Destiny and Fate
A talk given by Phiroz Mehta at Dilkusha, Forest Hill, London on 5th May 1979
If we talk at all, we have to have a fundamental starting point. We cannot avoid that, and whenever we talk of what we call the fundamental, it is always a limited expression. It is a word or a phrase to represent that which is totally beyond all concepts and words. But communication where we are concerned takes place only in terms of the transference of concepts and words; some sort of coherent, logical structure of thought, as we call it, has to be presented in our words so that the listener, or the reader as the case may be, understands what we are attempting to convey.
Another point that we must bear in mind very carefully is this, that conceptual thinking and verbal formulation undergo change with the centuries, the expression, that is, changes. Any ultimate fact as fact remains ultimate fact, what we call an eternal reality, but the presentation of that in terms of concepts and words invariably undergoes change, although the change is slow usually and sometimes it is dramatic. It becomes dramatic when that climate of thought, as we call it, undergoes a change because of our changing knowledge of the nature of things, through experience, and through our cultural activities, particularly science and measurement, or mathematics if you like. When these have played their part, then this climate of thought passes what may be called the critical point, and when it passes the critical point a new mode of conceptual thinking and verbal formulation is suddenly precipitated into manifestation, and people start thinking and talking in a different way. This is due not only to the fact that our conceptual thinking and verbal formulation have altered, but the actual structure of our living being, our living psycho-physical being, has also undergone changes. As you know, function and structure always go together. When through the process of development and evolution we reach that critical point for change, the body itself and the capacity of the brain to express what was formerly inexpressible have also developed and grown. And when the knowledge of the nature of things presents us with a new vision of the nature of reality, it is precipitated in terms of a new type of thinking and of talking.
Today we live in a scientific age, today one of the supreme key words is energy. In the old days they used terms like God. The earliest presentations are in almost entirely anthropomorphic terms or animistic terms. “God is a special kind of person”. If a lion or a tortoise tried to present God in the very old days (and I am afraid that a lion or a tortoise would do the same today!), God would be a super-lion or a super-tortoise, and his purview, his environment, would be one where sheep would certainly not be lacking, or antelopes or whatever your lion likes to have for his dinner, and the same applies to the tortoise! That has remained the same, but with man there has been an extraordinary change, an extraordinary growth in him. Man is the one animal species on this planet, as far as I know, whose development never ceases. All the other species are limited species, they have their particular sphere and they breed true to type and they live in accordance with that being true to type. We are different. We are true to type up to a point, biologically for instance we procreate in precisely the same way as man, the animal species, did two or three million years ago. But apart from such absolutely physical , basic things, we are different insofar as, in terms of mind and consciousness, we are reaching out towards true creation which transcends all our procreative activities. Our procreative activities are not confined to the physical organism as such but include our cultural life. All our art and science and our philosophic systems are examples of cultural procreation, not true creation. The creation proceeds out of the No-thing, not out of nothing, but out of the No-thing. This No-thing is coming closer and closer within our ken, in our own century especially, due to the development of science and the new kind of philosophy of science and scientific discoveries which has come into being already and is proceeding apace. Associated with it is a new kind of psychology, a new kind of understanding and perception as to the way in which the mind works. I mean mind in this context in this sense, mind as this universal energy, this archetypal form of primordial creative energy which releases cosmos out of non-cosmos, which releases innumerable beings out of the One Total Non-Being, mind in that sense. Admittedly this is arbitrary on my part, but we will probably find it very convenient to investigate along these lines. Psyche is that which is specific to each being. Universal mind characterizes the cosmos as a whole, as the macrocosm, just as psyche characterizes the microcosm.
What is all this a manifestation of? Our modern knowledge shows us, has proved quite definitely the interchangeability, the interconvertibility in fact, of what we used to call matter and energy. What has this done for us? It has presented us with a vision of the nature of the universe more closely in terms of a unitary whole. Almost right up to the end of the last century, there was an unbridgeable gulf between matter and mind or spirit. But when science discovered how to convert matter, the matter of our everyday experience, solid, particles which had a sort of eternity of their own, especially in terms of the chemical elements, when science showed that matter could be treated in such a way that it was completely converted into energy, which was sent out as radiation, (the radiation of heat and light and so forth), when that happened this impassable gulf was bridged. The intuition of the ancient Upaniṣadic teachers bridged that gulf through sheer realization in terms of, let us use the ordinary word, consciousness. This was an extraordinary phenomenon altogether, which enabled them to state without equivocation that what they called Brahman, which is the objective term, and what they called Ātma, which is the subjective term, were not merely completely related to each other, but were an absolute identity. This is very fascinating. How they were able to do that and put it in those words is really a miracle. Not only did they do that, but in some of the Upaniṣads, which are I think the miscalled Minor Upaniṣads, they revealed what they meant by it in more specific terms. They said that Brahman which is identical with Ātmain its own absoluteness is pure consciousness. You see the importance and significance of presenting it this way. Consciousness which in its absolute nature subsumes what we call our relative, discriminative consciousness is the supreme creative agency. This is an extraordinary thing. Because consciousness creates, creation goes on, in terms not only of objective manifestation but of being which is at the same time life. What man has been pleased to call during these last three or four thousand years ‘matter’, the ancient teachers said was not matter in our sense, but declared that it was alive, just as much as you and I are biologically alive. Life in itself still remains a mystery. But science now shows that what we have called dead matter is a wrong phrase to use. No matter is dead. All matter is alive, but alive in the most extraordinary and mysterious manner, which we cannot comprehend for the simple reason that we associate the word life with our biological existence as such, until we ourselves are dead and finished with, so to say. That is why in one of the oldest of the Upaniṣads, the Chāndogya, it is stated quite openly that Brahman, the Absolute All, (that was their objective word for the Absolute All), is Prāna, Life. And Prāna meant Life, not only in terms of breath to start with in the body, which is the absolute sine qua non for bodily existence and continued living, our breathing, not only in terms of breath, but also in terms of our psychical, intellectual, aesthetic and other activities, and also in terms of the livingness of Transcendence itself.
So we can say that consciousness, in their sense, the supreme sense, is Life, it is creative power, it is also Life as such. So, the One Total Reality, Transcendence itself, is wholly alive all the time. But all its innumerable manifestations are aware of that livingness in different forms, each of which, if you take the ascending scale, is more developed, as far as conscious perception is concerned, than the less developed state. This is of very great significance. Therefore Life, Being, Non-Being, the One Total Reality, Transcendence (and therefore including our terms the Infinite, the Eternal, the Immortal) are all comprised within this term consciousness, which we can call also Energy, the One Primordial Creative Energy. And it is quite useful to use that phrase, the One Primordial Creative Energy, which is constantly creative in terms of Action in Eternity, because it is that Action in Eternity which underlies action in time, space and matter, our ordinary everyday experience. For us as we are, we are conscious only in our limited terms — that is to say that we are not conscious in the full sense of the word consciousness. We are aware in our vague way which is less vague than the animal species, which in turn is still less vague than the plant kingdom, which is still less vague than the mineral kingdom, and so on. Wherein does man’s development and fruition consist? In this development of consciousness. Consciousness evolves, a phrase I used right in my days at Trinity in Cambridge, and of course everybody laughed at me. “Consciousness evolves? What are you talking about?” Their idea of evolution was the simple Darwinian idea and that was that. However now it is becoming clearer that consciousness does evolve, and I think it was in The Scientific American in the latest number that a similar idea has been presented, but very, very tentatively because your scientist has to be super-cautious, otherwise he might lose his degree. Science is seeing that too, that consciousness as we have it and experience it is evolving. Where can that evolution culminate, how can it culminate? Only in terms of the supreme and ultimate meaning of consciousness, consciousness in the sense of consciousness as manifested by the One Total Reality, not only manifested by, but as constituting the One Total Reality. This is the extraordinary part of it, and this to me is the important part of it, because when you are really conscious of something, then you live that consciousness unconsciously. You do not need to think about it, you do not need to remember it, you do not need to make any effort to concentrate attention upon it and keep it in the foreground. When you are really conscious of what love is, what wisdom is, then you are loving and wise every single split second of your existence, that is to say, you are loving and wise in the terms of Infinity, Eternity and Immortality. You are that. That is why in the great religious teachings of the world, we have statements like “God is Love”, not merely that God has Love or lovingness. God is Love, God is Wisdom. And we talk in these terms simply because, if we talk at all, as I said at the beginning, we have to use our limited words. But apotheosize those limited words, integrate them to their infinite point, as you have in the integral calculus, from nought to infinity. Think of it in those terms. When we think of it in those terms we are just thinking, we are not conscious, it is outside our capacity to be it. But you have to start that way, and when you start that way and see, have the vision in a form which is not too misleading but tends to show you the direction in which you are growing, then as you grow it becomes truer and truer, until finally you are it. And that’s the point. So consciousness has that meaning.
How does our consciousness as functioning in us interact with consciousness as functioning universally? This includes other separate individual human beings and animals and plants and so forth and also envisages consciousness as the consciousness of the Totality on its own. It is as if energy, (we come back to this word energy), the One Primordial Creative Energy functions in innumerable ways of which we become aware in certain main ways, what we may call the archetypal forms as such, which through the religions have been given names, the names of the archangels, the angels, the demons and the constructive and destructive agencies and so forth. This universal energy, if you can just picture it for a moment, vibrating inwards and coming to the individual living organism called a human being, releases or manifests itself as what I have called a web of consciousness. That is the light, if you like, of the soul within you, the light of the Absolute, the light which manifests as the Perfect Enlightenment, as Transcendent Love, as Transcendent Wisdom, Goodness, Truth, Purity and so forth. It is this web of consciousness in us which is the ultimate thing. Therefore it is not too wise to say, “My consciousness”, as if it were my property. That is the Absolute manifesting in this vehicle, oneself. This vehicle, that Absolute within, functions in the same way, energetically, the energy of this web of consciousness within ourselves vibrates outwards, and the two vibrations from the Total Reality and from within ourselves to the Total Reality are in perpetual interaction. It is a most extraordinary thing to experience it. You will not experience it if you seek it, it will come to you suddenly, not as a thought, not as an intellectual, logical system, but as a sudden whole experiencing. The thing is happening, it happens that way. This web of consciousness, the light of the soul within oneself has its own mode of coming to fruition, coming to fruition in such a way that when it does come to fruition it is completely in relationship with the Absolute Consciousness, with the Total Consciousness. There is nothing to divide that Absolute Consciousness from the consciousness which is functioning in you, this web of consciousness as such.
This is what I call Destiny. This is not the dictionary meaning or the meaning which has been given to it by theologies or philosophies or anything. This is quite a different meaning. I don’t know (because I have not read everything that everybody has put out in the world) whether anybody has put this sort of thing out, as regarding Destiny in this way, this power which is Infinite, Eternally Immortal, Omnipotent but never forcing itself, never compelling. This within oneself is functioning this way, and its Destiny is that it will be totally at one with the Universal Consciousness — it is so difficult to use words here, let me use the theistic word because it is a single sound — God-consciousness, that consciousness which can be associated with the Unborn, the Not-made, the Not-become, and so forth. And this Unborn, Unmade, Unbecome is not merely Non-being, it is simultaneously Being. And this is where the Gītā gives you a wonderful key when Kṛṣṇa says, “Being and Non-being am I.” How is that possible? Those sayings you have to treat with the utmost reverence, do not try to intrude into that sphere and think that you will, like Prometheus, bring the Fire of Heaven down here, you won’t, it will burn you. But just let the mind be quiet, in fact so quiet that you are not consciously thinking about such things, and suddenly it will come to you.
Your Destiny then is That, it is working towards That. In order that it may work towards That, this Destiny is stimulated by the fact that it is not That as yet, and being not That as yet is one of the profound meanings of the word dukkha, which the ancient people presented as being far from, or abstracted out of and obtruding upon the Infinite, the Eternal, the Immortal. This is what in Christian terminology is also the meaning of the word ‘sin’, that which sunders or attempts to spoil the unity of the Totality, exercising its influence upon you. Do remember, no compulsion is here. By virtue of the fact that it is Totality it influences you. The sun does not want to give you light or heat or calculate, “Energy loss here, fuel wanted there, etc., etc.,” and send you light and heat in order to keep your temperature at 98.4°F or something like that. Nothing of the sort happens. The sun is just the sun, and it happens. The influence of the Totality upon you is what I call Fate, which gives you a totally different conception of Fate. The Greeks did sense this when they talked of Fate and the way they presented it, but I am not at all sure whether they could have sensed it this way, for the simple reason that they did not know anything about energy and the meaning of energy as we know it today, through essentially our science and mathematics. Our mathematics has quite transcended the limitations imposed upon our capacity for observation purely through our senses and sense perception. Mathematics today is a kind of magic, it is a mysterious magic, and it is through all that that we are able to experience this kind of thing with regard to the nature of fundamental reality, of the Truth, and therefore also of what is the culmination of our development as Man.
Fate and Destiny. How does that Fate manifest in practical terms in our everyday life? It throws out challenges to us constantly. We translate the activity of that universal energy as a challenge. We call it a challenge simply because we in our limited state have our own particular desires, our ambitions, and we make efforts to serve the limited self and preserve its limitations, its egoity. You see how difficult it is to find release out of this imprisonment by the egoism, the egoity, the self-orientedness of the ego as such, which is just this organism. Nobody can deny that this organism is this particular one and not any other organism of the human race. This is perfectly obvious. So these challenges are our translation of the effects of Fate interplaying with Destiny. Now you will have a friendlier outlook upon Fate. When things go badly, (in some cases we know people’s lives are terribly miserable, beyond belief miserable), then we will not grumble at life, we will not give way before the strokes of Fate, as we call them. We will see them as Divine blessing. We cannot repay the Divine for such blessing, it comes, and if we can really be mindful, really be watchful and above all be quiet inside ourselves — let the mind remain in a state of inward poise and peace — then this web of consciousness inside us, our Destiny unfolds. And the unfolding of that Destiny takes the most marvellous and wondrous and beautiful forms, however painful it may be, however pleasurable it may be. And this is the experiencing of the bliss of Realization in our own lives and through our own daily living. This is the happiness that has no beginning, no origin, no end, because this is the happiness, the joy, the creative joy, which is constitutive of our whole existence and our whole particular being all the time. Now you see the futility of chasing pleasure and sensational delight and all the rest of the humbug, the futility of immersing ourselves in idealistic pursuits, where the ideal has been laid down by the imperfect mind, by the person who is self-orientated and who is doing his very best to preserve the prison house of his own egoity and egoism.
So you see, this is how our Destiny unfolds, and the unfoldment of that Destiny means Enlightenment, means that you, the living person, finite, mortal, limited, are the unresisting vehicle, the open vessel through which Transcendent life flows through without let or hindrance and brings about your fruition in terms of Itself, the Transcendent, finding complete expression as Man, the full meaning of the word Man.