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Fate or Free Will?

GREAT has been the controversy in the past, over the vexed subject of fate versus free will. On the one hand, fatalists claim that man is so closely bound to the wheel of fate it is impossible for him to live his life in any different way from that which is mapped out for him. He can bring a quantity of first-class evidence in support of his claim and believes in his theory with all his heart. On the other hand, the advocate of free will believes just as whole-heartedly that man is not bound at all, being as free as air. He, too, can bring plenty of evidence in support of his theory, which confirms him in his belief. Each one of them thinks that the other is wrong, yet they cannot both be wrong! Let us therefore examine the subject for ourselves, for it is an important one, being intimately connected with the subject which this book discusses.

First of all, let it be said, they are both wrong, in part, and right, in part. Man is bound to the wheel, yet at the same time, he has free will. Let us, therefore, explain this seeming paradox.

It is an ancient truth of the inner teaching that man, when he is unevolved and before he is ‘unfolded’, is bound to the wheel of fate very closely. The unevolved man follows his desires, thus creating for himself a future from which he cannot escape. When, however, he becomes more evolved and emancipated, he begins to resist following his desires and strives, instead, to follow higher things. This creates for him a better future and thus he becomes free in comparison with his former slave state. Man is a slave to fate as long as he is a slave to the desires of the earth plane. He is, however, free to overcome lower things and thus rise to higher. When he does this he ceases to create a painful future for himself and thus becomes free.

There is, therefore, fate which is self-created. It is necessary to acknowledge this before we can proceed further. One who has not had much experience of life or who has not been a close observer, may deny that there is such a thing, but one who has had great changes in his life, against which he has fought and struggled in vain, knows that there is a purpose working behind the events of life, against which even kings and mighty men are powerless. There come times in man’s life when he moves heaven and earth, figuratively speaking: prays until he can pray no more: sacrifices, it may be, his money, his health, his prospects, and does everything that is in the power of a human being in a vain attempt to stave off a threatened disaster. But, in spite of all his efforts, in spite of his cries to a pitiless heaven, the relentless march of fate cannot be stayed. It moves forward like a huge juggernaut and crushes his hopes, his dearest idol, his very life itself or all that then makes his life worth living—and leaves him desolate.

‘If then,’ you may ask, ‘fate is so pitiless and so powerful, what can be done with it and where does free will enter into the matter?’ In reply it must be admitted at once that it is no use fighting fate. The more man fights it, the more completely he gets broken. There are certain main events in each life which must come to pass. These events and changes are inevitable and it is hopeless to fight against them. While these things, which constitute what we call fate, are inevitable and therefore cannot be avoided, it rests with ourselves how we meet these adversities and disasters. If we meet them in the wrong way they break us. If, however, we meet them in the right way we become stronger through discipline and experience, thus becoming better fitted to bear life’s responsibilities and to overcome its difficulties and temptations. One who meets the set-backs, griefs, bereavements and disasters of life in the right spirit becomes a strong and rich character. He becomes mellowed through experience. strong, stable, a helpful influence to all who meet him.

When things go smoothly and life is a merry round, no philosophy or religion seems necessary, and ‘as for an inward power, what of it?, we can do very well without it.’ So say the thoughtless and inexperienced, but there come times in every life, when, not only is a philosophy, and that a very sound one, necessary, but also a power, of which the finite self knows nothing, is needed in order to raise the soul out of the dust and ashes of its despair. It is one thing to try to meet trouble and adversity in the right spirit and quite another thing to have the power to do so. One who thinks that he has no power within him but all the power is in circumstances, can never rise victorious over his troubles and become a conqueror over life’s difficulties; but one who realizes that he possesses a wonderful power that can raise him up, no matter how crushed he may be, can never be a failure in life. No matter what may happen to him he will play the man and act a noble part. He will rise from the ruins of his life and build it anew in greater beauty and splendour.

At this stage it is necessary to point out that there is a difference between ‘big fate’ and the circumstances of life.’Big fate’, as it sometimes is called, antedates this present life and its cause does not come within the scope of this little book.* Sufficient if we say here that, through the ages, we reap as we sow, therefore our future depends upon how we meet life and its difficulties now. ‘Big fate’, then, cannot be successfully fought, simply because it is the working of Omnipotent Law, but our life generally and its circumstances depend upon how we meet ‘big fate,’ and how we recover from it. No matter how seemingly unkind ‘fate’ may be, it is possible for us to make our life a beautiful thing. Inspired and energized by the Power within, we can rise from the ashes of our dead hopes to build anew our life in greater beauty and more in harmony with the Divine Ideal.

*In addition to the ‘fate’ or ‘future’ which every thought and action build, there is, behind all evolution, a gigantic plan. This wonderful plan that embraces all, from the stupendous conception of a limitless universe down to the smallest electron, is being worked out through the ages with absolute precision. Nothing can prevent this plan from being brought into manifestation. It gathers up our past and weaves it into our present life, just in the same way that it is busily gathering up our present life and weaving it into future fate. It works it all into the big plan, somehow, and with infinite skill. The plan is bound to be followed (this, too, is fate) but how we follow it, either with willingness and happiness, or opposition and woe, rests with us this is free will).

Those who have studied the Occult sciences may say ‘what about planetary influences?’ They will point out that, according to the ancient science of astrology, a man’s life is determined by the ‘star’ under which he is born. This is true, if he gives in to the influences around his path. At different times in his life man meets with influences that are sometimes ‘favourable’ and at other times, adverse. These influences are, however, only influences after all, and one who will stand firm during periods of adversity and refuse to give in, relying upon the great Power within to carry him through, will find that he can weather all storms of life and come out of his trials greatly strengthened. He cannot prevent these influences from coming around his path of life, but he can rise superior to them. He will meet with failures and set-backs but he will make of these, stepping-stones to success. He will experience griefs and bereavements, but out of these he will build a finer character and rise to higher things. One, however, who gives in to these things, refusing to rise again and reconstruct his life, condemns himself to further suffering, thus making utter shipwreck of his life.

Let the despairing take heart again. Believe in the Power within you and you will rise to heights before undreamed of. With this Power to help you, you can accomplish the apparently impossible. APPENDIX TO CHAPTER 3

Our life here is not governed by a capricious Being who blows first hot and then cold or who favours one person and tortures another. The Supreme Being works through laws that are absolutely just and unchanging. Therefore all disaster and trouble in the life is the effect of certain causes. These causes are our own wrong doing in the past, which set in motion forces, against which the power and wit and wisdom of man are powerless.* However, because the fundamental law of the Universe is love, it follows that the working of the law of cause and effect is not vindictive. Its object is our highest good, viz., to bring us into union with the Divine or in tune with the Infinite. Therefore, by rising up to a higher plane and coming more into harmony and union with the Divine, we rob even ‘big fate’ of something of its power. We cannot oppose it, for by so doing we fight against Omnipotence, but we can forestall it by doing willingly, and of our own accord, that very thing which experience comes to teach us.

*Another cause is that the soul has failed to learn certain lessons, therefore, in this life, many painful experiences are brought to bear, in such a way, as to teach the necessary lessons. The lessons are, however, learnt only if painful or unpleasant experiences are met in the right way. So long as man believes that he is unjustly treated by fate and that he does not ‘deserve’ what life metes out to him, he intensifies his troubles, both now and hereafter, through not learning the lessons that life desires to teach. When, however, man realizes and admits that life is just and that the cause of all his troubles is within himself, he, like the prodigal son, comes to himself and, soon afterwards, begins his homeward journey. Yet another cause is that soul is deficient in character. Strength and stability of character can be built up through the soul meeting trouble and difficulty. Again it must be pointed out that they must be met in the right spirit.

It will be seen, then, that our future depends entirely upon the way we think and act in this life. Our future lies in our own hands. If we violate the law of love in this life, we create disaster and suffering for the future, which will have to be met, in the form of ‘big fate’ of a painful character, some day. Therefore, by right thinking and right doing now, we not only ameliorate conditions in this life, but we also create a future that will be more harmonious and freer than anything we have experienced hitherto.

It is also necessary to point out that, even in this life, some of its big disasters are the result of thoughts and actions committed during this present existence. A youth or young man may commit a folly that brings, in after life, a terrible retribution. Or he may do another man a grievous wrong and years afterwards someone else does the same wrong to him. It is always an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth on this plane of cause and effect, but the Great Way Shower, by His teaching of the power of love, enables us to rise above these lower things and live a life of harmony and peace.


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