I wonder if you have given much thought to the meaning of life–where you came from and where you are going. When you are very young I suppose you don’t think much about your end, how it will come, and what lies beyond, if anything; but as you get older these thoughts begin to parade through your mind. You see that you have just so much time left. In my case, for instance, most of it lies behind me. [ Editor’s note: At this time, Roy was unaware of how soon he would be undergoing heart surgery.] Precious little lies ahead, so it’s important that I dig around the roots a little bit to find out why I’m here, to explore more fully the reason for my existence, and hopefully to fulfill it.
It seems to me that human beings are not just animals all the way down to their marrow. There is something different about us humans that differentiates us from the beasts of the field. And it is called “conscience.” It is your conscious to which I am appealing, your sense of right and wrong. I know that you know what is right and what is wrong. Every halfway decent person knows what fair and unfair are. Even small children know it. If another kid takes a child’s toy, pulls it out of his hand, he knows that it’s not fair. He sees the injustices in the world. We are all born subject to injustice; it seems that injustice precedes us in the world.
The question is: how do you effect justice? How do you survive injustice? Why not just go along to get along, like the evolved animal being some people say we are? I don’t’ agree with them, of course, when they advise us to get all the gusto we can and just enjoy ourselves, take as much as we can before we kick off.
Sooner of later, such an attitude will lead to conflict. But suppose it seems to be succeeding for you? You have all the money in the world–well, more than enough, a nice car, family perhaps, and a successful business–still, something’s wrong, isn’t it? Something is wrong, and you sense it. And you try harder to make it right. You go to church and you put on the best front possible. Still you don’t feel right about being (seeming to be?) right, and you compensate. You become successful in the eyes of the community–a great engineer, a great doctor. you do good, and everybody sees you doing good. They say “What a wonderful person Joe Schmo is!”
But you don’t feel wonderful, no matter how wonderful others think you are. You even get suspicious of the way they think of you. You don’t believe that they believe because somehow the more wonderful everyone thinks you are, the less wonderful you become. It’s a mystery. You don’t even feel right about being religious. You don’t really believe your own belief in God.
Isn’t that right? I don’t mean to say that there is no such thing as a true belief, but there’s a problem connected with it. The deeds that evoke opinions on which an image of ourselves rests separate us from the core of our being and have no substance in reality whatsoever. The difference lies in the direction of the flow.
The sense of who you are that is coming from the world, supported by the world, the love of the world (as the scripture says) makes you an enemy of God and your conscience. you are only serving your ego, you see, when you are puffing up and looking great in the image of yourself that you have collected from the environment. You are trying to be right in a wrong way, and it will never work.
Einstein said that, “a man can will what he wants, but not what he wills.”
Why don’t we understand ourselves? With all thy getting, get understanding about yourself; but we don’t understand ourselves. We don’t understand the forces that move us and shake us. They are very deep forces, not what you think they are, not your intellect, but something deeply buried in your psyche that moves you and controls you.
And you think that force is you. The alcoholic or the drug addict thinks he or she is doing what he or she wants to do. The same with smokers. How often do you hear, I can stop smoking any time I want to, but I don’t want to–it’s me.” You think of every want you have as coming from your own desire, but any good salesman can make you want something, along with making you think that it’s you who wants it. Then, the morning after the night before, you wonder “What am I doing with this?” Einstein said that a man can will what he wants, but not what he wills.
Your house is full of junk you don’t need, but thought you needed at the time of purchase. Where did all this stuff come from? Your life can be ruined simply by needing people, and getting married to them. You think you love them, but later you find yourself trapped by some kind of monster. It happens all the time. My goal is to show you why these things happen.
Take the opinions of others, for instance, the way you enslave yourself in order to get a good opinion of yourself nurtured and reinforced by your servitude. All your efforts to this end result in conflict. Even though you’re kind to the poor, a loving mother or father, you may even say to yourself that you’re loving too much. Well, let me tell you that if you love at all, you can’t do it too much. Real love always knows how far to go. If you’re “loving” too much, it is not love at all, but a kind of compulsion to find sustenance for a good image of yourself, and you can become a slave to the process.
No matter how good and kind you are, it’s never going to be enough. And the people you are enslaving yourself to for the sake of that image will always take advantage of your servility. you’ll spoil them rotten. That’s what you do, and you end up being terribly hurt. And as a result of being terribly hurt, you become terribly angry. There’s your problem right there.
Resentment, rage, and hostility siphon off all that is good in you, the real you along with the good image. Rejection! That’s the word. We all have this terrible fear of rejection along with a growing need for acceptance. Psychologists will always tell you–wrongly, of course–that this need for approval is normal, but it is abnormal for human beings. You should not feel the need for approval. You should not need the love of the world.
There is something about this odd need for approval that is so deeply wrong that it doesn’t want to see anything wrong about the whole process it uses in going about its business of reconstructing reality for the sake of crating a finer image of itself for the outsider’s mirror. It is something terribly wrong on the inside that drives a person to need so much support from the outside.
If your were right, whatever “right” is, if you were whole, a better word perhaps because “right” conjures up an image of hypocrisy and self-righteousness, pomposity. If you were whole, complete, you wouldn’t need to complete yourself to anybody, would you? But the fact is that you have an inordinate need to complete yourself to something. Something is missing. So naturally, unnaturally really, but unfortunately quite natural for all of us is the need to go to the outside to compensate for an inner lack with the approval of other people. In other words, we tend to reconstruct ourselves from the world around us.
We make up from below, i.e., the world outside composed of the opinions and praise of others, what we have lost from within and above. We make up from without and below, the world around us, through the senses, what we have lost from within and above. This craving is like drinking salt water: the more you drink, the thirstier you get, and you become the slave of the thirst until the slavishness of it kills you. You absolutely work yourself to death for the hive, or for some ungrateful s.o.b.
Deeds that evoke opinions upon which the image you have of yourself rests separate you from your own real internal core and have no substance in reality. You build a shallow, substance-less human being in seeking approval from an idol. What is even worse about this process is that the idol is a tyrant and always will be. Any time you empower a person to approve of you by seeing you in a certain light as though you were some kind of god, to love and look up to you, you make a savior of that person. And he can’t save you. No one can save you. We appoint our “saviors,” our ministers, doctors, alcohol, and drugs, to make up for the guilt we feel for not being whole.
The question is: whole with what? The imperious ego within us, ensconced on the throne of our senses, sucks up all the praise it can, sensually reconstructs itself, and thumbs its nose at reality, you see. That’s how you become an artificial person, and your whole sense of being becomes dependent on the world.
The kamikaze pilots who committed suicide by ramming their planes into American battleships–so you think they could say no? Do you think the Arab terrorists who tie themselves to their bombs could in any way refuse to something so stupid? No. People whose life is built on the approval of other people, society, live in fear of its being withdrawn, because if that approval is withdrawn, what is left is a terrible conflict, a terrible feeling of death and dying and conflict with one’s true self. They can’t say no to such a demand from the emperor–they would rather be dead than wrong.
The image you insist on having of yourself is a damnable thing. you wouldn’t need such a thing if you knew what it is to be whole. You’d be free of the agony of worrying about what people think of you. Don’t you worry about what people think of you? Hmmm? Well, you’re a fool.
Now look, I care about what people think of me. Don’t get me wrong. I’d like to have good ratings on my radio program. And I kind of know how to go about it, but I’d have to prostitute myself, as so many talk-show hosts do, by joking and helping people feel good about themselves by distracting them with entertainment, but I’d have to diminish myself to do it, and I don’t think I can.
If you look around you, you’ll see what people have to do to become popular–they have to stroke egos. The trouble is that people who stroke egos and make people feel good about themselves never offend you. And I don’t mean to offend you now. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mean to offend you, but I think it’s time to put an end to the age of Ego Stoking. You are awash in a sea of strokers: girl friends, boy friends, drug dealers, entertainers–there’s no end to those who build a life of power on assuaging your guilt. Taking away your guilt so you can breathe easier out of the range of conscience, enabling you to live a little longer and become a little “wronger.”
As long as someone takes your guilt away, your unregenerate, imperial self lives a little longer and becomes a little “wronger,” you see, and the guilt grows, along with the need for pleasure. The need for approval is a slavish addiction to everything that serves the purpose of stroking your ego. That’s how you become a slave to sin. Forgive me for being a little scriptural, but that’s what it means to be born again in sin, enslaved in sin.
Religion is supposed to lead you to the real Self, the real redemption, but the churches haven’t done it. They, too, have found a way to stroke your ego and help to remove your guilt. And they call that salvation.
Well, if anything removes your guilt without returning you to the right relationship with God, out of the trap of guilt, whether it’s a friend, alcohol or drugs, entertainment–whatever gives you a sense of security–is playing a part in the evil of the world. That obviously includes some of the churches.
If a person feels guilty about drinking and goes to a psychiatrist who convinces him that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about it, and assures him that all that is wrong is the fact that he hasn’t accepted himself, he ends by continuing to drink, free of guilt and the consciousness of wrong-doing.
What you need is a self that flows from a true inner spiritual Self, rather than an outside facsimile. Such is the state of supreme virtue, the unfolding of an eternal Self, overcoming the inherited form of ego-boundedness. Be warned against a false image of your own sense of self-worth and goodness, for the intellect is capable of creating and maintaining as reality, any illusion of yourself–with the help of friends, of course. It’s somewhat like the computer of the starship Enterprise that constructs reality, always on command, surrounding the crew with what appears to be a genuine experience.
I’ve identified the problem: you are not whole, and the wholeness is something spiritual, something within you that you need to experience. You need that religious experience, not religious excitement. A huge chasm separates the two. Religious excitement is not religious experience. It just makes you feel religious by washing the guilt out of your brain. you feel better for a little while, but it builds up again, and back you go to boogy-woogy down the aisle, or whatever it is you do to feel better, but it cannot return you to wholeness. What you seek comes from stillness. Be still and know.