being on the earth. He prepared to fulfill that destiny
that he felt he was made to fulfill. Probably we don’t feel we’re poets. We don’t feel we’re great writers. We
don’t feel we’re very important people and yet we feel there is something to us, even if “I’m just a poor
little office worker in the center of London”, “…even if I’m just another tool maker”, “even if I’m just
another press operator,” “…even if I’m just another laundry operator”, “…even if I’m just another teacher
of the many teachers”, “…even if I’m just another doctor of the many doctors”. “Yet, still I feel I’m
important. There’s something different about me.”
We all feel that. We feel we’re unique. Strange thing is you are unique. You know that. There’s nobody like
you in the whole universe; nobody like you. There never has been anybody like you. There never will be anybody
like you. You are absolutely unique even if you have an identical twin. There is no one exactly like you with
exactly the combination of intellectual, emotional, physical and historical factors that you have. There’s
nobody quite like you, so in a strange sense you’re right. You are unique.
Yet, most of us say, “Yeah, but nobody else notices it!” That’s the problem many of us get into. Nobody else
seems to notice that we’re unique. Nobody else seems to give us special attention. So if we’re asked the
question of why we’re alive, we probably would have to answer, “Well, we’re alive to gain attention from other
people, to try to get others to see how unique we are, to try to get others to give us some sense of
significance, because we feel we are significant.” We feel we are significant. It’s just that nobody notices
us. Nobody seems to notice we’re significant.
So many of us get on that slavish treadmill that is called by some of us self-esteem, by others of us
self-worth, by others of us recognition, by others of us peer approval. Whatever name we give to it, we really
mean we’re driven people. We’re driven by a desire to get other people to notice us and approve of us. We feel
we were made to be recognized in some way. We feel we were made for someone to notice us, someone to approve
of us, someone to acknowledge that we’re here.
So from very early years as little children at grade school, or at infant school, or at kindergarten we begin
to find out what we have to do to gain the teacher’s attention. Then we get into primary school or elementary
school and we begin to learn that if you do well at your subject, or do well in your grades, or get good marks
at English, then the teacher approves of you. So, we learn like little puppies how to get treats. Or, like
little horses, we learn how to get another sugar lump, or we learn like little kids how to get another cookie.
Really we become cookie monsters. We will do anything for cookies. We’ll do anything to get someone to give us
attention or give us recognition, or give us approval.
Of course, the whole world plays on that as we graduate from university or college. We find that the boss will
give us a little nod of approval if we’ll do certain things right. We see that we’ll get a little more money
if we say things in a certain way in the office. We see that we’ll get attention, promotion and recognition if
we tread a certain party line. As we climb up that miserable executive ladder we’ll find that we get the keys
to the executive washroom if we say the right thing in the right way. So, we become little cookie monsters,
little dogs that will do anything for a pat, little dogs that will do anything to be stroked.
We find that our answer to the question, “Why are we alive?” often in actual practice is answered in order to
get other people’s approval, in order to get other people to recognize us, in order to get other people to
approve of us. So many of us who are husbands and fathers want to get approval as good providers for our
homes. Many of us as wives and mothers want to get approval as good cooks, good housekeepers. Many of us as
children want to get approval from our parents, from our teachers, anybody that we can get attention from, so
that they will approve of us, recognize us and acknowledge us.
So, we answer the question, “Why are we alive?” by saying that we want attention and approval from other
people. Is that all there is? No, that’s not all there is. There is something more. Let’s talk about it
Searching for Personal Acceptance -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Searching for Personal Acceptance
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the topic we’re discussing together at this time, on this station each
day. What is the meaning of life? Really, why are we alive? What’s the purpose of your being here? How come we
ended up on this planet? What is the meaning of life? And, during the past few days, we have tackled some of
the answers to that question, which probably you yourself have given at different times.
Many of us say, “Well, that philosophical question is too cosmic an issue for me, but I can tell you I am
alive. I am alive just to stay alive. That’s it. I haven’t got any further than that.” Many of us, of course,
are in that position — where really we don’t answer the question philosophically, we just answer it
practically. We say, “Why are we alive? We’re alive to stay alive. I’m trying to get a good education, to get
a good job, to get food, shelter and clothing, so that I can stay alive. That’s about it.”
“I realize that it’s just an exercise in futility. I’m going to end up dead; I understand that. Finally, the
grim reaper will get me, but I’m going to stay alive as long as I can until that time.” Of course, that’s what
causes a lot of us the angst that we feel, way at the back of our minds. It causes the sense of worry and
defeat that we see in each other’s eyes, way at the back, when we look there.
We find that many of us are really living what many of us see, as a tale told by an idiot, because we’re
trying to stay alive, just to stay alive! We know that we’re better than animals. We know that we have a
reflective, self-critical faculty, but still we are behaving like little animals. We’re just eating because
the food is there. We’re climbing the mountain, because it’s there. We’re staying alive, because it’s there.
We don’t seem able to get beyond that.
Others of us, of course, have a different answer. We say, “Well, we don’t know why we’re alive, but there are
four billion others in the world, and they probably feel the same way as we do. We feel we’re pretty unique.”
It is interesting most of us feel we’re unique. Most of us feel in some way we’re different from everybody
else. The truth is, actually we are. There’s nobody quite like you in the universe. There has never been
anybody like you and there never will be anybody like you. So, you’re right, in a sense, saying that you’re
The problem is nobody else seems to notice it. So many of us answer the question, “Why are we alive?” by
saying, “Well, we’re alive to get other people’s attention. We’re alive to get other people to give us some
value, to give us some sense of self-worth.” Our self-esteem comes from what other people think of us. We
think we’re important. We think that we’re valuable, but nobody else seems to notice it. So, our job is to get
other people to notice it.” And, from our earliest days in kindergarten, to our day when we received the gold
watch, after 30 or 40 years of faithful service to our company, we’re bent on trying to get other people to
give us recognition, to acknowledge that we’re here, to establish some sense of value.
The problem is nobody seems to be able to give us that sense of value. We try and we try, but it doesn’t
matter how many people we dominate. If we’re bosses, or if we’re directors, or managers of operations, it
doesn’t matter how many little children we tend to get to think we’re important. If we’re teachers or if we’re
parents, somehow we never seem to get enough attention, somehow we have to get enough recognition, and enough
Somehow we always have trouble with our self-esteem or our sense of self, of self-worth. Somehow we’re always
seeking peer approval and never getting enough of it. We seem like little cookie monsters, who want a pat on
the head, or a stroke, or a cookie, and never get enough to satisfy us. So, in a way, we find ourselves
doomed to frustration in answering the question the way we do.
Of course, it is further exacerbated by the fact that we notice how few people now talk about John Wayne, how
relatively few people talk now about Richard Burton, how few people now seem to even remember that there was
such a person as Anthony Eden, how few people now talk about Jack Benny or Bing Crosby, in spite of the fact
that there was a time when everybody in the country seemed to know those names. They were household names.
Yet, it’s amazing when we reflect now on how few people discuss these people that got recognition. If anybody
got recognition, they got recognition. If anybody got approval, if anybody had name brand recognition on the
street, it was these people. Yet, how few seem to remember them.
Of course, we realize that when we go to cemeteries, we see the tablets there of stone, and the gravestones
with the names on and we realize it doesn’t matter how hard you try to get people to recognize you, to approve
of you and to acknowledge you, somehow, finally, you are forgotten. So, we answer the question, we’re alive to
get people to notice us. But, it’s amazing how frustrated we begin to feel with that, because we never do seem
to get final recognition.
Finally, we seem to go out like a light and nobody notices us. Yet, we cry aloud from the bottom of our
hearts, “We are important! We are important! Somebody please notice us! We’re unique; we know we are. We know
somebody should value us. Somebody, somewhere should value us. Somebody, somewhere in this universe should
Yet, it seems very difficult to get noticed. The society, of course, in which we live, continues to make us
feel even worse by treating us as a consumer statistic, or as a cipher, or as a number in a computer. As mass
society becomes more and more massive, as the numbers in this world grow, so grows our frustration at our
being treated just as a cipher, a number or a consumer statistic.
We hate more and more the world as it becomes, filled with more and more people who are trying to get the same
attention as we are. And, of course, that’s what makes life even worse for many of us. We discover that many
of the other four billion are at the same game. As we’re trying to get recognition, so they’re trying to get
recognition and it’s not long before we’re filled with jealousy and envy of each other, because of the
attention that somebody else is getting. Of course, the whole mass media operates on the basis of that.
Indeed, the whole of the world of commerce operates on that basis.
Make yourself different. This dress will make you stand out in the crowd. This toothpaste will give you sex
appeal and will give you a sense of being unique. This car will gain attention for you. We know that we’re
being played upon. We know we’re being used. Yet, somehow the feeling deep down that we were made to be
noticed is so rooted in our very nature, that we rise to it like the little cookie monsters and the little
puppies that we are. We rise to it again and again.
Why are we alive? To get recognition. To get attention. To get noticed. Those are some of the reasons many of
us have for being alive. Some of us don’t answer like that at all. Some of us say, “Well, we don’t really know
why we’re alive, but while we’re here, we’d better make things as happy as we possibly can. We agree with you.
It’s not going to last too long, so we’d better make the most of it while we’re here.”
We may not express it in terms of “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” but in a sense that’s what we
think. We think, well, we’re here to enjoy ourselves. We’re here in some way to be happy. As G. K. Chesterton
expressed it, we believe happiness is somewhere between the peace and the calm and the serenity of Walden Pond
and the glorious excitement and exhilaration of “The Arabian Nights.” Somehow or other we should be able to
produce that combination.
Western man looks not for absolute peace and serenity, because that would bore him to tears, as Pascal said.
But he tries to get some of the excitement and the exhilaration of the Arabian Nights, without it being
absolutely extreme, either, because that would bring us such insecurity that we could not bear it. So, some of
us say we’re not sure why we’re alive, but at least let’s be happy while we’re here. Next week I’d like to
look at that just a little before we finally begin to approach the answer to the question …”What is the
meaning of life?”
Why Are You Here? -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Why Are You Here?
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the title for the series of discussions we’re having together at this
time on the radio. What is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of life? Why are we here? What is your
philosophy of life? That’s what’s really important. It is not so much what I say or what I suggest, but what
you yourself think. What do you think is the meaning of life? Why do you think you’re here?
Some of us think that it’s too big a question to be dealt with, and yet, it seems to be the most important
question to all of us. Why are we here? What’s the purpose of us spending these lives eating, drinking,
sleeping and working? Why are we doing it? Some of us have likened it to being on a bus traveling 80 miles
per hour towards a far distant concrete wall.
We know we’re going to hit it. It’s going to take us maybe seventy to eighty years to hit it, but sooner or
later, we’re going to hit it. Yet, many of us are simply saying to each other, “Ah, let’s keep on cleaning
the windows on the bus. Let’s keep on eating. Let’s keep on drinking. Let’s keep on singing. Let’s keep on
laughing. We know we’re going to hit it, but let’s get preoccupied with what we’re doing in this bus.”
Of course, the planet is much bigger than a bus, and it is travelling at thousands of miles per hour through
space. We’re going somewhere whether we like it or not.” So, it does seem vitally important that we have
some answer to the question, “Why are we here?” We have an answer for most of the other things we do: Why
we’re in our present jobs; why we’re going on vacation; why we married the person we married; why we went to
the school that we went to. It’s reasonable to expect that we’d carry the same logic into this cosmic
question, “What is the meaning to life? Why are we here?”
Yet, many of us probably are the same as you. We say to ourselves, “Well, I mean that is a big question. I
have lots of other questions that are preoccupying me now besides that question. That’s a big question. It’s
too big for me to answer.” Yet, in a way, we’re answering it, aren’t we? Some of us have already decided that
the meaning of life for us is to establish some kind of security for ourselves.
We kind of look around the world and we see that there are four billion people in it. There are only so many
resources in the world, and so much money, and so much food and shelter and clothing to go around. So, we
have decided, “Well, we better get our share of the pie.” So, we’ve committed ourselves to getting a good
education and to get a good job so that we can get food, shelter and clothing so that we can have children; so
that they can get a good education; so that they can get a good job; so that they can have food, shelter and
clothing; so that they can have children and they can, ad infinitum.
We shared last week how futile that whole vicious cycle is because we are all haunted by people like Howard
Hughes who probably accumulated more wealth than most of us will be able to do and yet he didn’t finally
establish security. He, you remember, died of malnutrition, a weak, thin, old man with far too much beard and
with Kleenex sticking to his fingers in the hope that he would somehow avoid the infections that killed his
father. We’re haunted by that. Even those of us who have accumulated some stocks and shares, we realize that
finally there is a grim reaper that you can’t make yourself secure from. All the fighting to maintain health,
and the fighting to avoid sickness and the fighting to avoid starvation finally comes to nothing.
So, those of us who are living for security find a great deal of futility in it. And we feel it in our daily
life. Some of us say, “Well, yeah, that’s right. There are four-billion of us in this world. I really feel I
am rather unique. I do. I feel that I am different from everybody else.” The interesting thing is you are
different from everybody else. There’s nobody quite like you. There’s nobody who’s ever been like you.
There’s nobody that will ever be like you. Even your identical twin is not like you.
We feel that, and yet, we have the frustration that nobody else seems to notice that. We feel to ourselves,
“Well, why don’t they notice that we’re unique? Why don’t they notice that we’re special?” So many of us
have dedicated our lives to that object of trying to get the significance, and the attention, and the
recognition and the acknowledgment that we feel we ought to have. Of course, those of us who are fathers and
husbands never seem to get enough of it. Those of us who are teachers or who are bosses in a company never
seem to get enough attention or respect.
That gets us frustrated. We buy the right car, we buy the right clothes. Somehow, we don’t seem to get the
sense of worth and self-esteem that we feel we need to have. So, there’s a sense of frustration even though
we live for that one purpose of making ourselves important in somebody’s eyes. Others of us have decided,
“Well, yeah, that’s true. We certainly do need security and we certainly do need significance. But, let’s
face it. We’re here for a short time. Let’s make it as happy as we can.”
So, we dedicate ourselves to happiness and of course as G.K. Chesterton says, Western man does not see
happiness as just excitement, excitement, excitement, because that finally would bring him into such neurotic
instability that he could not stand it. He does not see happiness as the absolute peace and unrelieved
quietness of Walden Pond, because that bores him to tears. Most of us try to get a mixture of those two
things. We try to raise our experiences in this life to the ‘nth degree so that we will somehow have a sense
of that eternal exhilaration and sense of being and existing that will give us the final satisfaction.
Some of us try to get it in the sexual act. We hope that maybe, that moment will give us a sense of eternity.
After a while, that begins to pall on us and we begin to find that it doesn’t give us that same excitement or
the same exhilaration, or the same sense of well-being that it did before. It’s the same with the alcohol. We
tried the marijuana. Then we try the heroin. Then we try something else and somehow, they never seem to give
us that final satisfaction that we feel we were made for.
We were made for a moment of tremendous exhilaration, a sense of being known and utterly and completely loved
and understood. We sense too, that we’re made to have a sense of quietness, and peace and rest. An absolute
sense of well-being that we never can actually reach with all the chemically produced experiences that we’ve
tried to get hold of. So, many of us have tried to reach that point of happiness that will make us in some
sense unaware of the pedestrian futility of this petty little world in which we live. We look for that
existential experience and never seem to manage to find it.
All the congeniality in the world seems to pall eventually. All the parties in the world seem to have an
experience of the morning after the night before. All the so-called intimate experiences that we have with
someone else physically and emotionally seem to leave us rather dissatisfied. So, many of us have come to the
point in our lives where we wonder, “Is there any meaning to life at all? Is there any purpose in being here?
Is there any reason worth living for that gives any meaning to it all?”
Of course, one of the problems that we have with all these attempts at answering the question, “What is the
meaning of life?”, is we feel that there’s something missing in life itself. We feel there’s something missing
in the world. We have a strange feeling that Ponce de Leon was right, and that there is an elixir of life —
that if we could only get hold of it would make us utterly and absolutely happy.
We have a feeling that there is an integrated, simple answer that would give us full satisfaction in this
lifetime. Yet, it seems very difficult to find it. One of the reasons why we go for the security of course is,
we feel we were made for security. We feel somehow we were made for someone or something to provide security
for us. We feel that in some way we are too small compared with the cosmic massiveness of the universe to get
security ourselves and that somehow it needs to come from outside ourselves.
We feel the same with a sense of worth and significance. We sense a frustration in trying to establish it for
ourselves. We feel there is something or some power that may be able to give us that sense of eternal value
that we feel we ought to have. We feel the same with happiness. We feel that there is some experience of
being known and knowing that will give us that final existential experience that will utterly satisfy us.
Tomorrow, I’d like to talk about the beginnings of a possible answer to the question, “What is the meaning to
Order and Design in Our World -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design in Our World
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What do you think we’re here to do? How do you think we got here? Why do you
think you’re here? That’s the kind of question we’re talking about at this time here on this station each day.
What is the meaning of life?
I mean, when you look up at the sky, or when you look out of the window of the car and see the sun setting, or
you come out of your door this morning and you see the grass, you see the clouds, or you’re up in a plane and
you see the earth spread underneath you, or you’re on vacation and you see the rivers and the mountain
streams, or, you look up at the towering mass of a cliff, have you ever thought, “Where did all this come
I mean the skyscrapers, I can tell you who built them; the freeways, I can normally tell who made them. I can
tell who made my bedroom furniture. But, where did all this come from? Have you ever wondered about that? Of
course, I think that all of us have at some time, when we wondered about the meaning of life. Obviously we
think there has to be a clue in everything that we see around us.
Of course, we’ve been taught some responses that are supposed to satisfy us. You know how we go about it. We
answer one another, “Oh, well. Well, no. But I suppose it all started with this scum on this pond.” And then?
“What scum on what pond?” “Well, well, there was a pond and there was scum formed on it.” What pond? Where did
the pond come from? Where did the scum come from? “Oh, well, the scum came from the air contacting the pond.”
Well, where did the pond come from? “Well, I don’t know where the pond came from, but there was this pond and
there was this scum on it.
Then there was this single cell amoeba. He was somehow in existence in the scum of this pond.” What pond? How
did the pond come into existence? “I don’t know how the pond came into existence.” How did the scum? “I don’t
know how the single-cell amoeba came, but that’s kind of the way it happened.” Probably most of us have that
vague kind of notion in the back of our mind, that we kind of use to put our mind to sleep when we deal at all
with the question of where this whole thing came from.
We kind of start with some kind of dream that we create of a pond, and scum on it and single-cell amoeba. It
doesn’t make too much sense to us, but it seems to be what all the bright people are saying. So, we kind of go
along with it because the whole question is too big and cosmic for us to think about anyway. Our poor old
minds are worn out with thinking of how to catch the next bus home. So, we decide, “Ah, I don’t know how it
Yet, it is pretty important, isn’t it, when you think of it. I mean, it is pretty big, the earth. It is. I
mean it’s pretty big. I mean, you keep tripping over it, don’t you? You keep falling over it. You keep finding
grass under your feet and finding ground and soil under your feet. You keep seeing rocks, oceans and seas when
you go on holiday. It kind of keeps barking against your shins, this miserable old world of ours.
It’s rather persistent in the question that it brings to your mind. Where did it all come from? Of course,
some of us from our school days engage in those absolutely illogical drifts of fantasy. We say, “Well, you see
the atoms were all falling and they were kind of all falling in straight lines. Then something caused two to
collide and then you know it was a kind of snowball effect. All the other atoms then piled on top of that one.
Gradually by layer, and layer, and layer and then they built to the size of the earth now. No, I don’t know
why they keep on building. I don’t know why the mountains don’t keep on getting higher. But, I think that’s
the way it happened.”
Of course, somebody says to us, “Who made the atoms?” or “What made the atoms?”, or “How did the atoms come
into being?” “Well, I don’t know how they came into being. I’m just positing a possible hypothesis. There is
no real ground for it. There’s no substantiation for it, but it’s what bright people seem to say these days,
that you can’t explain how the thing came into existence.” We just suggest all kinds of vague possibilities.
Well, in a way, I suppose it’s reasonable to do it in the light of such a cosmic question. Yet, you have to
admit it’s unreasonable to do it when we don’t treat the rest of life that way. If you go outside your door
some morning, and you find there is a solid gold Cadillac sitting right at your front door, you don’t just
walk on and say, “Ah, probably atoms were falling one on top of the other and then two of them crashed
together. All the others built up and it snowballed into a solid gold Cadillac.” You just don’t say that kind
of thing. You don’t deal with ordinary, everyday life in that illogical way, in that fantasy kind of
hypothesis theory. You don’t. You just don’t deal with life that way. Of course, some of us say, “Well, I
mean, I don’t know. Maybe it all started from a decomposing substance. Maybe that’s it?”
Well, all right. But, where did the decomposing substance come from? What was it before it started to
decompose? How did it decompose into this kind of a form that we see around us now? The fact is you don’t find
that solid gold Cadillac outside your door and say, “Ah, it must have come from decomposing substances.” You
don’t. Anybody who hears you saying that suggests you go straight to a psych ward or to an asylum. They say,
“Look, that didn’t come from a decomposing substance.”
Some of us have been influenced by the latest theory of astronomists. We say glibly, “Well, I don’t know where
it came from. Maybe it came from an explosion. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it came from an explosion. The whole
earth came from an explosion.” Of course, if you go to Ireland, or you go to Israel, or you go to the Middle
East, or you go to Paris, everybody will tell there you in no uncertain terms that explosions do not create
things like our earth. They create destruction and chaos. They seem to destroy things. They don’t seem to
Of course, some of us say, “Yes, but this was a special kind of explosion. I mean this Big Bang Theory, you
know, that is obviously proved by the ever-expanding universe. This is how it all started. There was a big
bang somewhere.” The obvious question is, “What exploded?” What exploded? What caused the big bang, if there
was a big bang? What made the big bang? What created the thing that made the big bang?
Somehow or other a person has to deal in some sane, thoughtful way with the question, “Where did all this that
we see around us come from?” It’s here. There must be some cause for it. And, it’s no use saying, “Well, I
mean, maybe “D” caused it. Maybe “C” caused “D, “B” caused “C”, and “A” caused “B”. There’s no point in saying
there’s eternal regression of causes. What we’re saying is there has to be a first cause.
There has to be something that originally caused the beginning of things. Maybe you’d think a little more
about that. I’d like to try to go a little further with it, if you would, tomorrow. Thanks for listening.
Order and Design – Evolution? -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Order and Design – Evolution?
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s what we’re talking about. What’s the meaning of the purpose of life, and
why are we here? What’s the point of it all? What we were discussing yesterday was: Are there any clues in
the universe itself and especially in the existence of the world itself? Is there any meaning that one can
perceive in that? We were talking about what you thought was the origin of the world itself.
We discussed several possibilities all of us have learned almost by rote since we were school children.
Things like, the “Big Bang” theory or the idea of some decomposing substance, and really none of them make too
Some of us, of course, have been so programmed through our education that we tend to say, “Well that’s easy.
Where did the world come from? That’s easy. Evolution explains it all. It all came about by evolution,
that’s it! That’s obviously proven over the years. Now, everybody accepts evolution and that’s the
explanation of the origin of the world and of the universe. I’m happy with that. Everybody else is happy
with it. All our top scientists are happy with the idea and that’s good enough for me.”
“The cosmic question is too big for me to answer, and so I’m prepared to be led by the great thinkers of our
era. They obviously have concluded that evolution is the reason for the existence of things and the
explanation of the origin of things. That’s what I believe. Evolution is the answer.”
Of course, evolution is not at all an attempt at explaining the origin of the world. It has never pretended to
be such an explanation. It has never claimed to be an explanation of the origin of anything. Evolution is a
suggestion of the way things might have evolved after an original creation of some kind took place.
That’s indeed why anybody bothers about a “Big Bang” theory because all scientists know that evolution is
simply a theory or hypothesis about the way things might have developed after the original seed, whatever that
was, was created or came into existence; but evolution itself is never claimed by scientists of stature or
integrity to be an explanation of the origin of things.
If anything, it is what Darwin himself described it as being, a possible explanation of the origin of species,
but certainly not an explanation of the origin of the world and of these species. It’s simply a possible
explanation of the origin of species of different forms, different types, different kinds of creatures and
In other words, evolution is just one way in which things might have developed into their present state once
there had been an original creation. But, that’s all it is. Indeed, evolution itself has some problems as far
as its own origin is concerned because, of course, we all glibly say, “Well, well, evolution obviously comes
about by the survival of the fittest. That’s it. That’s what happens. The little moths that aren’t strong
enough die off, and the ones that remain are the ones that continue. So, that’s how we have certain creatures
today in existence. The weak ones have just fallen by the wayside.”
You can see yourself that there is, in fact, a question that begs to be asked. The question is this: what
programmed that direction into evolution? I mean, why should the fittest survive? Why should anything try to
survive? Why should there be any urge to live? What put the urge to live or the urge to survive into them?
What programmed things to try to survive?
In other words, it’s no use saying, “The survival of the fittest explains how evolution operates.” The fact is
evolution itself is a question unless we can explain how the program to survive or the program to exercise
itself to maintain life came into any creatures at all. It’s the same with the whole suggestion of the
direction of evolution. What programmed evolution itself? Some of us say, “Oh well, I don’t know. Evolution
obviously is the evolution of things from simpler forms to more complex forms. That’s what evolution is.
Things started as a single cell in a kind of formation and then, they broke into two cells. Then, they
developed more cells into more complex systems. So, I mean the ape was simpler than we are. It has a smaller
brain then we have, so our brain develops. Evolution is simply the evolving of simple forms to more complex
Don’t you see that there’s a question that begs to be asked? What determined that things would evolve from a
simple to a more complex form?
Why didn’t things evolve from a more complex form to a simpler form? What programmed these things to operate
in this way? What put the urge inside things to evolve even if that’s the way that things evolved? What
programmed them to evolve that way? It’s not enough to say that’s the way they evolved. The question is,
what made them want to do that?
Of course, some of us glibly answer, “Well, I don’t know, but it all comes about by mutation. That’s how it
comes about. That’s how you get some darkened moths in industrial cities as opposed to white moths. It comes
partly from the effect of the environment, and they pass genes to one another.” They create mutations, and
yet, the fact is part of the reason we’re all worried about the fall-out from nuclear disasters is that they
cause mutations. The mutations are things that always cause deterioration. They cause things to deteriorate,
not to evolve into more beautiful and wonderful forms. They cause them to deteriorate. Most mutations that we
know of are actually harmful things. They are not things that improve.
In other words, if things like evolution are caused by mutation, then, you have to ask the question, “Where
did this beneficial mutation come from? What programmed that beneficial mutation into evolution?” So, when
one answers, “Oh, evolution caused the universe” the only suggestion is that evolution might be the way the
universe has developed into its present state. However, every suggestion we make as to how evolution took
place brings us back to the question. Yes, but what programmed that direction into evolution? Inanimate
objects can’t create that kind of program of direction themselves. Of course, that’s the kind of statement
that the so-called father of evolution made.
If you have read “The Origin of Species”, you remember that the last chapter ends like this, Darwin writes,
“There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers having been originally breathed by the
Creator to a few forms or into one that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of
gravity. From so simple a beginning, endless forms so beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being
evolved.” So, Darwin makes it clear that the origin of species is not an alternative to creation. He,
himself says, “There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers having been originally
breathed by the creator into a few forms or into one.”
There has to be some explanation of the thing that originally evolved. Maybe you’d think a little about that
and we can discuss that a little further tomorrow.
Order and Design – Evolution Problems -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Evolution Problems
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s the question we’re discussing. You may remember we’re tried to tackle it,
first of all, from the point of the earth itself. Is there any clue in the existence of the earth? We’ve asked
the question, “How do you explain the existence of the earth?” For instance, these mountains and the rivers
that you see and the earth under your feet, how do you think it came about? Is there anything there that gives
us a clue as to why we’re here or what the meaning of the whole arrangement is?
You remember we tackled some of the usual answers that people like you and I give. We’ve learned certain
responses to that question, “Where did the earth come from?” Some of us say, “Oh, well, it was a decomposing
substance.” Of course, our problem is, where did the substance come from and start to decompose?
Probably it all came from a great explosion? You remember we mentioned that people in Paris or in Ireland or
in the Middle East all agree that explosions don’t create too much in these days but anarchy, chaos and pain.
It’s a little difficult to believe that the whole thing just came somehow from an explosion.
Of course, at times we’ve tried to suggest, “Well, evolution, that’s how it all came about. Evolution explains
the existence of the earth.” The amazing thing is that if you go back to “The Origin of Species” that was
written by the person that we often think of as the father of evolution, Darwin, you find that he concluded
his thesis in an amazing way with some strange words. Here is almost the closing sentence of the book “The
Origin of Species”.
“There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the
Creator into a few forms or into one and that whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed
law of gravity from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are
being evolved.” In other words, Darwin himself did not for a moment suggest that evolution was a hypothesis of
the origin of the universe or the world. He himself said, “No, there is grandeur in this view of life with its
several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.” It’s amazing. He
puts a capital “C” at the Creator and makes it plain that something somewhere had to start the thing. He said
all I’m suggesting is a way in which it might have evolved after the first proton or the first neutron was
created, but evolution itself I do not claim as an explanation of the origin of things.
It’s only a possible explanation of the origin of species, how maybe different kinds of birds have evolved or
how different kinds of animals or insects have evolved. But it’s not a suggestion for a moment as to how the
original one was brought into existence.
And, of course, that’s what we said when we talked about evolution itself. It has certain basic problems built
in. We say, “Oh, well, evolution, you know, that’s the explanation of how things originated. Evolution, the
idea that things evolve from simple forms into complex forms. That’s how it all came about.”
That begs the question of what programmed the simple forms to evolve into more complex forms. Why did it not
work the other way? What programmed that direction into evolution?” There is a tendency for us to say, “Oh,
well, it all came about by mutation.” But the fact is that we oppose nuclear explosion so vehemently because
of the disaster that they bring about through mutations in human beings. The mutations that are produced by
nuclear explosions do not bring an evolution from simpler forms into more complex forms. They bring
deterioration into life generally. It’s the same with our other suggestions of the way in which evolution
might have taken place.
Indeed, you run up against some real difficulties and some real contradictions in applying the theory of
evolution to life as a whole. The fact that there is evolution within species I don’t think anyone will
question. The scientific data is so strong and so obvious that, of course, evolution has taken place among
birds or among insects. It’s less obvious that evolution has taken place across the species. But even if it
has, it is very difficult to begin, therefore, to apply evolution as a universal law to the existence of the
whole world and the whole universe.
Neither Darwin nor any respectable scientist attempts to do that. That begins to get into scientism and not
Science itself holds evolution within certain very limited areas, but when you begin to apply evolution to the
universe as a whole, you find yourself coming up against certain other laws of science that contradict it. For
instance, the First Law of Thermodynamics states that the energy in the universe remains the same. And, of
course, if you apply evolution to the existence of the universe as a whole, you’re contradicting that. It is
just incompatible to say that evolution, which requires the dissipation of motion from the universe, is
compatible with the fact of the conservation of energy in the universe as a whole.
In other words, evolution suggests that there is a dissipation of energy, not a conservation of energy.
Similarly, the Second Law of Thermodynamics states that there is a tendency for things to return to their
original formless state. Of course, evolution is suggesting that, in fact, things are constantly evolving into
higher and higher forms of life. Indeed, scientists talk not about evolution when they talk about the
universal existence or the laws of the universe. They rather talk about a devolution of life. They talk about
a devolution, that there is a progress downward. They don’t attempt to suggest that there is an evolution
upward, and they don’t attempt to make that an invariable law of universal progress.
Indeed, individuals, as we all know, do not all make progress. Nations rise, but other nations fall.
Civilizations grow, but civilizations decay. Arts grow and decline. There’s a steady increase in knowledge,
but this is because knowledge is accumulation, not growth. Many nations have progressed, but not all. Vanished
Aztecs, perished Incas, the degenerate remnants of ancient African civilizations, Asia, Africa and the
Americas are strewn with immense evidences that progress is not universal in human life and society. In other
words, evolution does not mean universal progress. It is not a universal law. It’s not a law of the universal
being of things. It’s a very limited theory of how things might have developed inside certain species.
So, when we talk about evolution, we’re talking about something that is limited to what is taking place in
some species themselves, but it is not talking about the way the universe itself originated. That is a
question that is bigger than evolution. So when we’re asked the question, “Well, where did the earth come
from?”, or “Where did the world come from?”, it’s really not intelligent to mumble that oh, evolution,
evolution explains it all.
No, Darwin himself never suggested that evolution explained it all. He said simply that it was a way in which
species might have developed. Also, men of science and the great men of our era do not for a moment suggest
that evolution explains the origin of the world. They themselves tie it to some very limited areas of life
itself, and they still hold to the fact that the origin of the world requires some explanation beyond
What is the explanation beyond evolution? What is the explanation of the origin of the world? Well, are there
any clues? Are there any clues in the world itself? Tomorrow I’d like to talk about some of the clues that are
very obvious to all of us who look at the earth day by day.
Order and Design- Amazing Universe -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Our Amazing Universe
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What we have been asking ourselves is the question, “Is there any clue to the
meaning of life in the earth itself and the world and the universe?” We’ve asked the obvious question, “Have
you ever been able to decide where it’s all come from, for instance?”
That’s pretty important in relationship to the meaning of life. We really need to ask ourselves the question,
“Well, where has the whole thing come from? I mean, this earth, this sky, these stars, and this sun, where did
it all come from? It’s pretty big. It’s a pretty big thing to ignore or to take for granted. Where did it all
It’s the kind of question we’d ask if we found a beautiful Rolls Royce outside our door some morning. We’d
say, “Where did it come from?” We wouldn’t leave it sitting there day after day and not bother finding out
where it came from. We’d want to know where it came from.
Of course, when we look at this earth, it’s very obviously an incredible piece of existence and of life. It’s
amazing, isn’t it, when you think of the way the seasons come so regularly? We know they come regularly
because, in fact, the earth travels around the sun in orbits that are so absolutely accurate and regular year
after year, month after month, quarter after quarter, that it takes us to use very highly developed atomic
clocks and computerized equipment at Houston to begin to match the accuracy of the orbiting of our earth and,
indeed, of all the other planets in the universe. When we send up space shots we find that they operate in
extremely accurate and regular orbits, too.
We notice that the fact that we all get up at certain times each morning, the fact that we bother with British
summertime or with daylight savings is because, again, the very turning of the earth on its own axis is
equally accurate and regular. We set our watches by it. That old sun keeps coming up and we can prophesy
exactly when it’s going to come up according to the time of year that we’re in. We can prophesy exactly when
springtime is supposed to begin and even, in some countries like our own, where we say that you can’t tell
when it’s summer here or when it’s going to be winter, yet we know fine well that we can. The farmers plant
their crops in absolute confidence that the seasons will be more or less there. They may be a little late or a
little warmer one year than the other, but the seasons will remain more or less the same year after year after
We all plan our days, our getting up and our going to sleep on the basis of the fact that the earth’s
relationship to the sun is absolutely regular and uniform and is absolutely predictable. What we see with our
own earth is repeated a thousand times over in space because there are all kinds of planets in our solar
system that operate in exactly the same kind of regular pattern. This is amazing when you think of the size of
these massive spaceships and the huge distances they cover.
It’s incredible to think that all the construction that has been done by us men and women in the world amounts
to about 98 cubic miles. The earth itself is actually in volume about 260,000 cubic miles, so it gives you
some idea of the vastness of even our earth compared with the minimal construction that we have been able to
create. We’ve constructed about 98 cubit miles of buildings and roads in all the history of mankind, but the
earth itself is 260,000 cubic miles. Then when you go out into space and you begin to look at the size of the
sun, the sun could contain 1-1/2 million earths. You could put 1-1/2 million of our earths in the sun itself
and our earth contains 260,000 cubic miles compared with the 98 cubic miles that we have built.
When you look at the sun and you consider that it itself is only one of four hundred such stars that form a
little corner of the universe, you begin to realize how vast the space and the universe is, and you suddenly
realize that all of it is turning through space and turning around itself in all kinds of regular orbits that
are precise and exact and perfectly timed. Then you consider that all we are talking about is our Milky Way
that forms a little corner of the universe, only a little corner of the universe.
For instance, the constellation called the Pleiades moves through space and the 1,681 stars in it move around
a common center of gravity. Yet on a small scale picture, no larger than the disc of the moon as we see it
with the naked eye, we can see another 5,000 stars beyond that again. One scientist has said that space is so
vast that when you compare the stars in it with space itself, it’s as if you spilled a quart of water over the
When you consider the stars in the universe and compare them with the space in the universe, it would be the
same as if you spilt a quart of water over our earth. That gives you some vague picture of the massiveness of
our universe and the massiveness of the space and the planets in it. You begin to realize that all of this
moves in a beautiful harmony and a beautiful rhythm with no collisions and no massive crashes and with things
so perfectly timed that even over a period of hundreds of years we can tell when Haley’s Comet will come
closest to our earth and where we will be able to look in the sky to see it. It is amazing, isn’t it, when you
think of the complexity and the order and the regularity of this huge universe in which we live?
Then you come down from those vast spaces and you come down into this room and you think of the two complex TV
cameras you have in your head called eyes which have automatic focusing mechanisms that make a Polaroid camera
or a Nikon look like a child’s toy. Your eye is constantly moist. There is an automatic lubricating system
through blinking that keeps the surface of your eye moist all the time. It’s incredible how often those blinks
take place every minute.
Then you think of the sub-miniature computer system that registers the color brown in your mind and the memory
discs that compare it with other similar images. You think of the blood circulating system in your whole body
that carries over 60 different substances thousands of miles around your body every day with never an oil
change for 70 years.
Then you consider that you haven’t yet touched the self-conscious mental and emotional personality that
distinguishes us from the animals. So, whether you look at the massiveness of the universe or whether you look
at the detail of your own eye or whether you look at the incredible blood that carries more than 64 substances
in it without becoming sludge and travels around your body thousands of miles a day, you begin to realize from
the most massive thing in the universe to the most minuscule thing in the universe that there is an incredible
complexity and incredible order and regularity in it.
Is there any clue in this magnificent universe that we live in about its origin? Well, next week I’d like to
share with you some of the clues that seem to be built into it.
Order and Design – Wonders of our Body -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Wonders of our Body
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That is, why are we here? Why are we alive? What are you doing here? What’s your
purpose in being here? How did you come to be here? What’s going to happen after you leave this earth? That’s
the kind of question we’re discussing at this time on this station each day.
You remember last week we spent a little time looking at the world itself to see if there were any clues in
this world of ours that would help us understand what the meaning of life was. It is an amazing world when we
look at it. If you just take your hand at this moment and put it near the center of your chest, you’ll feel a
beat and that beat is the beat of your heart. That heart is an amazing pump inside you. It’s something that
keeps beating a hundred thousand times every twenty-four hours. It does it without you making any attempt to
create a heartbeat. It does it involuntarily.
It just keep on going a hundred thousand times every twenty-four hours. It keeps doing that for seventy or
eighty years of your life, and no one can explain it. We talk about electrical charges, but we don’t know
where the charges come from. It is a mystery. So you have in the center of your chest a mystery — a pump that
keeps on beating more reliably than anything you have in your car or in your house. It just keeps on regularly
performing its job. In fact, those who have invented artificial hearts are bewildered. They use all kinds of
batteries, all kinds of equipment, to try to power the artificial heart, but they have had all kinds of
difficulties with them. Yet, your heart keeps on beating.
Not only that, but it, as it’s beating, acts as a pump, a circulating pump. It circulates around your body
blood that finds its way to the farthest extremities of your body via a whole arterial system. These are
arteries that branch off into smaller arteries and into smaller capillaries and into smaller channels until
you cannot prick a spot on your finger without getting some blood out. That is the kind of detailed, miniscule
dimensions that your arterial system eventually leads into and delivers blood. Not only that, but this blood
weighs about twenty pounds. Your heart pumps that blood around your body every two minutes. That’s how fast it
pumps that blood through. Now it does that not only on the power of the heart itself, but it does it by means
of the arterial system.
The arteries have elasticity to them near the heart, because the heart pumps a great pulp of blood into the
artery. So the artery has to have an elasticity that opens up and allows that surge of blood to come through,
much like the system of flood control that we have on some of our great rivers.
The incredible thing is that elasticity diminishes the further you go from the heart. In fact, the muscularity
of the arteries increases, because the heart beat ceases to have as great an effect on the blood to push it
through the arteries the further it gets from the heart. You need a muscular action in the arteries themselves
that helps push the blood through, and that’s what happens. There is increased muscularity in the arteries
that helps push the blood to the very fringes of your body.
Not only that, but there is a whole system of veins that returns that blood back to the heart, so that there
is a whole reverse system operation that brings the blood back. The blood picks up all kinds of waste from
your body, so it’s constantly cleaning your body. It actually is constantly cleansing your body of infection
and thus keeping you alive. It brings the waste material back to your pump called your heart.
The further miracle, if you like to call it that, because certainly if something that goes on all day long,
all your life long without is that the heart not only pumps your blood through the body and returns it and
picks up waste and brings it back — but that the heart actually purifies the blood. It does that by bringing
the blood into itself, and then sending it into the lungs, where the blood gathers in oxygen that has been
breathed in, and the waste material is expelled and breathed out as carbon dioxide. So the blood can be
purified and sent around the body yet again.
This kind of amazing operation is continuing in you night and day. That is only a little of the incredible
complexity of the system. Once you begin to look at the heart itself, you see that it has two entrances and
two exits, so that it not only sends the blood into the lungs, but it receives the blood back from the lungs
and sends it out into the body again. There are valves in the heart so arranged that they keep the blood
flowing the same way, and they close to prevent the blood from plowing back on itself.
All this works with an intricate accuracy that even we, with our artificial hearts, which are so clumsy and
which are still having all kinds of problems, cannot even begin to imitate. Yet, this complex mechanism inside
you, controlled more accurately than we could ever hope to control artificial hearts, this heart operates
inside you as a natural part of your body. It continues to work, and if it ceased to work for a moment, you
know you would die.
So you live at this very moment, even as you sit watching the traffic lights as you drive, or watching the
lights of the car ahead, or as you sit in your office, or as you sit at home, thinking of the evening meal to
be prepared. This heart continues to keep you alive without any voluntary action on your part. It is simply an
involuntary, complicated operation that continues inside you and cannot be fully explained by even the most
advanced scientist and doctor that there is.
The incredible movements of the heart is something that is a mystery that we attribute, as we say, to some
kind of electrical charge. It’s tantamount to the way we explain so many things. We either call it by a name
like the law of gravity, or we call it by a name like an electrical charge. The truth is, it is a mystery why
your heart keeps beating. Yet if it didn’t pump that blood continually around your body, you would not live
for another second.
Is there any clue in the amazing complexity and design that is apparent in your heart and circulatory system
as to the meaning of the world we live in and the meaning of life itself? Let’s talk a little more about that
Order and Design – Human Body -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Human Body
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What’s the purpose of it? What are you doing here? How did you
end up here? That’s the subject we’re discussing at this time on this station. You remember yesterday that we
asked the question, “Is there any clue in the world to the meaning of it all?”
You remember that we looked at the incredible phenomenon of the circulation of our blood and saw that twenty
pounds of blood is pumped around our body every two minutes by one of the most efficient pumps that exists:
It’s very easy to see when you look at that phenomenon in our bodies that there is incredible order and design
and purpose and meaning in the way our bodies are constructed. Actually, wherever we look in our world we see
the same truth exhibited; that everywhere there is a sense of meaning.
For instance, if you look at your eye or you touch your eyelid at this moment and just take a little of your
eyelid between your index finger and your thumb and pull the eyelid out from your eye a little, do you notice
how elastic it is? Do you notice how it’s almost like a rubber band? Do you realize that that is why you are
able to see?
You don’t have to exert constant, deliberate thought to keep your eyelid back from your eye. You don’t have to
say to yourself, “I must exert effort to keep my eyelid back from my eye so that I can see.” You don’t! It’s
the elasticity of the eyelid that pulls it naturally back into its open position. If it hadn’t that
elasticity, you would have to maintain constant contraction of a muscle in order to keep the eyelid back.
Now, how does your eyelid come down over your eye? By the contraction of a muscle. Yet the surprising thing
about that muscle is that it operates from the back of your eye and there is actually not enough space or room
back there for a muscle to pull in a straight, direct direction, so that your eyelid would be pulled back. So
that muscle actually is bent.
In other words, it makes use of the lever principle in mechanics. It is bent through the loop of another
muscle and actually that other muscle aids the effect of that first muscle so that they combine to efficiently
pull your eyelid down over your eye when you want to wink or when you want to sleep.
Now that’s just the part of your body that protects your eye. When you begin to look at your eye itself you
realize that the only way that that eye operates is because it is kept constantly clean and that is done by
virtue of the fact that you actually blink and use a kind of windscreen wiper on your eye thousands of times
every minute. So your eye is being constantly washed by a fluid that actually is drained through the bone of
your nose and into your nose and the waste fluid is evaporated through your nose into the air. All that is
managed simply to keep your eye clean so that you can use the incredible optical arrangements of your eye to
be able to see.
Do you realize, for instance, that if you look at a car or an automobile, perhaps a hundred yards away from
you, that huge image that you see is reduced to about one-twelfth of an inch inside your eye and yet the image
is so distinct that you are able to perceive it through the operation of your brain and to interpret what it
is and to study every detail of it, even though it is completely reduced in size from its actual size here in
Then, do you realize that your eye works more efficiently than the most efficient Nikon camera that exists
today. It varies its focusing ability so that it can perceive objects that are perhaps a couple of miles away
and can perceive objects that are close-up to it, because it can exert varying pressure on the globe of your
eye so that you, in fact, can focus on different objects at different distances.
This is only part of the amazing ability that you possess in being able to see. If you just for a moment think
of the way you move your head, do you realize that your head cannot only move in a nodding position, because
it is set on the top vertebrae of your spinal column? But do you realize also that you can turn your head from
side to side so that you can see objects around you. That happens because you have a mechanism there that is
very like that of a pivot or a tripod on which we set our cameras — where there is a tilt mechanism that can
tilt back and forward along with a bone with a peg in it on which your head can pivot around in different
Then, do you realize, your vertebrae in your back not only create a lever which is flexible enough to enable
you to bend from side to side even, and front forwards and backwards, but it is also able to hold itself rigid
enough so that you can stand up? Also, those vertebrae provide the channel by which vital fluid flows right
down your back and then diffuses itself throughout your body in a complex nervous system.
When you consider your muscular system, do you realize that you have over five hundred muscles? The muscles
operate in your body simply by contraction and release. Do you see that if you look at the back of your hand,
if all the muscles that operate your fingers when you bend them were set in the back of your hand, your hand
would look ugly. There would be a huge muscular mass on the back of your hand. And because of that, so that
your hand would look as graceful as it does, those muscles that operate those fingers are situated up in your
forearm, hidden away.
So, in all kinds of situations in your body at times your muscles act over each other, across each other and
through each other, at times by remote control. Yet those five hundred muscles operate in precise order and
harmony to enable you to do thousands of things all at once. When you think of the muscles that operate your
tongue so precisely so that it can place itself exactly in a certain position and at a certain angle to form a
certain word of speech, you begin to realize the great complexity and intricacy of your muscular system.
When you consider the mouth itself and all the things that your mouth is able to do, you begin to realize the
great complexity of the mechanical organization of your body so that not only is your mouth able to taste, not
only is it able to swallow, not only is it able to breathe, but it is also able to speak and to sing and to
produce sounds. Your mouth is probably the most complex mechanical operation that one could ever imagine —
when you think of the teeth that grind and then the throat that swallows the food.
In other words, wherever you look in our world, there is meaning in it. There is meaning everywhere. It’s very
difficult to find any part of our world where there isn’t meaning and purpose.
Does that give us any clue about the meaning of our lives? Let’s talk about that a little more tomorrow.
Order and Design – Orderly World -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Orderly World
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? We’ve been saying that there is meaning in the universe that we find ourselves
in. We have been examining the world itself and trying to see if there is any meaning in the very material
substance of the world that we find around us. You know that we have discovered an amazing amount of evidence
that there is order and design — if we just think of the seasons and the way they follow each other
regularly, due of course to the regular orbiting of the earth around the sun. Or, if we think of day and
night and the way we set our watches by the regular rotation of our earth on its own axis.
Or we think of the amazing phenomena of the circulation of the blood, or the incredible operation of the heart
that pumps so many pounds of blood around the body every few minutes, we realize very quickly that there is a
lot of order and a lot of design and a lot of meaning in our world. Of course, one of the most impressive to
any student of chemistry is what we call the elements. We have, from the very beginning, tried to identify
what elements make up our world. Early philosophers like Heraclitus came out, of course, with rather crude
lists. He said that earth, air, fire and water — those are the basic elements out of which everything else is
made up in our world.
For some centuries, philosophers, because it was a philosophically-based definition, philosophers followed
that kind of theory. Of course, as we got into modern science, we realized very quickly that those were not
the basic elements of which the world is made up at all. For instance, smoke or fire itself is made up of a
combination of vibrations and smoke. Earth is certainly material, but it’s made up of thousands of substances
and a great number of different elements. Air is made up mainly of oxygen and nitrogen. Water is a compound
of oxygen and hydrogen. So, very quickly, we began to realize that there are elements that are more basic than
earth, air, fire and water. We came to define an element as a substance which cannot, by any chemical process,
be farther analyzed.
On the basis of that, we started to identify certain elements: elements like hydrogen and oxygen; elements
like carbon; elements like radium; elements like uranium. We started to list these elements as the basic
elements out of which our world was made. As we listed them, we suddenly saw that there was an amazing pattern
in the way they were related to each other. For instance, as we began to try to establish their weight and to
list them from the lightest element to the heaviest, we saw that they were related to each other much in the
same way as if you had a string of beads with a red one followed by a black one followed by a yellow one
followed by a blue one.
You began to see that one was bigger than the one next to it and the one next to it was bigger than the one
next to it and that the relationship of the largeness to the smallness was the same. It kept repeating itself.
In other words, we began to notice that the weights of the elements were related to each other in an orderly
way. As they gradually increased in weight, so the series of elements and their weights and the relationship
of their weights to each other were the same.
So much so, that just as if you had beads arranged in ascending order of size, and they did come in the colors
red, black, yellow and blue, you noticed that after the series had been repeated five times, that there was a
yellow one missing, and you were able to tell that. You were able to point out and say, now we want to look
for a bead that is exactly this size and its color is yellow and it ought to be found exactly here.
Now, that’s exactly what began to happen in modern chemistry. We had only discovered perhaps eighty or ninety
elements earlier on in this century, but we knew there were other elements that were in existence and we could
not only tell that they were there, but we could actually tell what weight they would be and what
characteristics they would have and where they would fit in to what we call the periodic chart of the
elements, or the periodic system of the elements.
So, we came into unusual situations as scientists. We started to tell other scientists what they ought to be
able to find. So, several men and women were able to determine “there should be an element here” and it
should be this weight; it should be element #32. This should be its weight and this should be its position and
this should be its characteristics, and when you discover it, it will fit exactly into this position. This, of
course, seems unusual to us for scientists, because it seems like faith. It seems like them saying, “This must
exist because there is a place for it in the periodic chart of the elements.” That is exactly what happened.
So much so that several scientists like Nadak and Takae realized that there has to be certain elements of a
certain weight and a certain characteristic and they began to assume the existence of that element in certain
scientific experiments. Gradually, after some years, they found that element was there, exactly as they had
supposed it to be. Now, if you ask what was the basis of such certainty that has led to the discovery of well
over one hundred elements from just a few at the beginning,(what was the basis of that certainty), that basis
was an orderly relationship of the basic elements or substances in our world to each other.
So sure of this basic order and relationship did they become that they were able to assume that certain
elements existed even before they had discovered them. That’s why all scientists, who are real scientists,
will agree, “Of course, science proceeds by faith, hypothesis, by faith in the order of universe. That’s the
only thing that makes scientific research possible. We assume that there is order and design because we have
found so many evidences of that order and design in what we understand so far. So, actually, all scientific
endeavor is based on that belief, that there is order, or if there is any deviation from that order, that
deviation can be calculated.
As Einstein showed, even the relativity can be understood and brought into order because even that is governed
by certain set and fixed relationships. This is one of the amazing evidences of meaning in our world today:
that each basic element in our present universe is related to every other basic element in an orderly way in
virtue of its weight and the relationship of its weight and its position to the other elements.
What is the meaning of life? Whatever it is, it is built into the very material substance of our world.
Order and Design – Orderly Cosmos -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Orderly Cosmos
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What we have been saying over the past few weeks is that whatever meaning there
is in life, it’s built into the very basic makeup of our world. You remember yesterday we talked about the
basic elements that make up our present universe. Of course, there are well over a hundred of them now.
You remember we discussed how scientists have been able to foretell and to foresee and, indeed, warn each
other where a certain element was to be found, how it was to relate to the other elements and what would be
its atomic weight. This is because they have discovered, as they began to find more and more elements through
the years, that the elements were related to each other in an orderly fashion on the basis of their atomic
weight. It was a little like finding a string of beads made up of a red bead, a green bead, a blue bead, a
yellow bead, repeated in that order and all in ascending sizes.
That’s the way the scientists began to see the elements — like oxygen and hydrogen and radium. They
discovered that the lightest to the heaviest elements related to each other according to their weights in
certain series so that they were able actually to tell that there’s a gap here and it ought to be a yellow
bead, and it ought to be this size and that weight. That’s the way they began to conduct their experiments.
They even assumed the existence of certain elements that they hadn’t yet even discovered, so sure were they
that they existed. Of course, they did this on the basis of the order that they had discovered in the
relationship of one element to another in the past.
In other words, all scientific endeavor is based on the assumption that there is order in our world, because,
of course, of the degree of order they have already discovered so far. What one philosopher has said about
this order and meaning in the world and the meaning of life itself is as follows:
He said, “Suppose that I found myself on a desert island, a desert island where there was no sign of life at
all. Then, as I walked along the beach my foot hit something, and I thought it was a stone and I picked it up
and it was a watch. Immediately I would say to myself, â€˜There must be some human being on this island that
owns this watch or there must be somebody that has made this watch.’ But the moment I see a watch I conclude
there has to be somebody who understands the fine tolerances that makes this watch work, who understands the
regular orbits that the wheels turn, who understands timing and regularity, who has precision and dexterity in
their fingers and their hands. I conclude, in other words, there must be a watchmaker.”
The normal, common-sense mind works that way. Of course, the philosopher went on to say that that is what we
do in relationship to this world.
What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of the world? Well, when we begin to discover such order and
design in even the very basic elements that make up our world, and when we see the way the seasons follow one
another so regularly and so unfailingly year after year and century after century, due to the regular orbiting
of our planet around the sun, when we see that we time our atomic clocks by the regular rotation of our earth
on its own axis, when we see that we perceive such order in the circulation of the blood and in the
relationship of the five hundred muscles in our body to one another, when we see that there is order and
design in our world — the common-sense mind naturally concludes that there must be another mind somewhere
that works like mine, because I know that I did not create this order simply by perceiving it.
I am also able to perceive things that happen by chance and things that are purely arbitrary. I am able to
distinguish between order and design where I find it and arbitrariness and chance where I find it. So my mind
does not create this order; my mind only perceives an order that is already there. So some mind at least as
orderly as mine and able to conceive of the same values and the same balances as mine, must be somewhere
involved in this world. It’s just a natural response of the intellect to order when it finds it.
It’s like you, you know, going outside your door in the morning and you find lying at the bedroom door a bone.
You don’t immediately say, “Ah, my brother must have left his bone around again.” You don’t. You relate the
bone to the kind of creature or being that would produce it. You would say, “That dog! What’s he bringing his
bone upstairs for?” Similarly, if you found a simultaneous equation on a sheet of paper, lying outside your
bedroom door, you wouldn’t immediately say, “That wretched dog, leaving its assignments around again.” You
wouldn’t. You’d say, “That brother of mine! He’s left his homework here. He’ll need it.” You naturally assume
that a dog leaves a bone; a human being leaves a simultaneous equation, because you relate the product or the
item itself to the producer or the originator of it.
It’s the same with our world. When you see order and design in it that your mind can perceive, you
automatically conclude there has to be another mind somewhere involved in the production of this order that I
see around me. That is the basis of all scientific endeavor in our day. Scientists assume that order. Often
we’ve been reluctant to agree that they do, in fact, exercise a certain amount of faith, but they do. They
will tell you that. They will say, “Look, we set up a hypothesis and then we set out to prove that that
hypothesis is true and that that hypothesis we set up on the basis of the order and design that we have
already perceived. Indeed, we could do nothing if we could not depend on the reliable responses of the
material substance in our world. It’s only because we can foretell and foresee, indeed prophesy that material
substances will react in a certain way each time that we can have any order.”
Indeed, the whole world of commerce, the whole world of transportation, the whole world of psychology, the
whole world of human endeavor depends on such order. Without that order we could not arrange an appointment
tomorrow. We could not arrange to even have a meal tomorrow if we could not depend on certain crops and
certain substances responding in certain premeditated ways.
So the mind naturally comes to the conclusion that there is so much order and design and there is so much
meaning in the natural fabric of our world that whatever produced it must have some of the same
characteristics as our minds have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to perceive this order.
What is the meaning of life? There must be a meaning in our life when you see all the evidence of meaning in
our orderly, carefully designed world in which we live. Let’s talk a little more tomorrow about whether the
life around us gives us any clues about the meaning and purpose of our own lives.
Order and Design – Our Mind -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – Our Mind
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That is what we’ve been talking about at this time on this station. Our
conclusion is that there certainly has to be meaning for life itself. There has to be some meaning for us
being here. There must be some reason why you’re here and why I’m here.
You are convinced of that more and more as you examine our natural world, because it’s filled with meaning and
purpose. It is amazing, isn’t it? If I say to you in the middle of winter, “See you for a game of golf at 8:00
in the evening”, you automatically say, “No, it would be too dark. We won’t be able to play golf at that
It’s entirely different in the summertime. You might say, “We might be able to get a couple of hours in before
the sunset.” That’s because we know in the summertime the sun will set at such and such a time each day and in
the wintertime it will set at such and such a time each day. There just is an order there that we know we can
It’s the same with what we will eat in a certain restaurant. We say we’ll see you in a certain restaurant and
we’ll have some of the new asparagus or we will have some of the new Beaujolais wine. You know that at a
certain time of the year those items will be available because they are based on the order of the seasons, and
the order of the seasons is absolutely reliable. It’s the same if you are a sailor. You plan to come into
harbor at a certain time, because the tide is full. Or, you plan to beach your boat and paint the bottom of it
or the hull at a certain time, because the tide is out.
Our whole lives are based on the order of the world in which we live. So, we naturally conclude that there is
order in our lives and the reason for us being here, because throughout the world that we live in there is
order. Of course, the mind comes to that conclusion very naturally. If someone comes up and says, “No, no,
it’s all just a matter of time plus chance”, we say “forget it, forget it!” There might be time. There might
be even evolution involved in it, but it’s not time plus chance. We know that wherever we discover that kind
of order in our lives, it’s the result of conscious, deliberate design. It isn’t time plus chance that
So, forget that stuff. We know that there is order and meaning in our world, because there is design in it.
There is evidence of conscious, deliberate design and purpose. We find it in too many places to reject it. If
someone says, “No, no. If you want a watch, you just take all the elements of a watch and you throw them into
a washing machine, and you switch it on, and you let it hurl around there for half an hour. Then you open it
up and you expect to see a watch completely, perfectly assembled and going regularly.” You say, “That’s dumb.
You will never get order and design out of the arbitrary tumbling of however many elements you care to have.”
Some people say, “Well, what if you tumbled it around long enough?” We just say that the washing machine
wouldn’t last that long, and the elements wouldn’t last that long.” There is no evidence that if you tumble it
long enough it will result in order.
Indeed, one scientist has calculated that the chance formulations of a typical protein molecule, made up of
3,000 atoms, the chance formulations of such a protein molecule is of the order of 1 to 2.02 x 10231. Or,
practically nil. It’s really just ridiculous. Even if the elements are shaken up at the speed of the vibration
of light, it would take 10,234 billions of years to get the protein molecule for life. So it is almost
impossible to conceive, for a moment, that there is anything but some kind of mind, or some kind of reason, or
some kind of intellect, way behind the natural world in which we find ourselves today.
We conclude that, because the order that we perceive is an order that has to come from a mind like ours. It
must be a mind that has at least the same idea of order as ours has. It must be a mind at least as intelligent
as ours is. This is the kind of reasoning that the greatest minds of our generation have followed. Some of us,
of course, think, “Well, you know, that’s not popular stuff today. The popular thing is to say that it’s all
chance. It just happened by chance. It just happened by a â€˜big bang’. It just happened. It just happened.”
That is far from the opinion of the greatest intellects of our generation. Perhaps the greatest intellect that
any of us have known of in our era is that, of course, of Albert Einstein.
Here is Einstein’s own statement:
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the
slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of
the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea
Almost every scientific procedure that is followed today is built on the amazing conclusions and reasoning of
Albert Einstein. He is, by far and away, the genius of our time. He out-thought all other mathematicians and
this is his statement; his statement is based on the pursuit of a lifetime. That is, the pursuit of his
lifetime has been the understanding of our universe, of its order and of its design and the way it works.
In other words, he is saying “the order and design that I’ve been able to see”. Then, he implies that he is
only able to see a little part of it. If he’s only able to see a little part of it, how much can you and I
see? He says that the little part of it that I’m able to understand makes it clear to me that there is a
massive intellect that originated this universe in which we find ourselves. There is a great Mind. There is a
great reasoning Power that has brought about the world that has so much design and order in it as this one in
which we live.
What is the meaning of life? There has to be great meaning for life, because the world in which we find
ourselves is filled with meaning, filled with order, filled with design, filled with purpose. Some of us, of
course, will say that, “Well, there’s a great deal of meaninglessness in it. Most of the meaninglessness is
created by you and me, and by our fellow human beings.
Is there meaning in our world? Just look around you. Just analyze the phenomena that the scientists have
discovered and have tabulated. You’ll come to the same conclusion as Einstein. There is deep meaning. There is
deep meaning and order and evidence of design.
There is great proof that there is behind our universe somewhere, a reasoning Mind, a Power, or an intellect
that can think and can reason and can infer and can analyze and can induce and deduce, just as we can.
Order and Design – God’s Existence -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – God’s Existence
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Why are you alive? Why am I alive? That’s the kind of thing we
are talking about on this program at this time each day.
You remember, what we have been saying is that the idea that there is meaning in life almost forces itself
upon us because of the meaning that we can perceive in the natural world around us. In other words, when we
ask ourselves, “Is there any meaning to this? Is there any point in it all? Why are we here? Is it not the
result of just time plus chance?” There is no sense in it at all.
Our mind rebels against that, because of the meaning, and the order, and the design that we see in the natural
world itself. In other words, why does the earth not bump into the sun? Why does Mars not bump into Venus? How
come they have orbited each other for centuries without colliding with one another?
How come the movements of the planets and stars in space are so absolutely reliable that we can foretell when
Haley’s Comet is going to come into view from the earth? How come we are so sure that the sun will rise at a
certain time in six days that we can adapt our watches by that?
How come the eye is able to photograph on the brain the images that come by virtue of the light around us into
it? How come the 500 muscles in your body operate so perfectly without impeding one another’s operation? How
come your heart keeps on beating even though we can’t really tell where the electrical charge comes from that
keeps it beating? You know yourself that when we mumble things like “survival of the fittest”, and “adaptation
to environment”, and “evolution”, we’re just mumbling words. Because they all beg the question, “Where did the
evolution come from?” or “Where did what originally evolved come from?” or “If it’s adaptation to environment,
what programmed it to adapt to its environment? What created the creature itself, and what created the
environment to which it adapts?”
If it’s survival of the fittest, what decided that the fittest would survive? What determined that there would
even be a “fit” to survive?
So, all around us we are faced with amazing evidence of order and design — so much so that all our scientific
endeavors are based on the fact that there is order and design in the universe. Of course, what we are really
saying, is that there is meaning in the universe. It’s all around us. The fact that we can perceive chance and
arbitrary hazard is because we can distinguish between them and order. There is order against which we can set
those other things.
So, it’s not that our mind creates the order. Our mind simply perceives order that is already there. That’s
why, of course, the outstanding brains and intellects of our era have drawn certain conclusions from that
order. It’s really like someone coming outside their home, perhaps you. One morning you come outside your
home, you walk out through the front door, and there, at your front gate you see a soccer ball in mid-air
spinning around an absolutely regular orbit. But round it, are orbiting two or three tennis balls, a cricket
ball, a baseball, and then, as well as that, a golf ball. They are orbiting, at different speeds, round the
You don’t just look at it casually, and go on to work and say “That’s interesting. Must be just chance, or
maybe an explosion caused that. It’s happening all the time. I’m always seeing soccer balls spinning around
regularly, in revolutions, and tennis balls and golf balls orbiting round them in mid-air without any visible
means of support. It’s the kind of thing that’s always happening here.”
You don’t. You know that. You immediately think to yourself, “This is some guy who is an enthusiastic model
plane owner who enjoys controlling things by remote control. He set those things going, and he’s sitting in
the house opposite with a little set of buttons, and he is pressing them, and controlling those objects
because that doesn’t happen by chance, I know that.”
It’s difficult enough for me to get a soccer ball to curve in a certain arc if I kick it. Or, to throw a
certain cricket ball in a way that will make it curve, without the extra problem of getting it to revolve on
its own axis, and at the same time orbit other objects regularly, time after time, after time. Especially, of
course, if you come ten years later and find they’re still there, you realize this is somebody who has a very
persistent will, and has, certainly, some clever control of electronics. In other words, when you see the kind
of phenomena that we observe in our universe, then natural common sense rises to the conclusion: there is an
intellect, or a mind behind this.
That’s exactly what the greatest intellect in our era has said. Here are his words. Of course, it’s Albert
Einstein. Einstein says this, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit
who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply
emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power which is revealed in the incomprehensible
universe forms my idea of God.” In other words, if you say to yourself, “Well, it does seem good sense to me,
but, what about the intellects, what do they think?” that’s what the greatest intellect in our era thinks.
He is saying, “I am able to perceive with my little mind enough order and design in this universe to make me
respect incredibly the intellect and the mind that produced it. Indeed I myself call that mind God.”
Some of us who have been brought up on evolution forget that the very last sentence in Darwin’s “Origin of
Species” runs like this: “There is a grandeur in this view of life with its several powers having been
originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms, or into one. And that whilst this planet has gone cycling
on according to the fixed law of gravity from so simple a beginning, endless forms most beautiful and most
wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” In other words, Darwin says there is a grandeur in this view of
life, with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.
Darwin himself knows full well that evolution is no explanation of creation. Evolution is only an explanation
of how things might have developed once it was created. But even the evolutionary process itself has to have
been directed by some intelligent mind.
Some of us, of course, say, “Well, wait a minute, not all of them think that, you know. Not all the great
intellects think that. In fact, one of the reasons I have trouble with the whole belief that there is any kind
of intellect or reason behind the universe is not only the chaos that I see around me at times, which I agree
with you has been so often created by us human beings, rather than the originator of the universe. But also,
that there are many intellects that oppose the whole idea that you’re talking about. There are many who say
‘No, there is no reason,(cid:9)there is no intellect.’ Now, why do they say that?”
Why do some great intellects not believe that there is an intelligent mind, or an intelligent reason behind
the universe? Can you explain that? Why do some of our great intellects not believe that there is a God, not
believe that there is any sense in anything today, that it’s absolute chaos?” That’s what I’d like to talk
So, will you listen in? We’ll discuss that. Why do some great intellects in our era not agree with Einstein
that there is a reasoning, intelligent mind behind the universe?
Does God Exist? -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Order and Design – God’s Existence
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s what we are talking about. Some of us have been saying that there must be
meaning in life because there is so much meaning in the natural world itself. That is, there is so much order
and so much evidence of purpose in it.
You see that in the birds flying south every winter. You can say, “Oh, it’s just their instinct”, but that
begs the question, “Where did their instinct come from?” Indeed, where did they come from? If you say, “Oh,
well, evolution, “big bang”. Well, what made the “big bang”? What exploded? What evolved? What determined that
evolution would be from simple to complex, or that the fittest would ever survive?
In other words, there is a lot of meaning in our world that you can only explain if you accept that there is a
purpose and design. If there is purpose and design, there has to be a designer. There has to be some being,
some force, some creature, some power that appreciates design or understands design, or has purpose in making
the whole thing or in allowing it to come into existence.
What we have been sharing is that the greatest minds of our generation, especially the scientists whose whole
discipline is based on the order and design of the universe, they know that fine well. The greatest of them,
Albert Einstein, is in no doubt of it. He says, “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the
illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail
and feeble minds.”
Men like Einstein or Darwin understand fine well that the order and design that their minds are able to
perceive in the universe must come from somewhere, and must come from a mind at least as intelligent as
theirs, and understanding the same things as theirs. In other words, they don’t get into abstruse, really
unrealistic, philosophical gestures that say, “The order that is in the universe is something we create with
our minds.” No, they know there is disorder they can compare against order and they know that their minds
perceive order. It’s not that their minds create order.
Now, the question we mentioned yesterday is this question: “Why, even though so many scientists, so many
physicists, so many intellectuals in our era believe without any question that there is an intelligent mind of
some kind behind the universe, why do some not believe that?” In other words, why are there some outstanding
intellects that do not believe that there is a reasoning mind behind the universe, or there is an intellect
behind the universe? How come so many so-called “educated” people, very sophisticated people in arts, and in
science, writers, journalists, public figures, how come so many of them don’t seem to believe that there is an
intelligent mind or reason behind the universe?
There are all kinds of reasons for that. Some of them, like ourselves, apply our minds to our particular
discipline, but don’t apply them to the cosmic questions of life and death and what life is about. Some of us
just don’t do that. We may say, “Oh, now listen, if they have enough persistence and enough discipline and
perseverance to achieve what they do in their field, surely they apply that same reasoning and that same
intellect to their own lives.” They don’t. No. Many of us don’t. Many great intellects do not apply the same
reasoning, and the same common sense, and the same argumentative powers to the cosmic questions of life and
death as they apply to their own particular, limited discipline in science or in the arts. That’s just a fact.
Many do not carry through their logic to their everyday life.
There is another reason. It’s a reason expressed in a remarkably honest, open statement by Aldous Huxley, one
of the famous Huxley family who for generations have been agnostics and, at times, atheists. Aldous Huxley
makes this statement. He says, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning. Consequently,
assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.
The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure
metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he
wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most
advantageous to themselves. For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of
liberation — sexual and political.”
Now, we are set back when we hear one of the famous Huxley family making that statement, but that’s what
Aldous Huxley said in his book “End and Means.” He said, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a
meaning. Consequently, assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying
reasons for this assumption.” That’s a reason why many great intellects say that they do not believe there is
an intellect or a reason, or a mind behind the universe. They don’t want there to be one.
We all throw up our hands in horror and say, “No, no! Men like Huxley, scientists, people who are called to
track down the truth, whatever it means, they would not take that kind of attitude.” Yes, they would. The
fact is, we are human beings. The fact is, even those of us who are most cerebral, those of us who are most
intellectual, those of us who are most mental in our attitude to life, are also influenced by our emotions.
And more than our emotions, are influenced by our own wills.
You remember it was Dostoyevsky who said, “The only reason a man will act against his own best advantage is to
have his own way.” The fact is, you cannot find a scientist who is absolutely objective. All scientists, even
the most cold and rational, are finally the victims of their own presuppositions. Although their
presuppositions are often the result of their education and background, but certainly they are often also the
result of their own willful desires.
That’s what Huxley says. He admits quite openly, in a remarkably straightforward and direct passage in his
book, “Ends and Means”, he says, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning.” (I had motives
for not wanting the world to have a meaning!) “Consequently, I assumed that it had none, and was able without
any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption.” Then he ends this particular paragraph by
saying, “For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation — sexual
In other words, those of us who tend to look at the great intellects of our generation and hope to poll them,
and find that every one of them, without one exception, will believe that there is a mind and an intellect
behind the universe because of the meaning in the universe, we are doomed to disappointment. You cannot
determine truth by polling all the great intellects. You in fact yourself are responsible for thinking out
what life is about, why you are here and what meaning, if any, there is in life.
You can’t shrug it off, or slough it off, onto somebody else’s shoulders. You have to bear that responsibility
yourself, and you have to face the fact that many scientists, many great scholars, many public figures who
don’t believe there is a mind or an intelligent reason behind the universe take that view, because they don’t
want there to be such a mind or intellect.
Why? They would have to align themselves with it. Man often does not want to align himself with any other
power or have to submit himself to any other will. So, the easiest way is to prove to himself that there is no
such being in existence. Let’s talk a little more about what you yourself think is the meaning of life
Is God a Personal Being? -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Is God a Personal Being?
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? What we’ve been saying is that there must be meaning in life, because there is so
much meaning in our natural world that surrounds us. You get up at a certain time each morning because the sun
rises at a certain time each morning, and all our business activities, and our vocational and professional
activities are based on the fact that sunlight will come at a certain time in the winter and a certain time in
the summer and that we will be able to do certain things. All our street lighting is based on the fact that we
are able to foretell when we will need the lights on in the streets, and when we won’t.
But beyond that, you and I are such intricate, complex mechanisms ourselves. Our bodies are amazing
combinations of over 500 muscles that operate in perfect harmony through each other, and over each other and
across each other to achieve the computerized, complex activities that we perform every day. When you examine
the complex activity of muscle that is needed just to pick up a pencil, you realize that the computerized
calculations that are needed to bring that off would baffle even our best microcomputers.
So, wherever we look in our world, we see that there is evidence of meaning and purpose and design. Any
mumbling of generalizations about laws of gravity or survival of the fittest, or evolution simply beg the
question, “Who, or what or what force or what power originally designed these laws and programmed these things
so that they operate in such a complicated, and yet such an orderly fashion?”
Of course, what we’ve been saying is that the greatest intellects of our generation feel the same way.
Einstein himself said that he regarded the great Intellect behind the universe as the God that he worshiped —
the great Intellect that produced the design that he is able to perceive with his “frail and feeble mind”.
Darwin himself ended “The Origin of Species” by saying, “There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its
several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms, or into one.” Our great
intellects down through the years have all come to the same conclusion: this thing did not come about by
chance. This was not the result of time plus chance. This was not the result of some unplanned, undirected
explosion. This whole universe and we ourselves are the product of a mind and an intellect like our own. In
other words, they’ve said if a billiard ball is rolling across the billiard table, you have to search for the
cue that struck it to cause its momentum. Or, you have to search for the other billiard ball that struck it,
to cause its momentum. But there has to be a cause.
There has to be a cause to produce the effect that we see. In other words, if you see somebody catapulting out
of a door, you immediately think to yourself, somebody must have thrown him pretty forcefully through that
door. We immediately look for a cause to explain each effect. Now that’s the way our normal world works and we
cannot stop thinking that way when we come to consider the most important of all cosmic questions; that is,
“Where did the world come from?”
The mind naturally concludes that there had to be a sufficient cause for this complicated, carefully designed
order that we see in our universe.
Some people have said, “Well, I mean there can be an infinite regression of causes.” Well, the mind just
boggles at that. The mind tends to respond, “Forget that, buddy! Infinite regression of causes…” What I’m
saying is that there has to be a first cause. There has to be some first cause that originally thought the
whole thing out. There must be some cause that created the infinite series of causes, if you like, and all the
second causes, all the secondary causes and the third causes. There must be some first cause that originated
the whole thing. Of course, your mind and mine naturally think that way.
When we see a piece of writing on a sheet of paper, we immediately think, “That had to be produced by somebody
who could think, and who could spell and who could direct their fingers or their typewriter to write, or to
type.” We automatically connect the cause up with the effect of the cause. We put it often in those terms. We
say, “There has to be a cause sufficient to explain this effect.”
That’s what we say in regard to this universe. There has to be a cause sufficient to explain the effects that
we see around us. The effect we see around us is a complex series of planets and stars orbiting each other in
regular patterns, for centuries and centuries with absolutely miniscule timing and incredibly, infinitesimally
small gradations in time. That has to be the result of some reasoning mind like our own.
Now, if you say, “Well, why do you say it has to be a mind?” Because we cannot think of a force, an impersonal
force, an “Elan Vitale” as having mind. Normally forces are things like electricity or the mechanical forces
that we talk about on the lever principle. Forces are things that are impersonal. They cannot normally think
or direct themselves. When we talk about “smart robots” today, we’re not even talking about thinking robots,
but we are saying that we can invent robots that appear to have artificial intellect.
They appear to be able to analyze a series of criteria and to draw some conclusions, but they actually can’t.
We simply teach them to categorize things and we build into them artificial reflex reactions which they cannot
themselves modify. We modify them with our programs. So, even though we talk about “smart robots” today, we
know fine well that forces themselves do not have minds. Minds are something that seem to belong to what we
know as persons.
That’s why we tend to think of intellect or a reasoning power as connected up with a mind, and a mind with a
creature. That’s why we say, “Well, surely this cause, this first cause of the universe, has to be a mind like
our own. If we are able to perceive order, then the mind must be the same as our own and is able to create
that kind of order.”
If you say, “Well, why does it have to be a personal mind?” we look at ourselves. We admit that there may be
super-personalities. They may be far more personable personalities than we have ourselves, but we say that the
mind behind the universe has to be at least as personable as us in order to create us. In other words, you
don’t look at your little dog, your little Yorkshire terrier, and say, “How would you like to listen to
Beethoven’s Fifth?” He’ll just glare at you, loving you as always, but he’ll glare at you with a blank stare,
because he doesn’t appreciate Beethoven’s Fifth. I mean, he might like some of the heavy passages, but he
really doesn’t understand it.
Or, if you ask him, “Would you like to hear me read â€˜Paradise Lost'”? he looks at you and always wants you
to feel good about yourself and probably give you a lick, but he really doesn’t understand “Paradise Lost”. He
probably would get the same thrill out of just hearing your voice repeating “Mary had a little lamb.” In other
words, a dog is not capable of the things that a human being is capable of.
If you say to me, “Could a dog make a man?”, I automatically respond, “No, he couldn’t, because a man is a
higher kind of life form than a dog, and a dog can’t make a life form that is higher than itself.” That’s why
we tend to say the mind, or the reasoning power or the intellect behind the universe has to be at least as
personable as we ourselves are in order to create us. He or she might well be more personable than us, but the
power or the mind or the intellect behind our universe has to be at least as personable as we are.
Is there meaning behind the universe? What is the meaning of life? Well, when you look at life itself, you are
drawn to the conclusion that there must be a power behind it. There must be a mind, and an intellect behind
it. And, that mind and intellect must be at least as personable as we are ourselves.
Meaninglessness of Life -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Meaninglessness of Life
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Is there any meaning to it at all? What is the meaning of your life? Why are
you here? Why am I here? Why are all we little human beings buzzing around here in these cities? Why do we
appear here for 70 or 80 years and then suddenly disappear? What is the point of it all?
It just keeps going on and on. A.E. Housman put it this way:
“Yonder see the morning blink.
The sun is up and up must I
To wash and dress and eat and drink,
and look at things, and talk and think
and work and God knows why.
How often have I washed and dressed
and what’s to show for all my pain?
Let me lie abed and rest.
Ten thousand times I’ve done my best,
and all’s to do again.”
I think a lot of us feel that way today. We wonder what’s the point of it all. The place seems to be going to
bits. It all seems to be fragmenting. The old values seem to have gone and the old principles seem to be
forgotten. Anything that we knew about order, plan and respectability, and concern for each other seems to be
going down the drain so fast we can’t even remember it ever existed. There seems just no point in it. It
seems like a tale told by an idiot.
That’s, of course, what many of us are feeling these days, not least of all, little high school kids, even in
America, where suicide among high school children is higher than at any other time in history. So, it seems as
if those of us who are children and are able to see most simply life before us, seem most convinced that there
is no point in it and no purpose in it.
The story is the same, whether it’s in Hollywood or in the executive offices of London. People who are
supposedly very sophisticated and very intellectual and have great families and great upbringing are all
looking towards suicide as the only way out of a tale that is told by an idiot. Because that’s what many
people seem to think life is: it’s a tale told by an idiot. There’s no point in it. We just get up each day
to try to get a good education, to get a good job, to get a good education, to have children so that they can
get a good education, and get a good job, so that they can have children, ad absurdum, on and on, forever and
ever. There seems so little meaning to it all.
Of course, that is intensified by the meaninglessness in our consequent behavior as human beings, because it
does seem that we just mow each other down meaninglessly. The terrorism that is now dominating the
international scene seems to be just an expression of our absolute indifference to human life and our feeling
that the whole thing is getting beyond any kind of possible control at all. Many of us are wondering, “Is
there any meaning to it?”
So what we have been saying over the past few weeks on this station at this time is there is great evidence of
meaning in the original world as we know it. That is, when you look at a spring morning, you go out on a
spring morning and you smell those daffodils, or you smell the tulips, or you smell the roses. You see how the
bees are used in the whole world of plant life. You see how they flit, apparently carelessly, in an unplanned
way, from flower to flower. But you realize from reading your books what a vital job they are doing in the
You see how birds fly in apparent joyous delight and carefree pleasure. Then, you examine a bird under
microscope, or you study birds, and you notice the order and design in their habits and their practices. Then
you look at your own hand and see what an absolute miracle of construction it is, with all the tendons
arranged so beautifully. If you just bend a finger and you begin to examine, with the help of a book like
“Gray’s Anatomy”, you begin to examine the amazing number of muscles that are used just to bend your index
finger. You study all the tendons that were used just to bring it into that shape. Then you begin to examine
the messages that go from your brain to bring about that movement in your finger.
Then you examine the intricate system of blood circulation that enables life to continue in the finger while
it bends. You realize that there is a great deal of meaning and purpose and direction in the world in which we
live and in ourselves who are probably the most complex creatures in it. It isn’t long before you realize
there are two phenomena here in this world. There is great order and great design and great purpose evident in
the structure of almost everything I can see with my eyes, and yet alongside that, there is the chaos and
apparent meaninglessness of the bombings and the divorces and the arguments and the fighting and the strikes.
We see that one sets the other off.
One contrasts with the other so that the order and design in the universe when we sit by a lake or a river
fishing appears to us all the more beautiful and wonderful when it’s set against the chaos of the industrial,
social antagonism and disorder in which many of us live.
What, in fact, is the result is that most of us today would agree with each other, “Yes, you’re right. There
is amazing order and plan in our universe. You’re right, there has to be some reason, or intellect that
produced that order. You’re right, evolution, or the survival of the fittest, or the law of gravity, or the
Big Bang theory are only suggestions as to how that mind might have created that order. Those things
themselves are only methods; they are not the originators of the order and design.” It is true, if I have to
use my mind to place beads in order on a string, then, whoever or whatever placed the elements in that
intricate order that we find them in the periodic chart of the elements, that mind must be as orderly and as
reasoning a mind as mine.
What, of course, strikes many of us today and what we, so often, bring up in our classes at school is, “Oh,
but there’s chaos, there’s disorder. There’s all kinds of disorder as well.” But most of that is brought by us
human beings. If you say, “Well, there is an odd collision among the planets, very odd, and it’s remarkable
because of its oddness, or its exception to the rule.” Overall, we are surrounded by a very stable, reliable
universe by which we set our clocks and by which we arrange our business appointments. One is driven to the
conclusion by the way the order in our world contrasts with the disorder that we human beings have brought,
one is driven to the thought that some power, some mind, some intellect, some reason must have originated it.
It is very important to keep things in perspective. It’s vital that we do not allow ourselves to be driven off
that important conclusion by the fact that there are exceptions to that and most of the exceptions are found
in what we human beings have done to this world.
It is important, in other words, to retain your view of the wood and not to lose it because you are looking at
the trees. In these days, it’s vital for us not to attribute to the Force, or Mind which originated the
universe, the chaos and disorder that we human beings brought into it by the free exercise of our own wills.
So what is the meaning of the world? What is the meaning of life? Well, there seems to have been originally,
in the intention of the mind of the reasoning power that produced the world, a great sense of meaning, a great
sense of order and a great concept of purpose. What is the meaning of life? Let’s talk a little more about it
Morality and our Conscience -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Morality and our Conscience
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? We’ve been looking into the world itself to try to see if there is meaning in it.
One of the things we have discovered is that there is meaning everywhere one looks, whether it’s the
circulation of the blood, or whether it’s the muscle system, or whether it’s the operation of the heart, or
whether it’s in the planets and their regular orbits that surround other planets, or whether it is the rising
and the setting of the sun, or whether it’s the rotation of the earth so that we get night and day and we set
our appointments and our watches by the regularity of the light and the day, and the darkness. Wherever we
look we see order and we see design and evidence that there is meaning and there was originally meaning in the
reasoning mind that must have been behind the universe.
What we have been saying is that not only Einstein, but Darwin himself realized that there has to be a
reasoning mind or intellect behind the universe. What we have been saying, of course, is that since it’s
unreasonable to believe that a dog can make a man, or that a lower form of life can make a higher form of
life, the most reasonable belief is that this Mind or this Intellect is at least as personable as you and I
There is another important clue in our own lives and our behavior with one another that gives reason for
believing that there is purpose and point to the universe and that there is some purpose or meaning in the
power or the force or the being that originally created it. It’s really found in our quarreling with one
Everyone has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny. Sometimes it just sounds unpleasant. But
however it sounds, there are clues in it that will help us to see some meaning in life and some meaning behind
the universe. You know the way a quarrel goes. “How would you like it if anyone did the same to you?” (That
is, when somebody sits in your seat, how would you like it if somebody did the same to you?) “That’s my seat.
I was there first.” “Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm.” “Why should you shove him first?” “Give me
a bit of your orange. I gave you a bit of mine.” Those are the kinds of comments. “Come on, you promised!”
People say things like that every day — educated as well as uneducated people. Children as well as grownups.
What’s interesting about these remarks is that people are not really saying that that other man’s behavior
doesn’t happen to please him; he is appealing to some kind of standard of behavior which he expects the other
man to know about.
The other man very seldom replies, “Forget your standard. I don’t care about it.” Nearly always, he tries to
make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does, there is
some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took
the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or
that something has turned up which let him off keeping his promise.
In other words, we all apply or appeal to some law or rule of fair play or decent behavior, or morality or
something, as if we’ve all agreed to it. Quarreling, in fact, means trying to show that the other man is in
the wrong. There would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to
what is right and wrong.
It’s interesting that this law of right and wrong used to be called the law of nature, and we would all appeal
to it. Somehow, all of us still have that feeling. We feel that there is some law of right or wrong, that
certain things are right to do and certain things are wrong to do. Some of us, of course, say, “Oh well, it’s
just a result of our education, the way we were brought up.”
But it’s interesting, if you’ll take the trouble to compare the moral teaching of, say, the ancient Egyptians,
or the Babylonians, or the Hindus, or the Chinese, or the Greeks, or the Romans, what really strikes you is
that they are all very like each other. In other words, even though they’ve all had a different type of
education, and different educational experiences, most of them will agree about what is right and wrong.
It’s hard, for instance, to think of any country where people are admired for running away in battle. NO! In
most countries, if not in all countries, a coward is a coward. Or, it’s hard to think of a country where a man
felt proud of double-crossing all the people who had been kindest to him. No, it doesn’t matter what education
you have, or whatever background you have had, you still feel that it’s wrong to double-cross your friends.
Men might have differed often as regards to what people you ought to be unselfish to, whether it was only your
own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put
yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife,
or four, but they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you like. It seems that built
into us is a feeling that certain things are right and certain things are wrong. We may differ in the details,
but there is a surprising agreement on the big issues, of cowardliness and courage, of selfishness and
So, one of the things that we need to look at in our world when we are trying to discover meaning is to see
that there is this amazing desire to either live up to a certain standard of right and avoid a certain
standard of wrong, or at least to appeal to that when we are trying to prove that the other person is right or
wrong. It seems that all of us, however amoral we appear to be, have certain things that we feel are right and
certain things that we think are wrong.
Some of us, of course, like to say, “Oh, well, it’s just our herd instinct; it’s just our instinct. That’s
what you are talking about.” But it is something beyond the instincts, isn’t it? Supposing you hear a cry for
help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires: one, a desire to give help, due to your herd
instinct; the other, a desire to keep out of danger, due to the instinct for self-preservation.
But you will find inside you, in addition to these two desires, a third thing which tells you that you ought
to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. In other words, there’s something inside
you that judges between the two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged. That thing cannot be one
instinct or the other. It seems to be something above the instincts. So, obviously, there are many times when
instincts are in conflict and yet this moral law, this law of nature seems to operate inside us and seems to
determine which one we will follow. So, it’s dangerous to say, “It’s just our instincts.”
Some of us, of course, say, “Oh, it’s just social convention. It’s just the cultural background that we have.
It’s just the things that we learned to do.” But it is amazing that different ones of us, brought up in the
same culture will actually respond differently. We will not all abide by the same programmed brainwashing. We
will, in fact, seem to respond to this urge inside us to do certain things that are right, and avoid certain
things that are wrong, despite the social convention that we may have.
So, some of us have been brought up in places where actually the social convention allowed certain activities.
Yet, this law of nature within us seems to make us rise above that thing. So, one of the facts one has to look
at in our world when you begin to ask, “What is the meaning of the world?” is that there seems to be a sense
of “I ought”, some sense of “I should do this” or “I shouldn’t do that” that is built into us and seems to be
deeper than our instincts, deeper than our education, deeper than our cultural background.
It seems to be there and the question is, where has that sense of “I ought” come from? Let’s talk about that a
little more next day.
Morality and Selfishness -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Morality and Selfishness
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Many of us in these days say that there is no discernible meaning in life at all.
It is absolutely meaningless. That is why so many of us are committing suicide and why so many of us are on
drugs. There seems little point or purpose in life. Is that your opinion?
What we’re discussing on this program each day is whether there are any hints or clues in the universe itself
as to the meaning of our lives. That is, whether we can find any clue in the natural world around us as to why
you and I are here in the first place. It is interesting that though so many of us see the meaninglessness of
life, yet when we look at the world itself, we see it is full of meaning.
We only have to look at the amazing intricacies of our own eye in order to see how it has all the complex
equipment that the most advanced Nikon camera possesses. There are all kinds of focusing abilities and
cleansing abilities that it has that it takes us years and years to develop in our research labs and in our
It’s the same with the movement of the planets and stars. If you remember seeing the movie years ago called
“2001”, you were struck by the fact that the maker of that movie had to somehow represent the ordered, quiet,
glorious, dignified procession of the planets and the stars around one another. In order to do that, he went
to great lengths to express the obvious harmony and order that there is in the movement of the stars and
They are not bumping into one another madly. They are not colliding with each other. They are not roaring all
over space. They are, in fact, moving very precisely, so precisely that it takes us all the cleverness and all
the computers that we can muster in the space centers in order to ensure that our satellites enter the right
orbits. In other words, we depend on the order that we perceive in the planets for the success of every space
shot that we experiment with.
It’s so, of course, with you. Tomorrow, you will try to keep an appointment. Your clock will be set on the
basis of the order that is inherent in the rising and setting of the sun, which is, of course, dependent on
the absolutely regular rotation of our earth on its own axis. Of course, the seasons are dependent on the
orbiting of our earth around the sun.
So, there are many indications in the apparent, carefree flight of birds to the south, or in the amazing order
that you find in a colony of ants. There are all kinds of clues and hints that our world itself is filled with
order and filled with meaning and filled with purpose. That is accentuated when we begin to look at our own
lives. We begin to see how personable you and I are.
We realize that we understand love. We understand all kinds of nuances when we converse with one another. We
are able to discern in the flicker of an eyelid a mark of deception or a mark of honesty, a mark of friendship
or a mark of hostility. We are able to reflect on our own actions and to examine them to see whether we
approve of them or not.
In other words, we see that inside this physical body that we have there is a complex psychological,
spiritual, mental, emotional personality that is higher than that of the animals. Our little dog cannot
appreciate Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony”, except perhaps to the extent that the noise rises or falls. He may
perceive a certain tone at times, but he doesn’t understand the intellectual content of the music.
He is not able to reflect on the politics of the day. He is very limited as to how valuable he can be to you
as a friend, however hard he tries. That’s because we are human beings and we have all kinds of personable
abilities that are beyond that of animals. The thought comes to us, of course, surely, as it must take a
watchmaker to make a watch, as it must take an intellectual reasoning mind to produce the kind of order and
design that Einstein or our other scientists and researchers perceive in our universe, surely it must also
take some force or power that is at least as personable as we are in order to make persons like us.
So, many of us see in the existence of personality some clue or hint that whatever originated the universe,
whatever programmed evolution into the whole system, whatever programmed survival of the fittest or adaptation
to environment into the original single-cell amoeba, whatever that was, that force or power or “Ã©lan vital”
must be at least as personable as we are and probably much more personable than we are. But at least it is as
personable as we are.
So, we conclude that the meaning or force or thing or originator behind our universe must surely have an
intelligent mind and must surely be at least as personable as we ourselves are, because we know that a lesser
cannot make a greater, and an animal cannot make a person.
However, beyond the meaning that we perceive in the design of the physical world and of ourselves, we can see
in our own behavior another clue. There is a great paradox in our lives that perhaps you’ve noticed. For
instance, we are perhaps the most selfish bunch of creatures that you could ever set your eyes upon. Put us
together in cities and we have immense trouble getting on with each other.
We complain about the neighbor in the apartment next to us. We complain about the person above, whose plumbing
makes so much noise. We complain about the people who run their stereo or TV too loudly. They, in turn,
utterly ignore us because they want to have their own way. In other words, we are a selfish group of
Wherever you find us, we are trying to get our own way, because we find it’s easier to want our own way than
to want somebody else’s way. We find it’s easier to lose our temper than to keep our temper. We find it’s
easier to hate people and to be angry at people than to keep our temper and to be kind and patient with
people. We find it easier to fight one another and to oppose one another than to help one another.
Yet, the incredible fact is that we believe it’s wrong to fight. It’s wrong to argue. It’s wrong to be
selfish. It’s wrong to lose your temper, in spite of the fact that we all find it is easier to lose our
temper. It’s easier to be selfish. We WANT to be selfish. We WANT to lose our temper. We WANT to have our own
way. Yet, we continue to believe from deep inside ourselves that that kind of behavior is wrong.
Why? Why is that? Why do we still feel that those things are wrong when we find that it is easier to do them
than to avoid them? Let’s talk about that clue tomorrow.
Where does our Sense of Right and Wrong come from? -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Where does our Sense of Right and Wrong Come From?
by Ernest O’Neill
Why are you alive? You’ve probably wondered that yourself, at some times more than others. We’re all the same,
I think. We have bad times. It is surprising how many of us find those bad times are more frequent in these
days. More of us are asking the question, “Why are we alive? What am I doing here? I don’t really understand
any of it. It all seems so chaotic and so filled with anarchy.”
What we’re talking about on this program each day is whether there is any meaning to life, whether there is
any point or purpose in life. We started by looking at the world itself. We have seen a surprising amount of
order and design in our world. Of course, you know it so well. Every morning you get up, you realize there is
an order that makes the sun rise every morning. It’s really not the sun rising. It’s the earth turning ’round,
but there’s obviously some force that keeps the earth turning regularly on its own axis, day after day, year
after year, century after century.
We know deep down in our own minds that, of course, there is meaning in this world. It’s obvious. The world
wouldn’t continue to exist if it weren’t for the regular seasons that enable us to grow crops to get our daily
food. We could not continue to survive if there were not great meaning in the world. If we were not able to
direct our feet to precede one another, we would not be able to walk or propel ourselves from one place to
We know enough now from our ability to study the infinitesimally small movements of the body to realize that
it is an absolute miracle, an absolute mystery of motor movements connected with electrical charges connected
with a complex nervous system and an immense muscle system that we cannot even yet reproduce with all of our
Many of us have realized that there is, undoubtedly, meaning in the world around us. There is great
meaninglessness, but most of that seems to come from us human beings. The world in which we live seems to be
filled with purpose and filled with meaning. All of us who have studied the activities of animals or birds or
fish know that there is great planning and design and system evident in the whole world of nature.
What we were saying yesterday was that there is another amazing phenomenon that we find inside ourselves that
is very hard to explain just on the basis of the production of time plus chance or a big bang explosion that
is unsupervised by some intelligent mind.
That is this fact: even though the world is filled with four billion little human beings that love to fight
each other, that love to be selfish, that find it easier to be unkind to one another rather than to be kind,
that find it easier to kill one another than not to kill one another, that find it easier to want their own
way and insist on their own rights than to give up their rights and give up their own way — in spite of the
fact that we are a mass of struggling, selfish, unpleasant individuals — yet, we still have something within
us that keeps on telling us, “You shouldn’t be like that.”
You shouldn’t fight. You shouldn’t be selfish. You shouldn’t lose your temper. You shouldn’t be unkind. That
seems to be deep within us. Some of us like to think, “Oh well, no. It’s not deep within us. It’s just been
our education that has brought that about”, but the fact is that many people in the crudest most primitive
tribes in the world who have had no education still believe that it’s wrong to be cowardly, it’s wrong to be
They still believe it’s wrong to do the things that we ourselves think are wrong. In other words, this sense
of “I ought” that we have inside us seems to be a more universal feeling, a more universal obligation than
comes just from our education. What one has to face is that there is a paradox here. Dostoevsky, you remember,
said, “The only reason a man will act against his own best advantage is to have his own way.”
You know how true that is. You have only to look at your eating habits to realize that it is true, “The only
reason a man will act against his own best advantage is to have his own way.” There is something perverse in
us that makes us want to have our own way even if it kills us. Yet, it’s amazing that there is something in us
also that says, “That’s wrong.”
There is something in us that says, even though we want our own way, even though we want to trample over other
people, even though we want to do the dirty on people, even though we want to tell lies to get out of
difficulties and to get out of troubles, even though we want to be hypocritical in our praise and our polite
compliments to other people to cover up our own hatred and contempt for them, even though we want to do that,
there is something in us that says, “That’s wrong. That’s wrong.”
“You ought to love them. You ought to be kind to them. You ought to be patient. You ought to be understanding.
You ought to be patient. You ought to give up your rights for their sake.” It’s amazing that we human beings
who find it so easy to oppose each other still think that it is wrong to behave in that way. Why is that? Why
do we have this sense of moral “I oughtness” when it is very inconvenient for us?
Some of us say it’s just what is convenient. You get a lot of little monkeys all throwing coconuts at each
other, and eventually, one begins to realize that this causes a lot of lumps on his head. There must be an
easier way to live. So, he sets up a social contract with some other little monkeys that he will not throw
coconuts at them if they will not throw coconuts at him.
Many of us conclude that this feeling of “I oughtness” is just what is convenient. It enables us to preserve
our own existence as a race. You can see yourself that that begs the question, why should we want to preserve
our existence as a race? Why should we want to survive? What is it that programs into us this feeling that we
should try to survive? What is it that programs into us this desire at times not to throw coconuts at another
person even though they have no chance of throwing coconuts at us? Because that is also true.
Many of us are prepared at times, like war, to die for each other. Indeed, not only in war but even now in
some disasters that occur in the world of air travel, we find human beings that are prepared to sacrifice in
order to preserve the life of someone else. We find within us this feeling that we ought to live higher than
we feel it is natural to live.
We ought to live better than we find it comes naturally for us to live. Why is that so? Where does that
feeling of “I ought” come from? It seems that it is a call to live better than we human beings really want to
on our own. It seems that it is a drive or a desire to live higher than we human beings live in our ordinary,
Is there, in fact, some signal that comes from outer space? Is there some power beyond this world that has
these ideals and these desires and has somehow implanted them in us so that this feeling of “I ought” — that
I ought to be better than I am — has been put in us by some intelligent mind or some higher personality that
was originally responsible for creating us? Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.
Moral Intuition -
What is the Meaning of Life?
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? No meaning at all. It is just the result of the chance collision of atoms
billions of years ago, in space, whose origin we do not understand. Or, it is the result of a massive
explosion, which has produced this ever-expanding universe in which we live. Or, it is the result of a
single-cell amoeba, found on the scum of some pond, the origin of which we cannot explain. Or, it is the
result of evolution. Or, it is the result of some decomposing substance.
Such is the kind of explanations you and I have grown used to hearing over these past few decades. It is the
result of these explanations, as we call them, that we now have a population in most parts of the world that
is absolutely bewildered about the reason for being alive at all. So we produce pop songs that ask the
question, “Is that all there is? What we do here in life, is that all there is to it? Is there no other
meaning in life but this eating, and sleeping and drinking and dying?”
Many of us have concluded, because of our own bewilderment about the origin of the world, that that is all
there is. What we have been talking about over these past few weeks here on this station is, whether that is
all there is. Of course, what we have been sharing is that there is some indication that this world is not the
result of a chance collision of atoms. It is not the result of time plus chance.
It is not the result of a simply mindless, evolutionary system of development. It is not just the result of an
impersonal “Ã©lan vital”, or cosmic force. But there are indications in our world that there is some thing or
some power behind this universe that had something in mind in creating it in the first place. If there is such
a power or a force, then you can see that that is very important for your own life.
If there is some thing, or some power, or some creature that lies behind this world, and had something in mind
when you yourself appeared on the scene, then that is a vitally relevant situation for you to know about. We
believe there is much circumstantial evidence that points in this direction. That’s what it is, first of all.
It’s circumstantial evidence. That is, it’s evidence that suggests that this is the very logical explanation
of the phenomena that we see around us.
So, if you go outside your door one day, and you find a bone, partly gnawed, lying on the ground, you conclude
from the circumstantial evidence not that your brother has been finishing his lunch again outside your door,
but that your pet dog has left his bone again in the corridor. That’s what we mean by circumstantial evidence.
It’s a very reasonable explanation of the phenomena that we observe.
That’s the kind of evidence that we have been talking of in regard to the origin of the world. We have been
saying there are indications that suggest it is very reasonable to posit the existence of some power or force
that has intelligence and that is at least as personable as we are, that lies behind the universe, and is
responsible for it.
You remember, we put ourselves in very good company when we say that, because you remember, Albert Einstein,
after a lifetime studying the design and order in the world of astronomy, and the world of physics and
mathematics, made this statement: “My religion consists of a belief in a superior Being who is responsible for
the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction
of the presence of a superior, reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my
idea of God.”
So Einstein says that from the order and design that I, with my little mind, am able to perceive in the
universe, I conclude that there has to be an intellect that is also personable, that lies behind the universe.
Of course, Darwin, the other great scholar from whom many of us have derived our present views of the origin
of the world, concludes his famous treatise “The Origin of Species” with this sentence, “There is a grandeur
in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms
or into one….”
So both Einstein and Darwin say that the circumstantial evidence that comes from studying the order and design
that is inherent in our world, the order and design that you see in the periodic chart of the elements, the
order and design that you see in the circulation of the blood, the order and design that you see in the
muscles throughout our body, the order and design that you see in our heart and the operation of our eyes, the
order and design that you see in the regular orbiting of the planets, the order and design that you see in the
very structure of the atom — that order and design suggests that it is very reasonable to believe that such
order and design could result only from an intelligent mind that purposely set out to create such a universe
even if He used evolution as the method by which He created it.
What we have been sharing, of course, is that there is other circumstantial evidence beyond the order and
design of the universe, beyond the personableness of us as persons. We’ve been talking, you remember, about
the feeling of moral obligation that we all have: the feeling that we ought not to be selfish, even though we
find it easiest to be selfish. The feeling that we ought not to lie, even though we find it easiest to lie.
The feeling that we ought not to be cowards, even though we find it easier to be cowardly. The feeling that we
ought not to insist on our own way, even though we find it natural to insist on our own way.
There is within us, a kind of gyro-compass that tells us we ought to live higher than we do live. That is
further circumstantial evidence that there may well be some power outside of us, beyond space that is sending
signals to us of wishes and of a will that is higher than our own. Of course, all of this comes home to you
very reasonably, I believe. Most of us, faced with the existence of the world, most of us who have ever sat by
the ocean and have watched the power and the might of the waves, most of us who have ever looked up at the
stars and been amazed at the power and force that holds them there, most of us who have realized that people
don’t fall off Australia even though they’re standing upside down on our earth, most of us from a very early
age intuitively sense that, of course, there is some power that is beyond ourselves, that is also personal and
is intelligent, that has created our world.
That thought springs up very naturally in most of our minds. It’s an intuitive sense that we have. That
existence of intuition in regard to the existence of God has been among us men from the very beginning. It has
existed in the earliest tribes, in the most primitive peoples, in the least educated, and in the highest
educated. People have always sensed intuitively there must be a God somewhere.
Evidence for God’s Existence -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Empirical and Intuitive Evidence for God’s Existence
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Most of us have great difficulty seeing any meaning in it these days. And yet we
have been sharing over these past weeks that if you stand back and look at the world itself, there is a lot of
meaning and order and purpose built into it.
You’ve only to look at the world of nature to see how there is an extraordinary balance in the insect world.
There is an amazing order in the effect that the moon has on the tides. There is a great balance in the very
circulation of water that comes down in rain and evaporates from the ocean. There are all kinds of phenomena
in our world that point to order and purpose and design in its origin.
It’s just that we have been used to taking the theory of evolution as an explanation of the origin of the
world and thinking that that, of course, abolished any need to explain creation. We can see as we’ve quoted
often from “The Origin of Species”, Darwin’s own words that indicate that evolution, of course, is only a
suggestion of the way things might have developed after the original seed was created by some Power or some
What we have been sharing is that when you look at the order and design of the world and when you look at the
personableness of you and me, and then when you look at the fact that we all have this inner gyro compass of
conscience that makes us want to act higher than is natural for us to act, there is circumstantial evidence to
suggest that it is very reasonable as Einstein says, to believe that there is an intelligent personal mind
behind the universe.
This is partly the explanation of the fact that belief that there is a god of some kind, who is the Creator of
the universe and the Creator of you and me, is an intuitive sense and has been an intuitive sense in mankind
from the earliest centuries. In other words, it doesn’t matter which tribe you go to, it doesn’t matter how
primitive the people might be, it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Iron Age or the Stone Age or what age. It
doesn’t matter how many thousands of years you go back or how many millions of years you think you may be
going back, wherever you go you find that man has had always some sense that there is a Supreme Being
somewhere behind the universe.
Always he has had that explanation in his mind. That the only way to justify the order and design that he sees
in the sky above him is that some Being greater than himself put those stars in that sky. So whatever
civilization you examine you will find that there is in it a belief in a Supreme Being. There will often be
symbols of the Supreme Being that those people will worship.
Behind all the idols and behind all the images they have this sense that there must be a God somewhere.
Indeed, wherever you go, in your study of anthropology, you’ll find that there is also a sense that they ought
to be better than they are. They ought in some way to please that God and so they’ll always have some kind of
sacrificial system that deals somehow with the guilt they feel because they are not living as they know from
their inner conscience that they should live.
So this circumstantial evidence is just some of the explicit reason why all of us sense intuitively that there
must be a God somewhere. Our forefathers have always had that sense and conviction right from the earliest
years. Here is the statement of a young man in 4000 B.C.: “A man must truly proclaim the greatness of his God.
A young man must wholeheartedly obey the command of his God.” That’s nothing to do with Christianity, nothing
to do with religion as we know it, it’s simply a very early example of our human race proclaiming his inner
conviction that there is a God and a man must recognize that. In other words, there has never been a time when
men and women have not felt intuitively that there is a God.
There is a strong tendency in us today to declare that that comes simply from our psychological sense of need
of a Father figure; our psychological sense of dependence. But rather than using the explanation or rather
than using the description as a reason for not believing in a God, it is just as reasonable to use that
psychological explanation as a clear indication that we were made by a God and that we have a sense of
psychological dependence because in reality we are psychologically dependent.
We have a sense and a need for some father figure because in fact there is some father figure. That’s why we
feel it. In other words, there is something perverse in our modern tendency to believe the opposite of what is
common sensical, or to begin to suspect something simply because it does fit the case exactly. It is no proof
that there is not a God, that we happen to sense that there must be a God somewhere. Indeed we do not use that
kind of logic in our ordinary everyday life.
We actually pay great attention to our intuition and to our intuitive sense. Whether we are salesmen or
whether we are investors in the stock market or whether we are teachers or whether we are bosses or whether we
are parents, we pay great attention to our intuitive sense. We trust it greatly. We often talk about a woman’s
intuition as something that we men wish we had to the same degree.
Many of us who involve ourselves in gambling depend utterly on our intuitive sense. So, it’s very reasonable
to take note of that intuitive conviction that men have had down through the centuries, that there must be a
God. There is no civilization, however primitive, however uneducated, that does not have a sense that there
must be a God. It’s just logical.
Of course, you must admit it yourself. When you look at this world and you look at the sky above and the sun
and the wind and you find out more and more about the vastness of space, and you discover that the stars that
we apparently see are often only the light that is still on its way towards us from stars that have died,
hundreds and thousands and maybe millions of years ago. Such explanations, such realities, convince us all the
more that there must be some Power that is much greater than ourselves, much more intelligent than ourselves,
and much more competent than ourselves that is responsible for all that we see around us.
In other words, it just makes good sense as we look at the world around us to say, “there just has to be a
God, there must be a God.” We find ourselves in the same place as people like Mao and other Communists who
have in their explanations to other leaders of state, used very easily and naturally the term ‘god’. It is a
term that occurs to mankind almost automatically as the explanation of this incredible complex universe that
we see around us.
Evidence for God’s Existence – The Cosmos -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Evidence for God’s Existence – The Cosmos
by Ernest O’Neill
Why are you alive? Why are you here? What’s the explanation?
We used to have French conversation during our teenage years at school. A French mistress that we had,
frustrated us continually by asking a certain question after we had produced what we thought was a magnificent
explanation of a passage in a book that we had read.
The question that she would ask, probably in much better French than I am producing at this moment, she would
simply say, “Pourquoi?” We hated that question! We hated it because it was a question that required a much
more complex answer than we were able to produce in our halting French. It required a certain control of
syntax and vocabulary that we had great trouble, in our stage of development, producing.
“The question, of course, that she asked, “Pourquoi?” was the question “Why?”. That’s the word “why” in
French. We hated that question, because that’s the most difficult question to answer. It requires the greatest
thought and reflection, and it usually requires some refinement of language to do it justice. So, we detested
that question when she put it.
The “why” questions are always the most difficult ones to answer. The “how” questions are much easier to
answer. Of course, the “how” questions are the questions that our scientific endeavors have concentrated upon
during the past fifty years. We have been able to give very detailed explanations of how we think the world
came to be as it is today. So, we have the evolutionary hypothesis, which suggests that simple forms have
developed into more complex forms over the years.
But, the “why” questions are very difficult. Why are we here? We know that perhaps life evolved from a
single-cell amoeba, or perhaps it evolved after a “big bang” created it. We do not know the thing that
originated the first thing that evolved. Above all, we do not really know why it exists, or why it originated,
or why there was such direction inside the evolutionary process. That we cannot answer. Yet, that is the most
significant question, because all of us are preoccupied with that question at some point in our lives.
We only succeed in escaping it by dint of putting part of our minds asleep. We all wonder, Now, why am I here?
What’s the point of this life? Is it just to eat and drink and sleep? Is it just to get an education so that I
can bring other children into an equally meaningless world? Why are we here?
Many of us, of course, have given up on that question and have said, “There is no meaning to life. There is no
meaning. Look at the chaos. Look at the bombings. Look at the explosions. Look at the way we’re tearing each
other apart. Look at the purposelessness of good lives being destroyed by drugs. There is no sense of life.”
Yet, as we have been sharing over the past month, there is a great deal of evidence in our world to suggest
that there is purpose in it. We see a great deal of purpose in the way the birds fly south in the winter. We
see a great deal of purpose in the way a seed is put into the ground at planting time and is able to
germinate. We see a great deal of purpose and order and design in the way the rain falls and causes the crops
to grow, the way the sun shines at the right time, so that we are able to harvest the crops, and are able to
eat the food.
We see a great deal of purpose and order and design in the way food comes into our body, and is broken up
inside and becomes strength and life and physical nourishment for us. We see a great deal of purpose in the
way our heart beats. We see a great deal of purpose in the way the blood circulates and takes away the
We see purpose in the way the planets orbit and rotate. We see how the rotation of our world causes night and
day, how the revolution of our world brings us seasons. We see a great deal of purpose in the pressure of our
air, which is exactly right for us. We see purpose in the mixture of our air which enables us to breathe.
Everywhere we look, we see order and design and purpose, and we are driven just like men like Einstein and
Darwin have been driven, to see that even though we’re explaining how the world might have developed, we have
to posit the existence of some intellect or mind that is at least as great as our own and created the world at
the very beginning.
We even see purpose and design in the sense of moral obligation we have in our own lives. We find it easier to
kill each other, to be angry with each other, to lose our temper, than it is to keep our temper, and to
preserve each other, and to give the other person the right to their way. Yet, there is something in us that
constantly makes us feel that it is right to give the other person their way. It is right to preserve other
people’s lives. It is right not to lose our temper. It is right not to get angry. So, there is purpose and
design that we can see even in our sense of moral obligation and conscience.
In other words, there are many things in our world to suggest to us that there is a lot of circumstantial
evidence that shows us that there is purpose and order and design throughout our world. There is a great deal
of circumstantial evidence to suggest that the only explanation of the order and purpose and design that we
see around us, is that someone, some being, some Supreme Being, put order and design and purpose into our
world. That’s why we are able to discover purpose and design and order when we study it from a scientific
Many of us have come to that place, where we say, “Even though we do not know why we are here, wherever we
look, we can see that there is reason for things. There is reason for our world being as it is. There is every
reason to believe that on the circumstantial evidence that we have at our disposal, there must be a Supreme
Being. There must be a mind or an intellect that originated the whole show at the start.”
Of course, that’s very different from saying, there is empirical evidence; there is touch-and-see proof that
such a Being exists. That is a very different matter. When we come to that question, then we are beginning to
get near the heart of that question, “Why are we alive?”
In other words, because many of us accept the circumstantial evidence for the existence of God that Darwin and
Einstein put forward, yet we question and we wonder, because of that evidence, “Is there any hard,
touch-and-see empirical evidence, that there is such a Being?”
We’ve got as far as calling ourselves theists — people who do believe that there must be a Supreme Being
somewhere. Like Darwin, we accept, as he concluded in his “Origin of Species”, that there is a great beauty,
and a grandeur, in the way that the world has developed. There is a great deal of beauty in the way this whole
thing has been brought about and has evolved.
Yet, with Darwin, we say there must be a Creator who started this whole thing in the first place. As with
Einstein, we see that there is order and design, and conclude with him, that there has to be a mind that has
produced this order and design. We accept that the existence of a God is the most probable explanation for the
order and design in the universe, and of our own personalities. Yet, we feel, “Now, wait a moment. If there is
such a Being, and He has created us for some purpose, then surely He must have expressed Himself directly in
some way, if He actually exists.”
In other words, surely in some way He has tried to get through to us. If He’s out there in outer space
somewhere, surely He has attempted to communicate with us in some fashion. So, we are driven to believe that
there must be some empirical, touch-and-see evidence that such an intelligent Being exists. Is there any?
Let’s talk a little further about this next day.
Is There a God? -
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Is There a God? What is He Like?
By Ernest O’Neill
Is there anyone out there beyond that sky? Can you see it out of your car window, or perhaps out of the window
of your office or your home? You look up at the sky. Is it blue? Or is the usual old gray sky overcast?
Whatever it is, is there anything beyond that sky? Many of us reply, “Of course! Yes, there’s more and more
space.” Yet, the question is, is there anything out there beyond space? Is there anything that makes any sense
of this world of ours? Is there any being or creature from outer space that is responsible for this world in
which we live?
It’s very important to be able to answer that question, because we’re trying to talk about why we’re alive.
Why are you alive? What is the purpose of your being here? You can see that that purpose is inextricably
involved with the purpose of the whole universe itself.
What we have been saying over the past few weeks is that many of us can see that the order and design in our
universe cannot result from time plus chance. All the order that we see in our own bodies and in the world of
nature cannot come from simply time plus chance. It must be traceable back to an intellect that is at least as
analytical as our own.
In other words, the reason we can perceive order and design in our universe is because there is order and
design in it. If there is order and design in our universe that is discernible by our intellects, then it has
to have been placed there by an intellect at least as intellectual as ours. Of course, what we have said is
not only logical. That an intellectual such as us has created our world, but in order to create us as people,
that Being of that Supreme Creature must be at least as personable as we are and probably much more
Many of us have got to that point. Yet, there is a further question beyond that, because the issue is not just
are we theists, do we just believe in some Supreme Being. But, the further issue that is important to us and
is, in a sense, more relevant is, what is that Creature, or that Creator like? What is His nature like?
We can only get very limited information about the Creator from studying His creation. It’s a little like a
carpenter. You can tell a little about a carpenter by studying a table he has made. You can tell if he’s a
neat carpenter, or a careful carpenter. But you can’t really tell if he’s the kind of carpenter that you’d
like to be friendly with. You can’t really tell what he thinks about music or art or poetry. You can’t really
tell if he’s a kindly person or a loving person, or whether he’s an impatient person.
In other words, you are limited as to how much you can tell about a being by studying the work that he has
made. Yet, it is very important to us what the nature of the Supreme Being behind the Universe is like,
because obviously, He is going to determine the purpose of everything in the universe. Above all, He’s going
to determine the purpose of your life and the purpose of mine. Obviously, if He is a cruel tyrant or a
despotic monster, then He will not be concerned if we live the same way. But if He is honest and thoughtful,
then He may require us to be the same.
In other words, it is vitally important that we not only know that there is some Being beyond the sky that is
responsible for the whole origin of the world, even if He has used the evolutionary process to bring it about.
It is not only important that we know that, but it is vitally important that we know what kind of Being He is,
and what kind of reason He had in the back of His mind in making us, because that will vitally affect our own
life and the future of our own life. Is there any way in which you can tell what this Being is like? Is there
any way in which we can tell the kind of person he is?
Of course, the truth is, you can’t really tell what a person is like just by studying his creation. You can’t
really tell what the Supreme Being behind the universe is like simply by studying the universe. If He is a
powerful a person as is required to create this massive universe, then He’s certainly too powerful a person
for you and me to be able to grab an autograph from. It doesn’t matter how many shots we shoot deep into
space. We will never be able to find out the kind of Being He is unless He chooses to communicate to us in
some way, and to let us know the kind of Being He is, and the kind of person He is. If he doesn’t choose to
express Himself or reveal Himself to us human beings, there is no way in which a lesser being can come to
understand the character of a greater being.
In other words, the real issue is not just the existence of circumstantial evidence like the order and design
of the universe and the personableness of us human beings, and the existence of a sense of moral obligation,
and a conviction of intuition that there is such a Being, but the more important issue is, is there any
empirical evidence that this Creator exists? Is there any touch and see evidence, not just inferential
evidence — not just inferences that we draw from what we observe from the universe — but is there any actual
empirical evidence that He exists?
Is there any evidence that He has ever tried to communicate with us? Is there any evidence of signals from
outer space that would let us know that such a Creator is in existence? This is the central question for those
of us who want to know what the Being behind the universe is like. The central question is, has He ever
spoken, and have we any reliable record of what He said?
Down through the centuries, many of our forefathers have professed to tell us the very words that the Supreme
Being has spoken and the very deeds that He has done. This kind of evidence goes way beyond the kind of
circumstantial evidence that we have been discussing over these past weeks. Because if such evidence of
communication from the Supreme Being to us creatures exists in touch and see form, then there is every hope
that we will be able to discover why we are here on this earth. We will be able to understand the purpose that
this Supreme Being had in making us. Above all, we will be able to make sense of our lives. We will be able to
integrate knowledge so that we can see our purpose and the kind of life we need to live in order to fulfill
the hopes that this Supreme Being had for us.
If such evidence exists, then all the clouds of unknowing, all the mysteries of agnosticism, all the
uncertainty and hopelessness and despair of our bewilderment in this present, modern world will disappear and
will be replaced by a brightness of sunshine and certainty and confidence that will give direction and
motivation and a firm grip to our lives. So, it is vitally important that we begin to examine the evidence in
our world of this Creator’s communications to us.
What is God Like? -
What is the Meaning of Life?
What is God Like?
by Ernest O’Neill
Have you ever received any communication from outer space? I can imagine you saying, “What kind of program is
this that I’ve tuned into?” But you know, there’s a lot of talk about this kind of thing. Not only old 3PO and
R2-D2 [Star Wars characters], but all kinds of other funny creatures have burst upon our consciousness in
recent years through the silver screen.
We’ve often talked humorously at times. At other times, we’ve talked rather mysteriously about communications
from outer space. What I’m asking, of course, is have you ever received any communications from any being from
beyond this world that would give you any reason for believing that there is a God, that there is a Creator?
That’s the kind of question that has fascinated mankind down through the centuries. He has seen many reasons
for believing that there should be a God and that there should be a Supreme Being. He has searched far and
wide to find out if this Creator has ever tried to communicate with him. Down through the years, different men
and women have indicated that they have had communications from outer space, and they have known what the
Creator is like. They have come to understand His nature.
These communications have taken many forms. Here, for instance, is one of them. It’s from Greek literature,
Homer. He is the earliest Greek writer whose works are available to us.
In 900 B.C., he described the scene as God spoke in heaven. Here is what he says: “Zeus now addressed the
immortals, ‘What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their
troubles when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which destiny allots
Now, from this incident, we can believe that supreme being Zeus is expressing to his fellow gods resentment
that us human beings blame them for our misfortunes. But, wait a minute. We can’t take these words of Homer as
a real account of the words of the Supreme Being behind the universe. They’re just the product of Homer’s
imagination. You remember the Odyssey is simply a novel about the imaginary wanderings of Odysseus on his way
home from the sack of Troy. What we’re dealing with is myth — imaginary stories built on a skeleton basis of
real military history. So, we are reading here the words that Homer made up in his own imagination.
If we’re getting anything about God at all, we’re getting only Homer’s subjective idea of what the Creator
might say, but not even Homer claims to be giving us actual words spoken by the Supreme Being behind the
universe. This is an important distinction to make in our search for words and communications of the Creator
of the universe.
It’s an important distinction, the difference between the myth made up by a man’s imagination and the history
of what actually happened in time-and-space. So, it is vital that at the very beginning of our search to find
out if the Creator behind the universe has ever communicated to mankind, it’s vital to establish that we’re
not looking for myths. We’re not looking for imaginary conversations that poets like Homer created.
We’re not looking for the product of a literary imagination. We need to distinguish clearly between myths like
the Greek and Roman myths that were written by the great writers that we have all been taught to respect for
their literary attainments down through the centuries. We need to distinguish clearly between their poetic and
literary creations and imaginings and actual facts about the Supreme Being behind the universe.
Homer never claimed to be telling us what the Creator of the universe actually said. He was simply making up a
story of what he thought might be going on in heaven. But he was not claiming to be able to tell us what was
going on in heaven. So many of us glibly say, “Oh, well. There are all kinds of books that purport to tell us
what the Creator of the universe has communicated to mankind.”
Yes, but let’s eliminate from that the mythological books, the books that do not claim to be anything other
than literary imagination and creative stories built on a skeleton of facts. We need to make that clear
distinction: that the Greek and Roman myths that so many of us read of in our school days have nothing to do
with men who have claimed to actually hear from God. These authors were simply poets and they don’t claim to
be anything else but that.
In our search, therefore, for any verbal communication that the Creator has made to mankind, let us leave
aside the purely literary imaginative creations of the Greek and Latin myths, and let us turn to some of the
outstanding human beings who have been regarded by millions as religious leaders, men who claim to be able to
tell us something about the reality behind the universe.
In other words, let us turn from purely literary creations, and let us turn to human beings that many of us
have regarded as authorities –people who could tell us what the Creator of the universe is really like and
who could tell us what He has said. One of these men lived about 500 B.C. and was regarded by millions as a
trustworthy religious leader. The basis of his authority is in the heart of his own personal experience.
It is described in the following passages of the Buddhist scriptures:
“When the great seer had comprehended that where there is no ignorance whatever, there also the Karma
formations are stopped, then he had achieved a correct knowledge of all there is to be known. He stood out in
the world as a Buddha. He passed through the eight stages of transcendent insight and quickly reached their
highest point. From the summit of the world downwards, he could detect no self anywhere. Like the fire when
its fuel is burned up, he became tranquil. He had reached perfection and thought to himself, ‘this is the
authentic way on which in the past so many great seers, who also know all higher and all lower things, have
traveled on to ultimate and real truth. I have obtained it.'”
This, of course, is the man known as Buddha. But can you see any mention of the Creator in these words? The
truth is that there is none. The truth is that Buddha himself made little mention of God. Indeed, it is
doubtful if he actually believed in a personal, objective Creator. He regarded God as more of a state to be
achieved and experienced.
Actually, he stressed a method of transcendental meditation that helped people adjust psychologically and
psychically to an imperfect world. This was his emphasis, rather than any claim to be able to tell us what the
Creator was thinking. In other words, when we talk about Buddha, as someone who can tell us what the Creator
has actually said to mankind, we are actually contradicting Buddha himself, because he himself never believed
in that kind of a Creator.
Is there any other way, or any other evidence of what the Creator has communicated to us? Let’s talk a little
more about that tomorrow.
Evidence for God’s Existence – Buddha Mohammed? -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Evidence for God’s Existence – Buddha? Muhammad?
by Ernest O’Neill
Why are we alive? Why are you alive? What’s the purpose of your life? What are you here for? Most of us
answer, “I haven’t a clue.” Indeed, many of us would say, “There’s so little meaning to any of life now, that
it’s not surprising we haven’t a clue.” Yet, we do admit there’s a great deal of order and purpose evident in
As we look at the regular orbiting of the stars and planets around each other, and as we look at the working
of our own brain, and the fact that we still have not been able to create a computer that can discern all the
fine perceptions and distinctions that our brain is capable of, we begin to realize that there is an uncommon
degree of order and purpose and design evident in our world.
Whatever people may say about the chance explosions that have produced it, many of us feel it is just too
complex to have happened by luck or by chance. We feel there just has to be some explanation greater than the
“big bang” theory, or greater than an evolutionary hypothesis that is independent of deliberate plan and
design by an intellect. There has to be something greater than that to explain the existence of our world and
of us human beings. So, many of us have come to the conclusion that there is lots of circumstantial evidence
that there must be some kind of Supreme Being behind it all.
Yet, many of us, too, feel, “Well, if there is a Supreme Being, wouldn’t He try to communicate with us in some
way? I mean, if there really is an intellectual Mind out there beyond space, that has some point in making us,
wouldn’t you think He would tell us? Wouldn’t He try to get in touch with us in some way? Wouldn’t He explain
to us what it was all for, and what was His aim in doing it? Surely, surely, if there is a Creator, He would
get through to us somehow or other.”
Of course, what we have been discussing over the past few programs is that you would think if there is a
Supreme Being behind the universe who knows why He made it and what the purpose of our lives is, you would
think then, that He would explain that to us in some way, that He would get in touch with us somehow or other.
Of course, down through the years, different human beings have claimed that they could tell what the Creator
was saying to us in our world.
You remember, we examined the Greek and Roman myths and pointed out, of course, that people like Homer and
Virgil were not at all claiming seriously to be telling us what the Creator of the universe was saying. They
were simply imagining as part of a fiction that they created in a literary kind of way, they were simply
trying to imagine what the Creator of the universe might say. They weren’t claiming to tell us what He said.
Then, you remember, yesterday we discussed another man who many people regard as an authority on what the
Creator of the universe is saying –the man called Buddha. We saw that even in his explanation of the
original, subjective experience that he had, whereby he entered into a kind of transcendental experience, that
he never once mentioned the Creator in it.
Indeed, he really didn’t believe in a personal Creator. He believed in a kind of cosmic force or cosmic
presence in the world in which you could somehow become lost, but he didn’t believe in a personal God himself.
Of course, there is another problem with the Buddhist scriptures. Buddhists have a different attitude to
history than Westerners.
The result is, they make no distinction between what was written in 500 B.C., when Buddha was alive, and what
was written over the next 1500 years, so that even the original words of Buddha are very difficult to separate
from the mixture of comment and myth, that in the Tibetan scriptures, extends to 325 volumes.
In our search, then, for verbal communications from our Creator, let’s lay aside the non-historical emphasis
which we find in the mixture of early and late commentary on the psychic life that characterizes collections
such as the Buddhist scriptures. In other words, let us be very clear that when we look at the Buddhist
scriptures, we’re looking not at a set piece of history.
We’re looking at a long accumulation of literature on psychic experience and transcendental meditation that
has been added to and has been changed and given different slants over centuries and centuries. So, let us be
careful before we say, “Oh well, Buddha, he can tell you what the Creator of the world is saying.” No. He
himself hardly believed that there was a personal Creator.
When you begin to look into the Buddhist scriptures, you have great difficulty distinguishing what happened in
Buddha’s own lifetime, and what has been added to those scriptures, and has been imagined of his life over
hundreds and thousands of years of literary editions and editings. Let’s turn, therefore, to some scriptures
which make a distinction between the original record and later commentaries that accredited to it.
Around the year 600 A.D. a man called Muhammad was asleep, or in a trance, when the angel Gabriel came to him
and said, “Recite.” He replied, “What shall I recite?” The order was repeated until the angel himself said,
“Recite in the name of your Lord, the Creator, who created man from clots of blood. Recite! Your Lord is the
most bounteous one, who by the pen has taught mankind things they did not know.” When he awoke, these words,
we are told, seemed to be inscribed upon his heart.
Thus, according to Muslim tradition, this was the beginning of the revelations that Muhammad continued to
receive about God.
They were remembered by other people before being officially collected about the year 650 A.D. In them,
Muhammad tells us that the Supreme Being is merciful and forgiving, stern in retribution and justice, and
demands faith in his apostle Muhammad.
Where does Muhammad get this information? Obviously, since he called mankind back to the religion of Abraham,
he was able to get much of it from the original information that he read in the Old Testament. So a lot of
what Muhammad writes is simply a repetition of the Old Testament. The rest of it, however, he derived from
subjective, mystical experiences or revelations.
Is there any way to confirm that these subjective insights actually came from the Creator? There is no way to
get inside a man’s mind and prove that the ideas existing there are from an external source, rather than from
his own imagination. In other words, Muhammad’s ideas may exist simply in his own mind. We have no way of
corroborating. We are at the mercy of one man’s subjective experiences.
This, then, is one of the limitations of the information that Muhammad has given us about the Supreme Being
behind the universe. When he tells us what the Creator of the universe has said, he’s telling us simply what
he had in his own subjective experience. Is there any evidence that is more reliable than that?
Review of Why we are Alive -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Why Are We Alive? Review
by Ernest O’Neill
Why do you think you’re here — not just sitting here in this traffic jam — but why are you here at all? Why
are you alive? Many of us say, “That’s much too big a question for me to answer. My problem is staying alive.
My problem is just earning enough money to pay the rent next month. I haven’t time for cosmic questions like,
why am I alive? That’s all right for wealthy people or people who have time to idle away in such philosophical
vagaries, but I myself do not have time for that kind of question.”
Yet, it is crucial that you have some answer to that question, isn’t it? You may say, “No, it’s not. I mean,
my job is just to get what food and shelter I need for today, so that I can get up again tomorrow.”
But why get up again tomorrow?
You may say, “Well, yeah, that’s exactly the question I’ve often put to myself. When I think of the
meaningless routine that I’m involved in day after day, I do wonder that at times. Why bother? Why get up and
go through it all again? But, I really can’t think of an alternative. I don’t think I’m a suicide type. I
don’t see any sense in that. I can’t find any books that help me to understand life better.”
“To tell you the truth, as I look around at everybody else, I don’t see anybody else understanding it any
better, so I think we’re all in the same little rat race. We’re just on a kind of treadmill and we’re just
walking and walking and walking because there’s nothing else to do. It’s like the people who climb mountains
because the mountain is there. That’s what I’m doing. I’m living day after day, driving this car to work,
coming back to this house because it’s here. What else is there to do?”
Yet, it is true that we human beings are different from animals, isn’t it? I mean, we are able to reflect on
what we’re doing. The psychologists call it a self-critical faculty. We are able to look at ourselves as in a
mirror and judge what we’re doing and identify whether it is the right thing or not. We’re even able to
evaluate it. You do that in your work probably. You evaluate where you are in your job or your individual
piece of work that you’re doing today or your career generally. You come to the end of a day and you look back
on the day. You may not want to look back on it, but you do, and you evaluate what you’ve done.
Now, a little dog, believe it or not, cannot do that. An animal does not have that mysterious ability to look
at itself and judge what it’s doing. It simply can’t do it. Even if it could do it, it doesn’t have anything
to judge itself against. A little animal lives a simply unconscious life.
You may say, “Well, that’s what I’d like to do. I’d just like to live an unconscious life. Indeed, that’s what
I try to do. I try to enter into unconsciousness as often as I can with sleeping, if I can get a good sleep,
and drinking, if I can really get totally drunk and zonked. Then, I seem to be able to bear it a little
better. I only wish I could work out how to do my job completely unconscious. (In other words, completely
drunk.) I’ve tried drugs and that’s what I’d like to do with the drugs. If I could blot everything out, if I
could “make the world go away” as that old song said, then I think I could live like an unconscious little
animal as you described the dog is doing.”
But, it’s true that you are more than a dog, aren’t you? You are more than an animal that lives that kind of
almost mindless existence. You obviously have abilities to think about these things. You may say, “Yes, I
have, but I don’t want to think about them. I mean, my old grandmother used to say, ‘Don’t think too much’,
and that’s my aim. I don’t want to think too much about these things. It’s okay for educated people. It’s all
right for those people who like to philosophize, but it isn’t very productive. So, I really don’t want to
bother with that question, ‘Why am I alive?'”
Yet, you know your life is going to end sometime, and sooner or later, you’re going to have to find out why
you were alive and what you were here to do. You may say, “Yes, but I don’t think I have to deal with that
yet. I’ll deal with it, perhaps, when I come to the end of my life. I’ll deal with it when I get older. I’ll
deal with it when I’m eighty-five or eighty, but I don’t have to deal with it now.”
Yet, don’t you agree, that there are many things in your life at present that are there because you have
certain ideas of what life is about. You may say, “Well, you don’t know why you’re alive.” Yet, you probably
would admit you are alive at the moment, living day by day to make money. You may say, “Yes, well, I have to
make money, otherwise, I couldn’t have food and I couldn’t have clothing.”
Still, that is a reason that you have chosen for being alive. You are in the process of answering the question
of why you’re alive at this moment by the way you live. You may say, “Well, yeah, yeah, that’s true I suppose.
That’s right. Some people have turned away from the philosophical question and have started to answer the
question by just living to be happy. So, I suppose you’re right. We are in some sense answering the question
right now by the way we’re living.”
That’s why I ask you to look at the question again. Whether you like it or not, you are answering the question
in the way you live at this present time. It’s very important that you don’t answer it by default, that you
don’t answer it while thinking that you’re not answering it. If you do that, then you’re not giving the most
important question in the world your best attempts and your best thought and your best ability.
You’re really answering it by default. You’re answering it by not answering it. You’re answering it by
expedience, by just doing what seems to be here to do. You’re not really giving it the kind of thought that
your mind is capable of. In other words, it’s important to deal with the question of “Why you’re alive.”
Because, whether you like it or not, you’re answering it by the way you live at this present time.
One certainly doesn’t want to treat as important and vital a question as this with less than one’s full
ability and less than one’s full reflection and analysis. If you say, “Why not?” Well, because it’s obviously
the most important question in the world. If I asked you, “Why are you buying that car?”, you wouldn’t say,
“Because it’s there.”
If I said, “Why are you taking that job?” you wouldn’t say, “Because it’s there.” You normally say, “Well, I’m
buying that car because I like the paint job, or because I like the size of the engine, or I like its handling
on corners. Or, I’m buying this house because I like the district it’s in or the area or the neighborhood, or
I like the look of the house or the spaciousness of the living room.” In other words, in ordinary, everyday
life, you always give your very best thought to the important questions.
That’s why it seems important in these days, when you are able to think about it, to think about the question,
“Why are you alive? Why are you here?” That’s the question that we would just like to summarize and answer
tomorrow for a few moments.
Did God Communicate to us Through Buddha or Mohammed? -
What is the Meaning of Life?
Did God Communicate to us Through Buddha or Muhammad?
by Ernest O’Neill
“Why are you alive?” That’s the question we’re discussing on this program at this time each day. What we said
yesterday was it is a vital question to give your best thoughts to, because it is the most important question
of all. It is quite important why you’re buying that house or why you’re taking that job, but it is even more
important to be able to answer the question, “Why are you alive at all?”
Many of us have said, “Well,I don’t know. I just do not know why I’m alive, and I can’t seem to find anyone
who can answer that question. Though I do see that there does seem to be a great deal of purpose in the way
the birds and the animals operate, and I can see a great deal of purpose in the way nature operates, and I can
see that somebody or something has brought order and design into the way the crops grow and ripen and the way
the sun cooperates with them.
I can see great order and design and purpose in the way even my own body works. So, all around me I can see
purpose and design and reason; but I must admit, I cannot see the reason for my own life. I cannot see why I
am alive or why all we human beings are alive. I don’t really know how to find out. The only thing I can think
of is that there must be some “Power” or some “Thing” behind this universe that knows why it created it in the
“I do see quite clearly that evolution doesn’t explain how the first single cell amoeba came into existence. I
can see that the big bang theory doesn’t explain what exploded or Who made what exploded. I know full well
that the origin of the world is something that the theories of evolution do not even claim to explain. I don’t
know what did originate the world. I don’t know why it is here.”
“I see that there is evidence that whatever “Power” produced it does have intellect or reasoning power.
Otherwise, you couldn’t have the chart of the elements organized in such a methodical fashion. I do see that
our scientists are month by month discovering new beauty and new order in even the smallest parts of our
“We do get the impression that there is more and more order built more and more deeply into the whole universe
than we ever suspected. There are indications and clues left by some great “Mind” that there is an Intellect
behind the universe. I can’t tell anymore about that Intellect than that the Intellect is very clever and is
very far-seeing and presumably is much more powerful than our main frame computers. I don’t understand any
more than that. I can see that this Creator or Force or Supreme Being must be at least as personable as we are
in order to make persons because we persons seem to be the highest type of life here on this earth as far as
we can understand.”
“So, presumably, the “Thing” or the “Force” that made the world and made us is at least as personable as we
are and presumably, much more personable. I can see the origin of this universe is probably not just some
impersonal force. It is not just some blind evolutionary process. It is an Intellect and probably a personal
Intellect. I can see, too, that undoubtedly, I feel within me a desire to be good, even though I’m not good. I
find within me something that tells me I ought not to tell lies even though I tell lies. I find something
within me that tells me I should not lose my temper, even though I find it easier to lose my temper. I do see
that even within me there seem to be some movements or motivations or some conscience that seems to be a
message from beyond because it is higher than I myself am. It urges me to live higher than I do.”
“I can see that it’s not enough just to call it education and to say that morality and conscience and a sense
of obligation to live better than you are is due to education because all of us seem to feel that it is wrong
to be cowardly, it is wrong to be selfish. Even if we are primitive tribesmen we feel that. I do see that
there is some evidence to suggest that behind this universe there is some “Thing” or some “One” that is
intelligent and that is personal and that is trying to get through to us some ideas or some thoughts or some
goals that He wants us to fulfill. But beyond that, I can’t tell anything.”
“I don’t see how I can find out why I’m here in this world, unless I find out why the world is here. I don’t
think I can find out why the world is here, unless somehow or other, the “Being” or the “Force” behind the
world speaks to me or communicates to us. I certainly can’t possibly wring it from Him myself. He is obviously
all powerful, much greater than me so I cannot, by studying the world, find out what He is like. Yet, it is
pretty important in order to answer your question, ‘Why am I alive?’ I really have to answer the question,
‘Why is the world here?’ To answer that question, I really have to be in touch with whatever produced this
world. I cannot see how to get that kind of communication.”
Of course, what we have been sharing is that down through the centuries, different men have claimed to be able
to tell us what that communication was and have claimed to be able to tell us what the maker of the universe
was saying to us. You remember, we mentioned that some of us say, “Look. Everybody is in that game. Everybody
is trying to tell what the Supreme Being behind the universe is thinking.”
Obviously, they’re in that game for their own interest, because if they can do that, they can gain great
control over people. That’s why the witch doctors got into witch doctoring. That’s why ministers get into
ministering. That’s why everybody gets into religion, because they have power over their fellow human beings
if they are able to tell them what the Supreme Being behind the universe is thinking.
So, everybody’s in that game. How can you tell one from the other? Well, there are ways in which you can
analyze these kinds of people that have tried to tell us what was coming from outer space. For instance, many
of us think, “Oh, the Greeks and the Romans — they had ideas of God. I mean, Homer used to talk about Zeus
and all the other gods.”
But, it is vital for us to see that when the Greek and Roman writers talked about gods, they were just talking
about myths that were well known in their own society. When Homer wrote about Zeus talking to the other
immortals beside him, he was simply creating his own imaginary ideas of what the gods might say to one
It was kind of a popular mythology that they all accepted. They didn’t think for one moment that they had got
a message from God, himself, as to what he actually did say at that time. It’s probably important for those of
us who have ever read the Greek and Roman myths to make sure that we see that they are myths.
Then, some of us look at a person like Buddha or some of the other great religious leaders and say, “Well they
tell us about God.” Many, like Buddha, didn’t even believe that there was a God. Buddha was interested in a
psychological means of being delivered from the pain in this world through negating the self and negating
desires. He really didn’t tell much about God, nor did he really believe that there was a personal God in the
sense that we think of a personal God.
Some of us of course say, “Well, no, but look at Muhammad. You can look at his life, and he claimed that he
could tell what God was like. Yet, when you begin to examine Muhammad’s, you see that he, himself, though he
was looked up to by many people as a leader, disclaimed any power to perform miracles.
He was involved in all kinds of vengeful and sinful incidences. He died like an ordinary man at the end of the
life. In other words, Muhammad was very much just one of us — who took much of what he found in the Old
Testament and elaborated it.
Is there anyone that has actually told us what God is like? Is there any evidence from outside space that
helps us to understand what the Supreme Being behind the universe may be like? We believe there is, and we’ll
begin to talk about that next time.