WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?

Can Other Religions Tell us What God is Like?

by Ernest O'Neill

Program 32

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 we'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 Mohammed, 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 Mohammed 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 vengence. In fact, Mohammed's life itself was full of acts of vengence 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.

Mohammed 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 Mohammed had great respect for Abraham, and often quoted the things that Abraham said about God himself. So much of what Mohammed says about God, especially when he talks about God as a God of mercy, has come directly from our Old Testament that, of course, preceeded Mohammed's life by thousands of years.

So, one of the shortcomings of Mohammed'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 Mohammed himself lived. Another problem is that anything that Mohammed himself added to that was affected by this very great limitation, that Mohammed 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 Mohammed'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?" Mohammed 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 Ramidan, when the angel Gabriel came to Mohammed 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 Mohammed, himself. If you take the further step and say, "How do we know that it bears any real 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 Mohammed'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 Mohammed'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 vengence 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 Sypreme 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 Mohammed'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 Mohammed'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.

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