Volume I - The Way of Illumination
Section IV - The Purpose of Life
There is a continual desire working in every soul to see things perfect according to one's own conception of perfection. As one goes on with this desire, observing, analyzing and examining things and beings, one becomes disappointed and disheartened, and besides one becomes impressed with the lack one sees in conditions, in persons, in beings. No doubt there is one thing that keeps one alive, and that is hope. If it is not right today, tomorrow it will become right. If it is not perfect just now, after some time it will be perfect. And so on this hope one lives, and if one has given up this hope then life ends. If one is disappointed in one person, one thinks that in another person one can find all that one expects. If under one condition one is disappointed, one hopes for another condition which will bring about the fruitfulness of one's expectations. The teachers and the prophets have pointed upward. That symbolically teaches us that it is in looking forward to something more hopeful that one lives, and that is the secret of happiness and peace. But once a person develops one idea that there is nothing to look forward to in life, he has finished living.
You will see around you that those who live and those who help others to live, are the ones who look forward in life with hope and courage. It is they whom one can call living beings. But there are others who do not live, for they do not look forward to the life before them. They have lost hope. In order to be saved, they will cling to the hopeful, but if the hopeful also had a limited hope, then they would sink with them. Such souls are as dead. Those who lack hope and courage in life lack a sort of energy of spirit. The standard of health as the physician understands it today, is an energetic, robust body. But the standard of real health is the health of the spirit. Not only the body is living, but also the spirit is living. The one who is open to appreciate all, to feel encouraged to do all that comes his way, who feels joyful, hopeful, ready to accomplish his duty, ready to suffer pain that comes to him, ready to take up responsibility, ready to answer the demands as a soldier on the battlefield, this one shows the spirit hidden within the body. If that condition is lacking, then a person is lacking perfect health and must be helped to gain that energy.
Hopelessness can be overcome by faith. In the first place by faith in God; at the same time knowing that the soul draws its power from the divine source. Every thought, every impulse, every wish, every desire comes from there, and in its accomplishment there is the law of perfection. And in that way a person feels hopeful. But when one thinks, 'What shall I do? What am I to do now? How am I to do it? I have not got the means. I have not got the resources. I have not got the inspiration to do it. When one is pessimistic about things, one destroys the roots of one's desires; because, by denying one casts away that which could otherwise have been attained. For in recognizing the divine Father in God, one becomes conscious of one's divine heritage, and that there is no lack in the divine Spirit, and therefore, there is no lack in life. It is only a matter of time. If one builds one's hope in God, there is an assured fulfillment of it.
It is very interesting to study the lives of the great in the world. We find that some great people have almost arrived at the fulfillment of their undertakings and just before they had reached the goal they have lost it. And there have been some great people who have attained the ultimate success in whatever they have undertaken. You will always find that the souls of the former kind are the ones who were gifted with great power and yet lacked faith, while the others were gifted with the same power, and that power was supported by faith. A person may have all the power there is, all the wisdom and inspiration, but if there is one thing lacking, which is faith, he may attain to all ninety-nine degrees of success and yet may miss that very one whose loss in the end takes away all that was gained previously. There is a saying in English, 'all's well that ends well,' as the Eastern people say in their prayers, 'make our end good;' for if there be a difficulty just now we do not mind, because there will be success, the real success, in its completion.
It is in this outlook that we can find the secret of the idea of Paradise, the paradise which has been spoken of by the elevated souls of all times, and in all scriptures you will find a reference to paradise is a hope in the hereafter, a hope in the future. When someone finds that there is no justice to be found in life or beauty is lacking, or wisdom is not to be found anywhere, and goodness is rare, then he begins to think that justice must exist somewhere. All beauty, wisdom, goodness must be found somewhere, and that is in paradise. He thinks, 'It exists somewhere. I shall find it one day. If not in this life, I shall find it in the hereafter. But there is a day when the fulfillment of my hope, my desire, will come.' This person lives, and this person lives to see his desire fulfilled. For in reality the lack that one finds in a person, in a thing, in an affair, in a condition, will not always remain. For all will be perfect, all must be perfect. It is a matter of time. And it is towards that perfection that we are all striving, and the whole universe is working towards the same goal. It is in that perfection that the thinkers and the great ones of all times have seen their paradise, because through man it is God who desires. Therefore it is not the desire of man, it is the desire of God, and has its fulfillment.
Life on the physical plane is limited. But the power of desire is unlimited. If desire finds a difficulty in fulfillment on the physical plane, yet it retains its power just the same. And the desire is powerful enough to accomplish its work, rising above or freed from this physical plane of limitations. It is therefore, that a hope in paradise has been given by the great ones. In the Bible, it is said in the Lord's prayer, 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,' which means that there is a difficulty even for the will of God to be done on earth, because of limitations. Therefore there is a difficulty for the fulfillment of every person's wish, even though in the wish of every person there is the wish of God. Though there is a difficulty in the physical world, because this is the world of limitations, yet the desire knows no limitations. But desire becomes beaten up, enfeebled, worn out, by continually facing the limitations of this physical plane. If hope sustains and faith cherishes it, there is no desire, either smaller or greater, which will not be fulfilled one day, if not on earth, in heaven. It is that fulfillment of desire which may be called paradise.
'Heaven is the vision of fulfilled desire, and hell the shadow of a soul on fire.' Someone went to Ali and asked him, 'you tell us about the hereafter and the granting of desire there. What if it be not true? Then all our efforts on this earth would be wasted.' 'Nothing will be wasted,' said Ali. 'If it were not fulfilled, then you and I would have the same experience. But if it be true that there is a paradise, then you will be the loser and I shall gain, for I have prepared for it and you have scoffed at the idea.'
But those who wait for a paradise in the hereafter, or
for all things to come true in the hereafter, may look at
it differently: that the power of desire is so great that
one must not allow it to wait for the hereafter. If there
is something that can be accomplished today, we need not
wait for it to be accomplished tomorrow. For life is an
opportunity, and desire has the greatest power, and perfection
is the promise of the soul. We seek perfection, because
perfection is the ultimate aim and the goal of creation.
The source of all things is perfect. Our source is perfect,
our goal is perfect. And therefore every atom of the universe
is working towards perfection, and sooner or later it must
arrive at perfection consciously. If it were not so, you
would not have read in the Bible, 'Be ye perfect as your
Father in heaven is perfect.'