Volume VI - The Alchemy of Happiness
THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF LIFE WITHIN AND WITHOUT
IT IS the lack of knowledge about the interdependence of life within and without which causes man to live in confusion, in a mist. One asks for the cause of everything, and one does not get to know the cause. The first thing to understand in connection with this subject is that an individual is a mechanism as well as an engineer. There is a part of his being which is merely a mechanism, and there is another part which is an engineer. If the former dominates and governs that part in him which is the engineer, then that person becomes like a machine, working under the influence of all that he comes in touch with. The influences of both the finer world and the grosser world, influences of all kinds acting upon that person, keep him every moment of the day in working order, whether these influences act in his favor or to his disadvantage, whether against his will or according to his will. If it is according to his will he calls it a happy chance. If it is against his will it is a misfortune. Will has an important part to play in life, but when the will is hidden under that mechanism it has no more power over life. The mechanism works automatically, influenced by different forces coming from the finer and the grosser worlds.
Why are there in the world so many people who believe that something is wrong with them, and so very few who think that all is well? Even among ten thousand people there is hardly one who will say, 'All is well with me.' It is very easy to blame destiny and to call it misfortune or ill luck, but it cannot be remedied by calling it by these names. On the contrary, it grows with the years. Besides the more the mechanism gains hold of a person's life, the more that part which is called the engineer is suppressed. It never gets a chance. A person with only a little will, with only a few desires and wishes, is pushed downward by the force of this automatic working in life. He calls this automatic working 'conditions' or 'circumstances.' He may see some reason for it, and he may find an answer when he looks at it from a logical point of view, but it is never wholly satisfactory. It does not give the fullest satisfaction because there remains the feeling that underneath there is some other solution and some other meaning in every problem.
Everything one sees, hears, or perceives through any sense or experience has a distinct and definite effect upon one's soul, upon one's spirit. What one eats, what one drinks, what one sees, what one touches, the atmosphere in which one lives, the circumstances one faces, the conditions one goes through, all these have a certain effect upon one's spirit. Whether a person eats grosser food or finer and purer food is manifested outwardly. Even if one does not heed it, it is manifested outwardly. The body shows the nature it has inherited from the earth to which it belongs. For the nature of this earth is such that when it receives the seed of a flowering plant it produces flowers, and when the seed of a fruit-tree, it produces fruits. And when it receives the seed of poison it produces poison.
Sometimes benefit is derived from bad experiences, while it may happen that good experiences result in a loss. Sometimes out of good experiences something good is received, and out of bad experiences something bad. For instance, when a person has had a bad experience in friendship, and because of it there has developed in him a kind of coldness, a pessimistic view of life, a kind of indifference, and he shows contempt, hatred, prejudice, or unwillingness to associate with anybody else, this means that he has received the bad effects of his experience.
There is another person who through having been disappointed has learned something, has learned how to be tolerant, how to be forgiving, how to understand human nature, how to expect little from others and how to give more to others, how to forget himself, and how to be open to sympathize with another. It is one and the same experience that makes one man go to the North and another to the South. The effect of the experiences of life is different upon each person. A certain drug or herb has a certain effect, favorable to one and unfavorable to another. And so it is with the outer experiences of life.
Man's contact with the outer world is such that there is a continual mechanical interchange going on. Every moment of his life he is partaking of all that his senses allow him to receive. Therefore very often the man who is looking for faults in others, who is looking for evil, even though he may not be a wicked person, is yet partaking unknowingly of all that is evil. Once deceived, a person is always on the look-out; even with someone who is honest he will look for deceit, as he holds that impression within himself. Thus a hunter who comes from the forest where he has just received a blow from a lion, will shrink even from the caress of his mother. And when we consider how many impressions, agreeable and disagreeable, we receive from morning till evening, we realize how someone may become wicked without meaning to. For in point of fact nobody is born wicked. Although the body belongs to the earth, yet the soul belongs to God, and from above man has received nothing but goodness. With the wickedest person in the world, when one can touch the deepest depths of his being one finds nothing but goodness there. So if there is any such thing as wickedness or badness, it is only what man has acquired. And he has not acquired it willingly but simply because he is open to all impressions, as it is natural for every man to be open to impressions.
The science of physiognomy or phrenology goes as far as saying that what one acquires helps to form the different muscles and bones of the features and the head, according to what one's mind has taken in. It is written in the Quran that every part of man's being will bear witness to his actions; and the words of Christ, 'Where your treasure is there will your heart be also,' mean that man creates in himself all that he values. No doubt when a person is an admirer of beauty, he will always partake of all that he sees as beauty: beauty of form, of color, of line, and beyond that the beauty of manner and attitude, which is a greater beauty still.
Every race and every creed has its principles of right and wrong, but there is one fundamental principle of religion in which all creeds and all people can meet, and that is to see beauty in attitude, in action, in thought, and in feeling. There is no action with a stamp on it saying that it is right or wrong, but what we think wrong or wicked is really that which our mind sees as such because it is without beauty. All the great ones who have come into the world from time to time to awaken humanity to a greater truth, what did they bring? They brought beauty. It is not what they taught, it is what they were themselves. Words seem inadequate to express either goodness or beauty. One can speak of it in a thousand words, and yet one will never be able to express it. For it is something which is beyond words, and the soul alone can understand it. And the one who will always follow the rule of beauty in his life, in every little thing he does, will always succeed. And he will be able to discriminate between right and wrong and between good and bad.
We are placed in the world in such a condition that we are always subject to outer influences. It is as if a soul were thrown into life susceptible to being moved to the South, North, East, or West depending absolutely on the way the wind blows. The soul turns accordingly. If there were not this little spark in our soul which may be called the engineer, and which we recognize as free will, we would never realize for one moment that we are beings. There would be no difference between things and beings. And the more we realize the existence of will in us and are conscious of it, the more we are able to stand firm in all winds. From whichever side the wind comes we can stand against it.
Even from a material point of view the strength which enables a person to stand on the earth, on this ever-moving earth, is not his mechanical body. It is his will. If he lost his will which holds his body man could not stand on the earth. Not knowing what the will is nor where it is, we very often overlook its existence in us and become absorbed in the causes that are outside us, causes of all the things that bring us joy and distress. The outer conditions move the spirit, and the condition of the spirit moves the outer conditions of life. Never, therefore, be surprised that good luck and ill luck rise and fall. Both are directed by the will behind them. But man, accustomed to look at everything according to logic and reason sees them in a different form from what they actually are. The saints and the wise therefore wish to find this faculty which is called the will. And on finding it they work with it. And when one becomes able to work with it properly one gains mastery over it.
Very often a thinking person asks whether there is free will or destiny, as it seems to him that these two cannot both exist at the same time. It is with them as with light and darkness: in reality there is no such thing as darkness. There is less light and more light. Only when they are compared do we distinguish them as light and darkness. In the same way one can look at free will and destiny: that destiny is always at work with free will, and free will with destiny. They are one and the same thing. It is a difference of consciousness. The more one becomes conscious of one's will, the more one sees that destiny works around it and that destiny works according to it. And the less conscious one is of that will, the more one finds oneself subject to destiny. In other words, either a person is a mechanism or an engineer. But if he is a mechanism then in him there is a spark of engineer, and if he is an engineer then the mechanism is a part of his being.
In spiritual realization we do not need to renounce things. Self-denial as described in the Bible has a different meaning: it means to deny one's self its wrong conception of itself, to take that wrong conception away from it. That is true self-denial. When man once recognizes that part of him which is called will as a divine spark in his heart, and blows on it in the hope of turning it into a flame and then into a blaze, it is he who gives himself life. A life which may be called the birth of the soul.
One cannot say that there is no destiny. There is the plan of an individual, and there is the plan which is the divine plan, although mostly the plan of an individual is not really different from the plan of God. It is not true, however, that destiny does not change. As we change our plans so the Creator changes His plans also.
Everything we make inspires us to complete it. We may make a wrong thing or a right thing, a good thing or a bad thing. But its effect upon us will be that we shall wish to complete it in some way or other. If we create ill luck for ourselves we complete it. We may be against it but still we make it complete. That is the tendency of man: to complete what he has made. Often he does not know this, but when the will is hidden by the mind he sees himself in the hand of conditions. Then what little power his will exerts is used to fulfill the demands of the conditions around him, and to complete that destiny which may be called good luck or ill luck.
It is in the consciousness of the free will and in the understanding of that definite plan which one really wishes to complete, to fulfill, that one can find life's ultimate purpose.