The Meaning Crisis – When Beliefs Disappear, Emptiness Settles In

meaning crisis - beliefs, emptiness

Why do so many people today feel that their life has no meaning, what is being called the “meaning crisis”?

 “The modern mind is feeling more meaningless than has ever been the case because the past centuries lived in a kind of stupor, sleep. There was much orthodoxy. Convention was heavy and strong. The citadel of religion was very, very great, powerful, dictatorial. People lived for centuries in belief.

This century has dared to drop beliefs. Those beliefs used to give people a feeling that there is meaning in life. Now those beliefs have disappeared.

“This is good. As far as it goes, it is good that beliefs have disappeared. This is the first age of agnosticism. For the first time man has become mature, mature in the sense that he does not rely on beliefs, on superstitions. We have dropped all superstitious beliefs.

So a kind of vacuum has come into existence. The beliefs have disappeared – and with the beliefs the false sense of meaning has disappeared. An emptiness has settled in.

“We have done the negative part, we have demolished the old building. Now the positive part has to be done – we have to erect a new building. The old temple is no more, but where is the new temple? Belief has been destroyed, but where is trust? Belief has gone – this is good – but this is not enough. It is necessary, but not enough.

Now you will have to grow into trust.

“Let me explain these two words to you. Belief is borrowed; somebody else gives it to you – your parents, your society, your priest, your politician, they give it to you. Immediately the child is born we start – either we circumcise the child or we baptize the child. We do something. Immediately we start conditioning him. Before he becomes alert, beliefs have gone deep into his blood and bones, even into his marrow. Before he becomes alert and before he can think clearly, he is already poisoned. The beliefs have become unconscious. He has already been conditioned. He is not free to think.

“That’s why all religions are so interested in teaching children religion. They are interested immediately: the first thing they want to do is to teach children religion.

Psychologists say that the only possibility to teach a child religion is to teach him before he is seven. Once he has passed the age of seven then it will become more and more difficult to teach him because he will start questioning, he will start arguing. He will become doubtful, he will become skeptical.

“Up until the age of seven a child simply trusts the parents, he believes that whatever they do is right. He has no doubt. This is a natural phenomenon. The child has to trust the mother. The child is so helpless that he cannot exist on his own. It is a necessity, a must for his survival, to trust the parent. And he trusts.

“Religions use that natural trust to condition the child. The mother takes him to the church or to the temple, to the priest or to the minister, and the child follows the mother and the parent and the family. By the very atmosphere of the family a subtle conditioning starts going in.

By the time the child can think, can formulate, he is already conditioned. Those conditionings have gone so deep now that he will never be able to drop them easily….

“In this age, slowly, slowly belief has disappeared. And nothing has appeared in its place.

“You must have heard about a German thinker, Ludwig Feuerbach. He seems to be the herald of the contemporary mind. Feuerbach explained God away in terms of the infinite desire of the human heart. He said, ‘There is no God. God does not exist as an objective reality. It is only a wish-fulfillment. Man wants to become omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient. Man wants to become God – this is man’s desire, the desire to become infinite, the desire to become immortal, the desire to become absolutely powerful.’

“This was the first hammering on the belief of God: that God is not objective; that God is not there; that God is just a projection in the human mind; that God has no ontology, he is only a psychological dream; that man is thinking in terms of God because he feels himself impotent. He needs something to make him complete. He needs an idea that gives him a feeling that he is not a stranger here; that in this world there is somebody who looks after him.

God is nothing but a projected father. Man wants to lean upon something. It is just a pure desire. It has no reality.

“Then came Karl Marx. Marx explained God away in terms of an ideological attempt to rise above the given reality. Marx said that because people are poor, in suffering, in misery, they need a dream – a dream that can give them hope. People are living in hopelessness, in such utter misery, that if they cannot dream that somewhere in the future everything will be perfect they will not be able to tolerate this intolerable reality. So God is the opium.

“Religion is the opium of the masses. It is a drug. It helps, consoles. It is a kind of tranquilizer. You are in such pain that you need a painkiller.

God is a painkiller: the idea that today, yes today is miserable, but tomorrow everything is going to be good.

“Marx says that’s why Jesus’ beatitudes have become so important: ‘Blessed are the poor.’ Why? Why, ‘Blessed are the poor’? Because ‘They shall inherit the Kingdom of God.’ Now the poor can hope. Here he is poor, but there he will inherit the Kingdom of God. Not only that, Jesus says, ‘Those who are the first here will be the last there and those who are the last here will be the first there.’ Now the poor man feels really happy. He forgets his poverty. He is going to be the first there. Jesus has different meanings for these statements, but Marx thinks these are just drugs.

“Marx also looks very logical. When people are in misery they have only one way to tolerate it: to pass the time away they can imagine a better future. You are in hospital – you can imagine that tomorrow you will be getting out of hospital and you will be going home and everything will be okay. It is only a question of a few hours more. You can tolerate it.

“This world is a question of a few years, don’t be worried about it; soon paradise is waiting for you. And the poorer you are, the higher you are going to be in paradise. And all that you are missing here is abundantly supplied there. You don’t have a beautiful woman? Don’t be worried. In paradise everybody will be having as many as they want – and the most beautiful women you can conceive of, apsaras. They are so beautiful that they never age, they never become old, they have golden bodies and they always remain stuck at the age of sixteen. They never grow beyond that. These are the dreams of man.

“Here you can’t get alcohol – or even if you can it is difficult or it is costly, or there are a thousand and one problems in getting it. The politicians are always thinking about prohibition. But in firdaus, in paradise, there are streams of wine, alcohol – all kinds. You can drink as much as you want, you can swim, you can absolutely soak yourself in it.

These dreams are just consolations for those who are downtrodden, oppressed.

“So Marx says that religion is just a trick, a trick to exploit people, a trick to keep them under rule, a trick so that they cannot rebel. He hammered very hard on the old beliefs.

“And then the third hammerer came in with Friedrich Nietzsche. He said, ‘God is nothing but a weakening of the will to live.’ When a person becomes old or a society becomes old, rotten, dull and dying, it starts thinking of God. Why? Because death is coming close by and you have to accept death. You are going to renounce life, life is slipping out of the hands, you cannot do anything about it – but you can accept death. God is a trick to accept death. And death is accepted only by those who have become weak, weaklings.

“Nietzsche used to say that the very idea of God comes out of the feminine mind. He used to say that Buddha and Christ are both effeminate. They are not really masculine, they are too soft. They are the people who have accepted defeat. They are no longer fighting, they are not fighting for survival. When a person stops fighting for survival he becomes religious. When the will-to-power is no longer functioning, you start shrinking and dying and you start thinking of God and other related things. God is against life. Life is the will-to-power.

Life is struggle, constant struggle. Life is conflict, and one has to win. When people become too weak and cannot win, those defeated minds start becoming religious. Religion is defeatism.

Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, these three together created the atmosphere where it could be declared that God is dead and man is free.”

Osho, Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol. 1, Talk #5 – A Moment of Not Knowing

Read part two of this article HERE

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