It’s been a little over a year (Jan 2021) since I last published what I have learned in my studies of philosophy and psychology upon starting my YouTube channel (see Finding Meaning in the Pursuit of Meaning). I had described myself as an amalgamation of Absurdism, Nietzchean, Stoic, Jungian and Nihilist Realist.
My views on life have since then evolved, some have changed, others remain, so I’d like to share what has changed. Hope you find it useful.
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak, §573
This quote perfectly expresses what I seek in studying philosophy, psychology, and religion. As such, my views are always changing – until I can find something that really resonates with my inner being, and stick to it.
“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know, except in so far as a certain understanding must precede every action. The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do; the thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.”
Søren Kierkegaard, Journals (1835)
At the same time, have an open mind towards other life views, not trying to impose my view on others, but rather learning from other people’s differing views.
For Albert Camus, philosophical suicide is adhering to some ready-made belief system just because people recommend it to you or because you want to blend in with them and not appear as an outsider, essentially shutting down your mental faculties because it is the most convenient thing to do, in detriment of your inner being. You only manage to lose yourself in the finite (becoming a cipher in the crowd) as Søren Kierkegaard put it.
I started philosophy and psychology with the purpose of inner transformation, rather than an intellectual hobby or a game that consists of complicated words without meaning that “absents” you from yourself and “brackets” all of your life’s fundamental questions: life, death, suffering, meaning, hopelessness, purpose, happiness, etc.
“The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, suffers, and dies—above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and heard; the brother, the real brother.“
Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life
That is why when I found out about Existentialism, I was fascinated. I had held the existentialist view that we can create our own meaning in life, that life is a blank canvas and that we are the artists, from the works of atheist existentialists such as Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus.
Recently, however, I have been more convinced that meaning creates us. As Carl Jung’s work shows us: People don’t have ideas. Ideas have people. What I have found most pragmatic over the years is Jung’s individuation process, and his analysis of the influence of the unconscious in our daily lives, with concepts such as the persona, the shadow and the anima/animus. As such, he ranks among my favourite thinkers.
Moreover, I am more in line with the Christian existentialists, such as Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Unamuno, and Tillich. Nevertheless, I describe myself as neither an atheist nor a theist, but rather something in between (“aspiring Christian”). I am a work in progress (we are all works in progress…).
I have recently acquired the bible to read as well, and see enormous value in it. The suffering of Christ is unparalleled, and it is no wonder that Christianity has endured for millennia, especially the symbol of the Cross, and Christ as the centre of the Self, as Carl Jung puts it. I am not as interested in the historical validity of it, but rather in its profound analysis of the fundamental questions of existence.
I was, I have to admit, an admirer and follower of Christopher Hitchens. I used to watch his debates, prior to studying philosophy and psychology. But in retrospect, they seem to me now as merely as a game of words, that is only supposed to be entertaining (which they are, he had a great sense of humour!). But, they do not deal with your existential questions. Whether it is the atheist using reason to prove that God does not exist, or the theologian using reason to prove that God exists through empirical or logical arguments (cosmological, ontological, design, etc).
My view is that of Tillich’s correlation method, which I have only recently stumbled upon after researching for the script of my latest video (The Courage To Be: An Antidote to Meaninglessness). The human questions of anxiety, meaninglessness, estrangement, etc., are correlated with religious answers. There is a mutual interdependence between theology and existential, philosophical and psychological issues.
I also find the works of John Vervaeke extremely refreshing and profound, which a friend had recommended to me. I have watched a few of his videos on the meaning crisis, and they are excellent, combining philosophy, psychology and theology, among other things. You can find it the playlist here: Awakening from the Meaning Crisis.
I like Bishop Robert Barron’s take on the general sense of disorientation and lack of meaning in modern life (see: How to Live a Meaningful Life). In summary:
To have a meaningful life is to be in a purposive relationship to a value: the Good, the True and the Beautiful. Religious value, on the other hand, is a life lived in purposive relationship to the summum bonum (the supreme value or highest good), the source of goodness, truth and beauty – which is God. A value nests in a higher value, and so on indefinitely. But there must be a summum bonum that is motivating us. That is religious meaning.
I have also been interested recently in more esoteric matters, particularly alchemy and hermeticism. There’s some profound insights that can be found. There are two lectures that I really like that serve as an introduction (which you can find here and here).
Philosophy is matter of life and death.
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.”
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
We all have or will come upon the question: is life worth living? Though there may be plenty of contradictions (those who commit suicide might be assured life has a meaning, and those who feel life is not worth living still continue to live), for Camus, suicide is a confession that life is too much, that it is incomprehensible, or that it is not worth the trouble. Dying voluntarily implies the absence of any profound reason for living and the uselessness of suffering.
We try to live out the best life possible, but despite that we still suffer, we cannot live up to our ideals and expectations. And on the other hand, man will never renounce to suffering, destruction and chaos – because both happiness and suffering are the opposite sides of the same coin: Life.
“The sad truth is that man’s real life consists of a complex of inexorable opposites – day and night, birth and death, happiness and misery, good and evil. We are not even sure that one will prevail against the other, that good will overcome evil, or joy defeat pain. Life is a battleground. It always has been, and always will be; and if it were not so, existence would come to an end.”
Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
Perhaps no one has written better on why suffering will never disappear than Dostoevsky, in Notes from Underground. But the elimination of suffering is a utopia (the archetypal dream of a Golden Age). What everyone wants is to reduce their suffering (well, almost everyone).
Despair leads to an existential crisis, of the “why of existence”. Philosophy gives us answers to the contemplation of our existence. And those who are not concerned with it, do not ponder on their existence from time to time, or aspire to keep it unconscious, eventually encounter a dead end:
“Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, according to the same rhythm – this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the ‘why‘ arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement.”
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus
There is a reason why those who are very rich can still be miserable, there’s a spiritual emptiness. While a monk in a monastery who possesses nothing may feel a spiritual fulfillment that is incomparable to the individual who is solely materialistic and pleasure-seeking (it gets old). There’s an interesting chapter in Kierkegaard’s Either/Or (read here) that explains how the aesthete desperately seeks pleasure, only to end up in misery. The ethicist beats the aesthete in his own game, by focusing on his duty.
The West has a lot to learn from Eastern practices (Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, etc.):
“I imagine future thinkers in whom European-American indefatigability is combined with the hundredfold-inherited contemplativeness of the Asians: such a combination will bring the riddle of the world to a solution.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1876 – Quoted from “Graham Parkes: Nietzsche and Asian Thought”
Another thing I’d like to add is the influence of stoicism on me. There has been an enormous spike in its popularity recently. But also a lot of modern “motivational” versions of it, which I am not a fan of. I like to go back to the ancients, particularly Marcus Aurelius and his Meditations, which was not even meant to be read, let alone published and becoming one of the most influential books of stoicism. He did not, however, see what he wrote as “stoicism”, but rather as “philosophy”. There are many hidden gems that can be found in that book, and a profound sense of melancholy of the most powerful man in the world who perhaps also felt as the loneliest man.
I like to remind myself of what is known as the dichotomy of control: “focus on what you can control, and not on what you cannot.”
Which is similar to the Serenity Prayer:
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
To summarise my life views, I am interested in Christianity, existentialism, as well as Jungian psychology, stoicism, and esotericism (alchemy, hermeticism).
However, I would not call myself a follower of any religion. Why? Because I lack the courage to make a leap of faith. It is far too difficult. Better to not be religious, than to be falsely religious. Nietzsche said that in every religion, the religious person is an exception. I believe that’s correct. Nevertheless, I have a deep respect for religion.
I encourage you to continue your journey and keep exploring to see what is right for you. You are on the right path.
Some books I would recommend reading (in no particular order, choose what interests you).
Man and His Symbols – Carl Jung
Notes from Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Dream of a Ridiculous Man – Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Sickness unto Death – Søren Kierkegaard
The Myth of Sisyphus – Albert Camus
Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka
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I have made 10 minute summaries of them if you’d like a summary: click here for the playlist.
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9 thoughts on “My Views on Life – Eternalised”
i just found your sight tonight! great job! i loved your commentary on mental illness. keep working on christianity and the hints it provides for all these philosophical perspectives( primarily internal self pride). No philosophy can be proven true, but if you practice humility through faith you will notice palpable changes. Still humility does not prove anything! The difference that separates christianity apart is the accuracy of the prophecy. Pursue prophecy! The history, philosophy, and the prophecy is enough to convince me what the truth is likely to be. I will visited your sight regularly! Thank You!
Hi Eternalised, I have enjoyed your YT videos in the past (per initial recommendation of my partner Nihle), especially the ones on existentialism and Dostoyevsky. You do great analysis. Interesting read, your philosophy is very different than my own. You emphasize finding what works for you, but I think that approach leads to confusion. I believe reality is how it is regardless of what we believe and try to align my beliefs with it and live in relationship to it. I don’t believe anything with certainty because our understandings are changing and shifting as new discoveries are made from our observations of the universe we find ourselves in. I think different schools of thought like existentialism and stoicism are interesting but I don’t think any one branch has all the answers. I don’t see the value of Christianity in that it asks you to believe in a human who apparently was the son of god and makes a bunch of other extraordinary claims while providing little evidence for them. I think there are some good things in it like loving your neighbor and what not but I don’t think you need Christianity to realize those things are good to do.
We all exist on this planet and can either make life worse for people around us or better and I think most would agree that making things better for everyone is a good goal. (I agree with you that the complete elimination of suffering seems too idealistic, suffering is entrenched in life). The overall amount of suffering is increased or lessened by our actions. I value science in that it’s a method for understanding the complexities we find in every direction. Science is neither good or bad, but what we do with those findings can cause more good or bad (classic example of understanding atoms for bombs or for creating electricity). Science is a tool that can be used to improve our lives in myriads of ways (most of us probably would not exist today without it and the many advancements it has brought to agriculture and medicine). Science isn’t a truth in itself but a method for uncovering objective facts around us, facts that we may call ‘truth’ but truth is always subject to change should new evidence arise.
I think our current best understandings of reality show that meaning is something mind dependent and the universe outside of minds is devoid of meaning. I don’t see any reason for believing in God besides the emotional comfort it generates in believing that there is an ultimate mind and therefore ultimate meaning. But there is no evidence for God, and my philosophy seeks to be an honest one not swayed by ideas that are comforting. (The logical arguments you mentioned for God have all been debunked, you cannot argue God into existence without external proof. I highly recommend the channel Anti Citizen X on YouTube). One of the fundamental things that humans experience is varying degrees of suffering and well being. I think we are best to face reality for how it actually is, reflect on the systems and rules we’ve created that we live within, and create a world that increases well being for conscious minds capable of immense suffering (side note: I’m curious as to why you think Jesus’s suffering was unparalleled compared to the myriads of immense suffering humans have caused each other throughout the millennia? Crucifixion was a gruesome punishment many others went through for example). Another fundamental thing is that we all die, that all our moments are finite, though many would deny that, who pretend there is life after death without explaining in any way how that it is possible when it is clear that our whole conscious experience, our identity, our emotions, memories etc are reliant on arrangements of countless trillions of atoms in our brains. Regardless, understanding we are finite seems to make each moment more important in their limitedness. And that every human who suffers unnecessarily due to our ignorances or apathy is even more tragic. When we believe what ‘feels good to me’ or fills the discomfort of unknowns that is also fundamental to being human, you end up with things like burning people to death for supposedly being witches, or stoning a human for being gay, or locking people in a cage for smoking a plant etc etc. But I know you understand the dangers of fundamentalism. I don’t think any religion is needed to understand that causing suffering to other people is bad if you understand what we actually are based on our current understandings revealed through scientific processes (beings that evolved over billions of years, that seemingly emerged out of chaos). Beyond that, another thing that seems to be the case is that none of us chose to exist, but all of our existences were the result of someone else’s choices. And this understanding can lead to empathy for anyone who is suffering.
I thought it was interesting when you said “I lack the courage to make a leap of faith. It is far too difficult.” I don’t see what is courageous in believing something without evidence, that doesn’t line up with the actual reality we find ourselves in, isn’t that what faith is? I don’t think it would be courageous of anyone to believe in Zeus even if that belief brought them a lot of comfort from the existential dread that comes from being a finite mind in a universe without objective meaning. Even if they 100% believed it in their heart and even believed they talked to the spirit of Zeus or something. I think most would see that as delusional. But when it comes to the Christian God Yahweh, so many people believe in him (or some version of him to their liking, picking and choosing what feels right to them), that it is culturally accepted to do so even though in my mind it’s the same as believing in Zeus. Except with God he was pushed beyond the boundaries of what we could ever actually test or verify (unfalsifiable), claims like ‘he is beyond space and time’. Saying he’s beyond space and time is basically admitting he is made up and not part of this reality, something that only exists in our imagination.
I think there is a crisis of meaning because so much of our history consisted of us making up some greater meaning where there in fact isn’t any, and now we are slowly coming to terms with the fact that we create meaning, that meaning emerges with us. If we want to be honest in our philosophy then we need to come to terms with this and figure out what is actually worth valuing. And I think one of the things that is worth valuing is decreasing suffering for the conscious minds that exist on this planet by no choice of their owns.
Philosophy is interesting to me in that it explores areas of complexity and their implications that I likely never would have thought of otherwise, and it makes you confront and re-evaluate your own ideas and beliefs. Psychology is interesting as it helps me understand the patterns that emerge in human behavior and thus recognizing them in myself, and understand the people around me more. Science is interesting to me as it seeks to make sense of the phenomena around and within us and by doing so unlocks new ways of improving our lives and decreasing our unknowns. It’s fascinating to exist as a mind in this universe if only for a short time, and philosophy, psychology and science can aid in making sense of the chaos. But religion seems to just make stuff up, even if some of the claims are really wise and good it has no method through which it determines which of its claims are good and which are bad, or which actually line up with reality and which are just stories we made up. I’m sure there are many useful parables and lessons to be learned from the world religions, but there’s also a lot of superstition that leads to suffering.
Anyways, those are my 2 cents. If anything, this was a fun writing exercise in getting my thoughts on screen.
Thanks Emily for your detailed and beautifully written comment. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve come to think of the desire for God as something intrinsic in us, as part of the psychic evolution (just as there is a biological evolution). If we were to restart the whole human civilisation, we would again create myth, religion, stories, and so on – and that is part of a millions of years of evolution, it isn’t a mistake (in my mind) that we have that desire, it is not superstition but a real desire that we all have. Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses, you could well turn that around and say that atheism is the opium of the masses because it denies that desire in us to search God. I trust in the wisdom of the unconscious, which is far more developed than our ego-consciousness. Jung states that ideas create people, people don’t create ideas. We act out the archetypal patterns first, we participate in existence, only then do we come up with religion, myth, and so on. Consciousness cannot exist without the unconscious. And Jungian psychology, I believe, is the best way to describe the unconscious and its archetypes. It is the master pattern of life, which can only be discovered through individuation: dreams, active imagination, shadow-work, a recognition of the unconscious, etc.
I think the crucial mistake in reading religion is seeing it under the lens of reason and logic. That is precisely the wrong framework which many people seem to be mired in (Sam Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, etc.). I believe that new atheism is slowly on the decline, because there is a lack of what actually matters in life, a lack of attachment to our existential being: to suffer, to have anxiety, death, suicide, existential crisis, responsibility and freedom – all which the Existentialists masterfully dealt with and more intelligently than the new atheists. Though, I think new atheism is important insofar as it works as thesis-antithesis-synthesis of the zeitgeist. I think the four horsemen of meaning deeply tackle the root of the human condition, with their own idiosyncracises and approaches – from non-theism to Christianity.
After all, philosophy is to discover your own path. If something does not resonate with your inner being, I’d best avoid that. Philosophy for me, is not about finding any objective truth or rational way of living, it is first and foremost using the tools to gain wisdom, happiness, self-realisation – to live a more fulfilled life. It isn’t a blue-pill, that would be going along with the crowd and materialistic pursuits, it is honestly engaging in what is your truth, which you can live and die for. Not to detach your self and bracket your existence in favour of propositional knowing, but to be deeply in contact with your body, your individuality, your desires, your unconscious.
God is not to be discovered by means of logical deduction. It is a deeply personal pursuit that is a solitary task, it is participatory, not propositional. I’m not a fan of theism-atheism debates, they miss the crucial aspect of living life, and get stuck in the endless and unsatisfactory game of propositional thinking, which avoids the most important aspects of life: how to view yourself in the world, how to act in the world, how to participate in existence. To have a better relationship with your partner, family, friends, children and yourself. Ego and unconscious, the outer and inner world, are necessary interlinked, as the alchemical maxim says: as above, so below. As within so without. We mustn’t get distracted by mere philosophical concepts, but actually engage in life and strive towards happiness, and wholeness. No matter how good your philosophy is, if you are miserable in life, it is obviously not working out, no matter how objective it is (it detaches your own existence in favour of a concepts of ideas, you become an idealogy, not a person: you become the spokesperson for thoughts that go against your own self).
Meaning is not just mind-dependant, but also dependant on the world. A non-cartesian view of life: we are beings-in-the-world. You raise an interesting question: “I don’t see what is courageous in believing something without evidence, that doesn’t line up with the actual reality we find ourselves in, isn’t that what faith is?”
As I mentioned above, conflating religion and science as antagonistic or enemies is wrong, in my opinion. They are allies, both have their place in the world. They are the middle of the Venn diagram. We need science to progress in civilisation, to advance in technology, healthcare, environment, etc. (these are the macro-aspects), then we have the micro-aspects of self-realisation, finding a purpose and meaning in life, to deal with the suffering inherent in existence, to strive for happiness and wholeness. I am in favour of them being married.
I have previously given the following example when someone is suicidal, depressed or has an existential crisis: If you are stuck in a dark cave, science will tell you that you are doomed, that there’s no way out and that you might as well accept the condition as it is and die. Religion gives you the lantern to get out of the cave. Similarly, if someone has a myth about death, one lives right into his or her death. For reason shows one nothing but the dark pit into which he is descending. It is as if one “lives dyingly”, as Hitchens put it in his memoir, Mortality. Jung wrote that:
“If he believes in them [myths], or greets them with some measure of credence, he is being just as right or just as wrong as someone who does not believe in them. But while the man who despairs marches toward nothingness, the one who has placed his faith in the archetype follows the tracks of life and lives right into his death. Both, to be sure, remain in uncertainty, but the one lives against his instincts, the other with them.”
There’s somehow an obsession with believing what is “true” and “objective” even though it goes against your entire being. I think it lacks a crucial step, you must first satisfy your deepest desire (e.g., to believe in God), and then only establish it as an objective truth (e.g, Christianity is the one, and only, true religion). Or else you will live your whole life with energy running opposite to yourself, and you will be miserable.
I understand that conversations are merely propositional, they don’t really resonate with you existentially, especially if you have opposing views. There must, after all, be an experience in life that changes you at the right time and moment. I’d love if you could watch this short clip, entitled “It’s just a religion”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvmUplwhUcY&t
Images/videos speak more than mere words.
For me, Christ is, among many other things, the archetype of ultimate suffering. The son of God is sent to sacrifice his own life, to attone for the sins of humankind. My interest in Christianity springs primarily from Kierkegaard, who convinced me that we cannot create our identity through sheer will-power as Nietzsche intends, because who is to say we wouldn’t shatter all the progress just to begin again at step one? We need a higher power that overwhelms our self. That is the paradox of becoming who you are. For Kierkegaard, you become who you are by surrendering yourself by a higher self which in turns allows you to become yourself. That is the most important insight I’ve learned from Kierkegaard. And I think he is on point. The fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. Why? Because you are surrendering your ego, your self-centredness, your belief that you make your own rules, and your own meaning (like the Ubermensch) – and you just let go, and surrender to a higher and infinitely more wise power, that tells you how to live life. This isn’t at all a prision or authoritiarian, as some claim, it isn’t a celestial dictatorship – it is the all-too-difficult lesson of discipline, and self-improvement. Imagine if God the Father watched every move you made, you would do your absolute best to not commit the seven sins, and be the best human being you can be. This is why I say that I lack the courage to become a Christian, it isn’t at all a comforting, pleasant or easy way of thought in which you commit philosophical suicide (as Camus puts it), that is, believing in some ready-made belief system just because it is easier and you don’t want to come up with your own. I believe it’s the contrary, it requires extraordinary courage to make a leap of faith into a hard way of life, that many are not willing to do in their entire lives. I am currently reading the Bible, and I think it’s the most extraordinary piece of work, it’s a library in itself with different genres. One shouldn’t read it from a rational, materialistic lens, because it risks demythologisation, desacralisation, and literalisation. An interesting fact is that the Bible itself contains the strongest steelman against God himself: The Book of Job. You could say Ecclesiastes is the OG existential nihilism as well (however, it provides us with a solution).
As Nietzsche said, the religious person is an exception in every religion. You almost have to become a God to achieve a true Christian way of life. Of course, I am exaggerating. Thinking you are a God is a sin in itself, hubris is perhaps the best indicator of your own downfall – which can be seen in Dante’s Divine Comedy, those who commit it are in the deepest layers of Hell (which is not a physical place, but psychological).
This was a great exercise for me as well, so thank you for writting that out.
Thanks Emily for your detailed and beautifully written comment. I enjoyed reading it.
First, thank you for sharing your passion and time. You’ve touched my life and I’m sure many more.
Love. Love is the one truth. Enlightenment is a lifestyle of living in love.
Nobody chose to be born (no freewill & primary existential crisis), and the only guarantee in life is suffering. Even in the most ideal circumstance, we are victims of our parent’s love. So everyone may see themselves as purely a victim of existence (unconscious existence), living hell.
Thought gives us existence, but only love can give us meaning.
But if one chooses to awaken, by taking full responsibility for their continued existence (the divine miracle of love/god/infinity), then the most important choice is to love. And since love is the most powerful force, it has to be properly expressed or it will cause more suffering.
The only way to awaken is by choosing to love yourself first and foremost, which enables you to be the best lover to everyone. It is the only path to individuation/ubermensch/enlightenment/human expression of the divine. Heaven on earth.
Choose love and breath in gratitude.
Thanks Mikhael, this is fantastic!
Best wishes for your path, from a Heideggerian.
I am a writer living in Shanghai. I found your contents extremely interesting as I am going through a similar journey. Please would you allow me to translate your writings into Chinese so you would have a wider readership. Any contributions from the Chinese readers will be forwarded to you.
Hi, absolutely. Feel free to translate them.