Description: Is there a personal being? A look at other religions.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
Personal God – Various Religions
by Ernest O’Neill
What is the meaning of life? That’s what we’re discussing here on this program. What we have been saying is,
it’s very difficult to tell what the meaning of life is from within the world itself. That’s why, you
remember, someone wrote that musical, “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off.” One of our own guys here in England
wrote it here years ago.
Stop the world, I want to get off! I just want to get off it! Another reason for getting off it is, “If I
could get off it, I could look at it and maybe see what the purpose of it all is.” So, many of us have thought
I’d love to get off this world in order to look at my life and see what’s happening.
So, “What is the meaning of life?” is the question that, in a sense, we feel can only be answered from outside
of life itself. That’s why we’ve been saying during these few days, that the only way to get an answer to that
question of the meaning of life is to get it from outside life itself, from beyond the world.
We’ve shared that if there is a Supreme Being who is behind this world of order and design, and this world of
personality that we’ve experienced, if there is some kind of personal intellect out there, then surely that
intellect would try to communicate with us in some way in order to let us know why we were here and what the
purpose of it all was.
We shared yesterday that, of course, one man who many people regard as claiming to do that is Buddha. But, in
fact, as we examined Buddha’s life, we see that Buddha did not really believe that there was a personal
Supreme Being. He did not talk much about a Creator. He talked primarily about a method of psychological and
mystical deliverance from the power of self, and from the power of pain and desire through meditation.
Are there any others who have claimed to tell us, perhaps more objectively, what the God or the Supreme Being
behind the universe was like? Yes, you know well that there is a man called Muhammad, who lived about the year
500 A.D.. There are millions of people who follow the religion of Islam who respect him greatly.
They feel that Muhammad is one man who can tell us that God is a God of mercy. He is also a God of great wrath
and he is a God of vengeance. In fact, Muhammad’s life itself was full of acts of vengeance and full of
conflicts of all kinds. Indeed, many of us can see the effect of that kind of view of the creator of the
universe in the holy wars that many engage in in these days, in the name of Islam.
Muhammad was a man who claimed to be able to tell us what the Supreme Being of the universe was like and what
kind of thing he was saying to us. However, if you examine the Islam scriptures that are known as the Koran,
you’ll find that many of them simply contain long repetitions from what we know as the Old Testament.
Of course, you remember that Muhammad had great respect for Abraham, and often quoted the things that Abraham
said about God himself. So much of what Muhammad says about God, especially when he talks about God as a God
of mercy, has come directly from our Old Testament that, of course, preceded Muhammad’s life by thousands of
So, one of the shortcomings of Muhammad’s explanation of what the Creator behind the universe is saying is
that it is a copy of what we already received thousands of years before Muhammad himself lived. Another
problem is that anything that Muhammad himself added to that was affected by this very great limitation, that
Muhammad was a man like ourselves.
He was a man like Einstein. He died like a dog and was buried, and was put in a grave out of which he was
never raised. In other words, when we listen to Muhammad’s explanation of what the Creator of the universe is
like, and when we begin to ask ourselves, “Where did he get this information from?” Muhammad explains very
clearly where he got it. He got it from personal revelations; personal mystic revelations.
According to Muslim tradition, one was received one night in Ramadan, when the angel Gabriel came to Muhammad
and said, “Recite.” He replied, “What shall I recite?” The order was repeated three times 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 you ask where that information came from, you have to answer, it came from a personal, subjective,
mystical experience of Muhammad himself. If you take the further step and say, “How do we know that it bears
any real relationship to objective reality?” we have to answer: we don’t know. You can say, “I had a dream
last night, and I dreamed that God was a green leprechaun.” And there’s nothing I can do to find out whether
God is a green leprechaun.
I’ll always be brought back right to your own dream. I’ll always be drawn right back to Muhammad’s own
revelations, his own personal, subjective experiences. I can never go beyond his words that tell me, “Believe
me, this is what happened in my mystical experience.” Of course, I’m forced to ask him, “Yes, but how can I be
sure that there is some objective reality that answers to your subjective experience?”
That is the great limitation of Muhammad’s revelation, however greatly respected it is in this world, yet it
is a personal, subjective, mystical experience that he has had himself and he can never take us outside that
experience. He can simply say to us, “You have to take my word for it.”
Then, when we look at his life and we see that he was an ordinary man like the rest of us, not only moved
often by vengeance and hate, but also a man who died like a dog, who died like the rest of us, who was buried
like the rest of us, and never left this earth, then we’re forced to ask the question, “Why? Why should I
believe that this man can tell me what the Supreme Being beyond the universe is like when he has never left
this earth?” There is no evidence that he ever left this earth and came back to tell us. There is only
evidence that he was a human being just like the rest of us.
Of course, this is the same story when you enter the world of Hinduism. It is an ancient, mystical series of
myths and of mystical experiences and psychical experiences that have been built up over thousands and
thousands of years.
Though you can study Muhammad’s life, and you can see that he lived so many years and was born and died, you
cannot do that with Hinduism, because Hinduism is a mixture of animism: a belief in the spirits that make the
branches of the trees move in the wind. It is a mixture of psychic experiences. It’s a mixture of
auto-suggestion and the power of positive thinking.
It’s a mixture of ancient legends that are so hideous and grotesque that the ordinary civilized intellect
rebels against them as coming from anywhere other than the lowest sources of man’s imagination. Hinduism is a
vast diverse mixture of mystical, subjective experiences, and legends and myths that have no kind of proof
behind them at all.
So, it is very difficult. If it’s difficult to get hold of Muhammad’s experience, it is impossible to get hold
of the diverse series of legends and myths that have accumulated over thousands of years and that constitute
the religion that is known as Hinduism.
So, when we ask, “Is there any way of telling what the Supreme Being behind the universe is like? Is there any
signal that He has sent to us?” We are left, when we examine Islam and Hinduism and Buddhism, with the answer,
“we can’t see any sure record of such a revelation.” Is there, then, any such revelation anywhere in the
universe? Let’s try to talk about that tomorrow.