March 20th, 1926
You have perhaps heard in stories or read in books that people in the East, especially fakirs and dervishes, are fasting many and many days or making different experiments such as standing in the glowing fire and cutting parts of their bodies, and which still exist, no doubt. Where there is a reality there is imitation also. If there are true fakirs, there are false ones also. If a work is really done by some, then by some it is done as an imitation, and if five among them are real, fifteen besides will prove to be false.
Why I put it here is to tell you that it has been the practice of seekers after truth in the East for centuries to find out the power of spirit on matter. In the first place, spirit has created matter and spirit works through matter. Spirit has created matter, like water turning into the snow. It is still water but in another condition. Therefore, matter comes out of the spirit; as snow in reality is water, so matter in reality is spirit. Nevertheless, spirit being more living, in its original state it has very great power over matter. At the same time, spirit is either inspired or has become blunted by matter.
All pain and pleasure which spirit experiences, it is through matter. Therefore, matter being the vehicle or means by which spirit experiences life, this makes the spirit ignorant of its own independent power, making spirit dependent upon material vehicles through which the spirit experiences life. The efforts which people in the East made to experience the life of the spirit independent of matter have been of the greatest importance, and their first step was to see to what extent spirit can control and utilize matter. In other words, their experiments have been for centuries to find out to what extent mind works on the body. I have seen with my own eyes fakirs cutting their muscles and skin and healing it in one moment, and that gives us a key, at a time of great materialism throughout the whole world, that there is some power latent in man. If that power were discovered and utilized to greatest advantage, things would be performed not known to the world of science. The spiritual people in the East had always this point of view before them and we can trace in history of India and Egypt and Persia that in all ages there existed souls who were called saheb-i-dil, which means masterminds at whose command were life and the conditions of life.
And now coming to metaphysics, that there exist two powers, in other words two aspects of the will. One aspect is a perfect power; the other is limited power. The limited power of the will works through individuals and the perfect power works through the absolute. Naturally, therefore, sooner or later the power that works through the absolute accomplishes its own plan, and the plan of the individual power becomes broken. But at the same time, there is a struggle between the absolute power and the individual, and this struggle remains for some time because the absolute power has its own plan to accomplish and very often it is quite different from the plan of the individual. The Sufis called these two powers qaza and qadar.
They have called one the power of God, the other of man, and we read in the Bible, “Thy will be done on earth” as meant to suggest to the individual who repeats this prayer to let the will of the absolute work, and to harmonize with the will of the absolute instead of struggling against it. Therefore, it is not only that the power is needed in life, but wisdom besides it, in order to discriminate between one’s will and the will of God.
And now coming to the subject of destiny. It is a very complex subject because man is always used to make rigid ideas about the hidden laws of nature. When he thinks of destiny, he always thinks of something so fixed and rigid that it could not be changed, like a piling made of rod that stays there for years and years together. But it is not true, the hidden law of life is very pliable. There is a fixed destiny, but at the same time it is continually improving, and moving. When man might realise about these laws is, that you find the wise stands above the law and the foolish has the law upon his shoulders. In other words, one makes use of the law and the other is used by the law, that is the difference between the wise and the simple one. When an artist has a design which he wishes to produce on canvas, first there is a plan and then he puts that plan on canvas. He is interested in that plan and every line and colour changes his plan as he goes on, because what he had thought was one thing, but what is seen on canvas is a different idea. So the plan already made can even change to such an extent that in the end, when the picture is finished, it is different from what was planned.
It is the same with destiny. It is true what we are taught, that there is destiny, but at the same time it is continually changed and improved, and if a person thinks it remains as it is and we have to go through it, it only shows ignorance besides weakness.
adapted from Complete Works of Hazrat Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, 1926 II