Free Will and Destiny
The power an individual is acquainted with is the power of his free will - or he arrives to experience that his free will is clashing against the free will of another individual. Then he begins to see the clashing between the free will of two persons. If he happens to be powerful he gets the better of the situation; if the other happens to be more powerful then the other gets the better of it. And when they come to think about destiny the one who is slow in believing will say, "I do not know… ", but a man with some belief in things of the abstract will say that there is a destiny. He has every proof to convince himself of it.
There are many clever and qualified people in business, in professions, in politics, but their cleverness or qualification is not always the reason why they are successful. Very often we will find that a simple person, a person lacking cleverness or lacking qualification is successful. It is not always the rule but very often it is so: a most innocent person in a very high position, and a most clever person perhaps working as his waiter. People in high offices may have a secretary who knows more than they themselves - if not always, very often. And when we ask, "Why does that person stand here with all his cleverness while the other sits in the chair of honour? What is the reason?" - the answer is that destiny is working behind it all, fixing them and adjusting them in their places. There is a saying in the East: "The feet of the infant are to be seen from its cradle". In other words, what it is going to be you can see from the cradle; it shows signs which promise its future.
Then the question arises, "Is destiny the will of God?" And the answer is that in a sense the perfect will of God is that which the godly perceive in its fullness. If it were not so the hint in the Bible, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." would have no meaning. It does not say, "Thy will is being done on earth as it is in heaven". If this was so it would point to destiny, but it is the work of destiny and free will to come in connection in order to fulfil the will of God. It is free will and destiny, the two coming together, which bring about the will of God - but free will in its perfect state, in its fuller meaning.
A man arranges something in life - then conditions oppose it. In that case either the will, the will of God, is in that man, or the will is in the conditions. In the end, when one of these opposing forces will fail and one conquer, then the will of God is fulfilled; or when these two different aspects of will work harmoniously then the will of God is fulfilled. There is a Persian saying, "When two hearts become one they can remove mountains". In other words, when the will of one person and the free will of the other person become one, in other words harmonious, then they become a phenomenon; it works like magic. But when they do not work harmoniously then the will that is done is not the will of God, it is destiny.
I will give you a small example. A nice lady had a new maid. In order to entertain a friend who was coming to visit her, she asked the maid to go and buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers. When the maid went out and asked the price of the bouquet at the florist's, she thought, "How extraordinary on the part of my lady to spend all that money on this. I wish she would have asked me something else to do". Instead of doing what the lady had asked her she went and bought some cheese sandwiches, and was delighted in her heart thinking, "When I bring these to my lady she will be very pleased". When the lady saw what the maid had bought she was horrified. While she had expected that her friend would be entertained with flowers, there were cheese sandwiches!
This will make you understand more fully that hint in the Bible, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". What man always does out of his will is not always divine will. The divine will is done when man is in contact with the divine Spirit in himself; it is then that he begins to understand the meaning of the divine will.
Those who persevere in the path of power are persons of three kinds: the one whose way is uphill and the other whose way is downhill -both arriving at the same end, the first perhaps with greater, the other with less difficulty. The third has the most difficult way, for it is neither upwards nor downwards; it may be called the way of the cross.
The uphill way is the way where a person thinks, "I must have it, I must accomplish it". He spares no effort, no thought, no energy, nothing! He goes after it, in its pursuit till he has obtained it. This is the uphill way, because climbing to the heights of the mountain every step is very difficult and very tiresome. But if his patience helps him, if he continues to persevere, in the end no doubt he arrives at the top of the mountain. This may be seen in great or in small things. If a child tries to make a toy out of wax, and he cannot make it the first time and tries another time without accomplishing it, and the third time, after a week, makes the toy he wanted to make, he has really accomplished something. But if after having tried to make it twice he thinks, "Oh no, I cannot make it", he has failed. This path of course is a path of continual struggle.
I do not wish to bring into this the right and wrong of the motive, or the good and bad of the striving of a person, because that would take us to the subject of morals which we shall not touch just now. No matter what a person is striving for, if he perseveres continually without fail, he is coming closer and closer to the will of God.
Then there is the one who says, "Well, I will be resigned. What will be will be, what will come will come. I am ready to face it, I am ready to take it as it comes. If it happens that I should give I shall give, if it happens that I should take I shall take. Whether it is agreeable to me or not agreeable, whatever is coming, whatever conditions will offer - I will take all that life gives". This is the downhill way; it asks little effort, just like coming down from the top of a hill does not tire one so much.
Nevertheless, the one way is not more difficult than the other. It only depends on what temperament a person is born with. There is the persevering one who will go on striving against all difficulties; for him to go downhill is difficult, for him to renounce, to sacrifice is difficult. He is born with the spirit of attainment, he will go upwards in spite of all difficulties. If he lost his life it would not matter, he will go on in this path. And there is the other one who is born with renunciation. He will be content with all that comes, he is in harmony with conditions, he is in peace with people. Whether they treat him rightly or wrongly he will take it all peacefully, harmoniously, and in the end he will arrive at the same goal, in touch with the divine will.
The third way is the way of the cross: it is striving and being resigned at the same time. No doubt that is the most difficult way. The uphill way is the way of the master, the downhill the way of the saint, but the way of the cross is the prophetic way. The prophets, in all ages in whichever part of the world they have come, have striven continually and have been resigned continually to all that comes. On the one hand active, on the other hand passive they progress through life. Therefore their life is being pulled from both sides. When they walk one leg is pulled from the back, the other leg is pulled from the front; there are always two sides to their lives.
At the same time either of these qualities can be found in each person as a temperament, and the secret of one's life's success and the fulfilment of one's life's purpose lie in taking one's natural way. If it happens that a man is born with a quality of striving continually, his way is striving. He must not be passive, he must not be resigned, for if he does so he will fail and not accomplish his life's purpose. But if it happens to be his temperament that he is resigned, always resigned to all that comes, then he must take that way. There is nobility of spirit, of soul, in both these ways. But if unfortunately it happens that a person is born with these two qualities at the same time, his problem in life will be the most difficult, for he can neither do one thing nor the other. No doubt if he goes on in this way, in the end there is success -but success in the spiritual sense, not in a material sense.
Now the question arises whether destiny is working blindly, or whether it is working intelligently, consciously. Is it working with wisdom? The answer is that to some extent it is always working more or less consciously, but at the same time in its different ways of working its condition is different. For instance, a person has the habit of getting up at night while still asleep; he walks in the room and knocks against the door or the wall because his eyes are closed. That is one way of moving about in the room. There is another way: a person is thinking of his poetry, he does not know where he is going, whether to a corner of the room or to one or an other side; his mind is thinking of the poetry. He is walking but does not know towards what he is walking. His walking has a meaning, and has not a meaning. His walking at that time is a stimulus to his inspiration; it helps him, but it is not conscious walking. Yet he knows that he is walking. And there is a third condition: when a person intentionally goes into a certain corner of the room in order to fetch something; he has a purpose in going there. Destiny works in these ways; the nature of life, of the whole of life, can be understood by studying the nature of man.
Question: Is destiny working sometimes blindly, like the man walking in his sleep?
Answer: It is for a demonstration that I have tried to put something in words which cannot be put in words. If I were to say that there are only seven notes I would be wrong, and still I would be right too, because there are seven accepted notes. But the gap between each note can be filled, if we distinguish them clearly, by perhaps five, six notes - or more or less. So what we call "blindly" is according to our perception of blindness. When we see this according to the idea of the Absolute, as the one and whole Being, then we cannot say that it is working blindly or unconsciously. It is what it is; it may show its work in different stages of consciousness, but it cannot be blind, it is still conscious. There is still a wisdom behind it, but not that wisdom which we understand as wisdom.
For instance, a person walked in his sleep in his room while a thief was trying to take something out of his cupboard, and in his sleep he fell on the thief who then ran away, fearing that the man had got up. Here a purpose is fulfilled without intention. His walking in his sleep accomplished something, although the person did not walk in his sleep in order to fall upon the thief. So all things that happen, whether we understand the meaning or not, have their purpose and by that something is accomplished. Perhaps we know it at that moment, or perhaps we shall know it afterwards.
Question: What is the distinction between inertia and the disposition you have characterized as the second path?
Answer: Inertia could be understood as a kind of weakness, but this path is a kind of strength. It is a very strong person who can resign; a person who can sacrifice, tolerate and resign is not always a weak person. Yes, it is possible that a weak person out of weakness may tolerate, may sacrifice and may be resigned, but his feeling at doing so is different from that of the brave and courageous soul. The person whose character I described as saint shows the greatest bravery one could show. Is he not brave who patiently takes all things which trouble him, which hurt him, which torture his life, who suffers and endures all? A weak person will give an outlet to these things. For instance there is an artist whose art is not appreciated, who has no place in the world of art, and for some days he has to remain without a penny. If he busies himself in his studio, still working with no bread and butter in the house to eat and if he does not speak about it to anybody, is he not courageous? Is he not brave? Is he not noble? Is this weakness? No, the one who lacks these qualities would go out and say, "Look at me, in what condition I am!" That would be different. There is great strength in a person who can take all things with resignation.
Question: In the end, looking at the events when they have happened, must we not say that all is done according to the will of God?
Answer: Well, that is a Sufi way: begin with free will and finish with the will of God. The only consolation when a thing is not done is to interpret it as the will of God.
Question: Is the way of the cross the happy and satisfactory way?
Answer: If it is happy and satisfactory to you, it is. If it is not so, it is not.