In this conclusion of the session of questions and answers with Hazrat Inayat Khan, the themes are wide ranging, and each response gives us much to ponder. The first part of the session may be found here.
Q. Is the whole universe going on automatically, and is there no free will?
A. Yes, man is born in a universe which is going on automatically, and he is born helpless. Therefore, it is true that the condition is such, but what is the child born with? He is born with a desire to do as he wills. This desire is the proof of there being a free will, which is put to the test under all opposing conditions and influences which the soul meets with through life. And to rise above all the opposing influence and to give the fullest expression to the free will brings about that result of life which is the fulfillment of the soul’s coming on earth.
A. In this case we must understand that although outwardly it is automatically working, inwardly there is God. There is no mechanism without an engineer – only the engineer does not seem to be standing by the side of the mechanism, and he is not claiming that he is the engineer. One thinks that there is a machine going on and there is no engineer. If one knew that there is an engineer, one would know that a small part of the machine can understand so little of the scheme and plan which is made for the working of the whole universe. And if anybody understands, it is the awakened soul; but how much does he understand, and what? He can only say what he can say about it, that all justice and injustice, which may appear to us on the surface, will all fit in and be perfect at the finish, where there is the summing up of the working of the whole universe.
Q. How can thought help one to come to the realization of God, or of unity?
A. What man thinks, he sees: all man sees is his own thought. Man can produce out of his thought Satan, or an angel, or a devil; and he can produce out of his thought God. Man’s thought has a great power. And when he comes to the realization that all is from one source and all is developing to one goal, then he begins to see that that source is God. Therefore the world of variety is no longer variety to him; it is unity, it is one.
Q. How can one learn virtue?
A. The real virtue is learned by the study of reality, and the true virtue comes by itself. When a person becomes conscious of reality, all he does becomes virtuous. He has the light of reality before him, the lantern of Aladdin, the guiding light.
Q. Why are some souls born in miserable surroundings?
A. There is a saying of the Quran, “The creation has come out of darkness.” The soul does not always come with open eyes, it comes with closed eyes, the picture of which the infant shows. Its eyes open afterward. But at the same time, to compare one condition with another condition needs familiarity with the conditions, and the time of that comes after being born. If this question is considered more deeply, one will come to a very great realization of the secret of life, and especially of good fortune and bad fortune. It is not always a design in which the soul is so limited that it cannot get out of that, but every soul makes for itself a condition, even after coming on earth. Are there not thousands and thousands who live in miserable or in bad conditions because they know no better? If they had known better they could have managed to become better. This rule applies to very many cases in life. Most of the reasons for misery are in people’s own ignorance. If they know how to combat, how to get out of misery, there are many doors, many ways to get out of it.
Q. Is it ungenerous to be critical of things that do not agree with our sense of beauty?
A. When we are developing our sense of beauty, then naturally we shall be critical of what is not up to our standard of beauty. But once we have developed our sense of beauty, then the next cycle shows us a different phase. The divine compassion is developed in us.
Q. What is the way to attain dignity?
A. By learning to think, one develops dignity in nature. The more one thinks, the more dignified one becomes, because dignity springs out of thoughtfulness.
Q. Is time an aspect of space?
A. It is by space that time becomes intelligible, and by time that space becomes intelligible. But when one has insight into life, neither time stands before him nor space, for both these have created this illusion which we call life. Furthermore, rhythm cannot exist without tone, nor tone without rhythm. They are interdependent for their existence; and so it is with time and space.
Q. What is imagination? Is it something unreal?
A. Imagination is everything. To the real all is real, to the unreal all is unreal.
Q. Is it especially on the saintly path that ascetic qualities are acquired?
A. No. Ascetism is a tendency, and you will find this quality in every person who has a longing for spiritual attainment to a greater or less extent.