Description: Explanation of the nature of mankind: body, soul and spirit
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Body, Soul and Spirit of Man
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? Why are we here? What’s the purpose of it all? That’s what we’re discussing on
this program each day. What we’re beginning to talk about is the plan that the Supreme Being behind the
universe had in mind when He made us, and why He made us the way He did. One of the problems that many of us
have in our own personal lives is the whole place of our emotions in our own life.
We wonder to what extent our emotions should rule us. Yet, we have real trouble controlling our emotions. We
have great difficulty knowing exactly the place of the intellect in making decisions. We wonder at times
whether our will should rule our minds or our minds should rule our will. Now, it’s interesting that all those
questions are brought together in some kind of synthesis when we begin to study the way the Supreme Being
behind the universe made us.
You remember, we shared a few days ago the verse that is found in the old book of Genesis. We’ve all been so
skeptical about it over the years that we probably have tended to commit it to the ash pit and regard it as
pure myth. Of course, it’s not at all. It’s one of the most remarkable documents that we have in our world. It
has received the respect of more of our great minds down through the centuries than probably any other book.
It itself is so ancient that it is very believable that in fact the Supreme Being behind the universe did
actually explain personally to Moses what had happened when He first made the world. So, it is actually a very
valuable book, but I’m not even going to try to justify it or defend it intellectually to you in these talks.
I simply want you to examine the explanation that is given there of our origin. Just check out — does it
confirm what we’re experiencing in our own lives?
Does it throw any light on those questions that I mentioned at the beginning of the place of the intellect or
the place of the emotions in our personal lives? Anyway, the verse that we were looking at is Genesis 2:7 —
and if you have a Bible, you can look it up some time at home. The way it’s translated in the one I have is
like this. It’s Genesis 2:7, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being.”
Now, forget all the photographic way that is described. Don’t forget that God the Creator was presenting this
to mankind in mankind’s childhood. Mankind has not always been brilliant in simultaneous equations. He has not
always been excellent at how to operate Lotus 1-2-3 on the computer. He has not always been superb at working
out a theory of relativity. So, in the early days, he had all kinds of primitive ideas. It is in the light of
those ideas that God had to explain himself.
So, please don’t get uppity and over sophisticated about it. In fact, the heart of man is explained very well
in that verse, “The Lord God formed man of dust of the ground.” Actually, when some guy sooner or later throws
some ashes on the top of your coffin or your casket and says, “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, earth to earth.
From earth you came and to earth you will return” that’s because in fact, your body is made of dirt — earth
Actually, if you go back to one of your grandparent’s coffin, and open it up, you’ll probably see just a
little heap of dust if it’s been long enough. The body is worth, what did they say in the old financial
system, about seven and six pence? And I don’t know if it’s worth a pound today. If you break down all the
chemicals in your body, and melt it all down and sell them to somebody, you’ll probably get a pound for it.
So, it is true that whoever made the world — it seems that in fact, the Father of this man Jesus made the
world — whoever made the world, it is true that our bodies are made just of dust. They’re made just of earth.
So, it’s an indication that certainly this verse does not contradict the facts in that regard. Then you
remember the verse goes on, “The Lord God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
Now, it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t a big deal whether He breathed it through our nostrils or breathed it
through our mouths. Obviously, God explained it to mankind in his childhood in that way so he would understand
it. Presumably, man in his childhood felt that he breathed air through his nostrils. So God said, “I breathed
into your nostrils the breath of life.” It wasn’t of course just physical life.
In fact, it’s very interesting. The Hebrew word for breath there is the word “ruach”. “Ruach” doesn’t only
mean breath, or air or wind. It actually means spirit also. The intention of the verse is to show that the
Creator of the universe breathed into you and me, His own Spirit. Now, if you say about someone, “Ah, he has a
lovely spirit, hasn’t he? He’s a great spirit.” Or you say, “Boy, Churchill had a great spirit, hadn’t he?”
You mean, it’s the very essence of man. He had a great attitude toward life.
He had a great essence inside himself; that was the very essence of him. When you talk about Churchill’s
spirit you are saying what Churchill really was himself. That’s probably what your spirit is. Your spirit is
probably the real you. As we said a few days ago, “What a man is when he is alone, that he is and nothing
more.” That’s probably you. That’s your spirit.
It’s interesting that the verse says, “the spirit of life”. Actually, the Hebrew word for life is “lives”.
It’s actually, “the spirit of lives”. So, the verse indicates that the Creator of the universe breathed into
this body the spirit of lives…not only a kind of spirit life but also other lives as well. You begin to see
the meaning of that when you go to the last part of the verse, because it says “…and man as a result, became
a living being.” That’s the Revised Standard Version translation.
But the old King James is probably nearer to Hebrew because it says, “and man became a living soul.” The
Hebrew word is “nephesh”. It means soul. It’s as if, you know, the Creator took the body from the dust,
breathed into it its spirit. Then, those two combined then produced a soul. The soul is in Greek, “psuche”.
That becomes in our English language “psyche”. Of course, that gives us our word psychology and psychological.
The soul is actually the psychological part of us: the mind, the emotions and the will. “And man became a
So the explanation there given back in Genesis is that we exist on three different levels. That’s why we’re
different from the animals. We have a spirit inside us, as if your spirit is the real you, and round that you
wore like a coat your soul or the psychological part of you — and around that you wore a coat around your
body. So, you actually operate on three different levels of consciousness.
Your spirit is conscious of God, or can be. Your soul is conscious of yourself; it’s the self-conscious part
of you (the mind, emotions and will). The body is the part that is conscious of the five senses of the world,
and of the other people in it and of the other things in it. That is a very good outline of what you and I
know to be our experience today. We would say, “Yeah, we do exist at those levels. We do exist at a physical
level, at a mental, and emotional and volitional level. We do seem to exist at a spirit level also.”
So, that corresponds to what we have experienced. It is obvious that we are all different in our experiences
of those levels. Some of us who are what they would call in America “jocks” or sport types, and very physical
types, we are preoccupied with the body. We are preoccupied with the physical; preoccupied almost with
responding at a body level to almost everything. Some of us are a little more mental. Maybe an Einstein is a
highly intellectual and exists to a great extent in the intellect.
Maybe Horowitz or maybe Rubinstein lived much more on the emotional level. Maybe some people with strong wills
live on the volitional level. I don’t know who lives exactly on the spirit level. Some spiritualists live on
the spirit level. We believe that it is possible for us ordinary people to live on the spirit level. But that
is the general outline that is given there of the origin and the make-up of our personalities. Let’s talk a
little more about the Maker’s plan, when He made us like that, tomorrow.