Here is a question that touches on a subject which has always been problematic, namely the relationship between freedom and necessity. To what degree do the events in our life happen as part of a pre-ordained pattern and to what extent are they either self-initiated or the result of 'luck', good or bad, (if there is such a thing)? The question relates to an extreme event but there is no reason to think that the general process is different in more ordinary circumstances.
Q. When somebody is murdered is it part of that person's destiny to be murdered and, even more alarmingly, part of the murderer's destiny to be a murderer?
A. You do have a destiny when you are born but it is not a fixed straight line which can never be changed. Rather it is a range of opportunities any one of which could actually occur depending on choices you make. No doubt there is a level of omniscience where all that ever happens is known in some eternal moment but the fact that something may be known 'in advance' (concepts of time don't apply here but we have to express ourselves that way) does not cause it. Your destiny changes with every choice you make. There is a general intention and direction planned for your life but you need to take the steps (or refrain from taking other steps) to make what exists in potential become real.
The soul that comes into this world to further its spiritual education has a destiny. Together with its teachers in the higher worlds it will have considered the most effective way to pay off its karmic debts, that is to say, to compensate for wrong decisions made in the past, and to experience those circumstances from which it can best learn. It will also be looking for opportunities for service. These are the three factors which must be taken into account when that destiny is planned. But when the soul is born it loses touch with its spiritual self, except, if it is reasonably advanced, through fleeting impression. Its initial circumstances may have been decided, and some thereafter, but how it reacts to those circumstances will determine its future course.
It may be the destiny of some people to suffer violent death. This may be part of their karma or it may be a sacrifice that they have volunteered to make in order to help others. It is not part of anybody's destiny to be a murderer. That could only be the result of wrong decisions, probably many of them, taken in defiance of the person's true path and real nature. Incidentally, it is interesting to consider that, from a spiritual perspective, the actual crime of murder cannot be to take life as life is not taken, spiritually speaking. It is to interfere with free will in the most dramatic way possible, and to deny the victim the chance to progress with his experience in this world. Needless to say that does not lessen the crime or excuse it in any way, particularly since, in most cases, the murderer believes that he is taking life, and, from the spiritual point of view, intent is often more important than action.
Some people talk of fate but I don’t believe in fate as such because it implies an undeviating inflexibility that is not part of the pattern of this world. I do believe in destiny and I also believe in free will which I see as working together. I believe in these things anyway but the Masters confirmed that both exist when they told me that there was a path laid out for me but I had to tread it. Destiny is God’s purpose for us and free will is how we respond to that purpose. What we make of it. So we have a path but we have to walk it and we can do so in a straight line or by wandering off it slightly or even straying completely. If we do the latter, it may be that circumstances seek to pull us back but ultimately we must make ourselves, and how we respond to external events is always up to us.
I think that most people left to themselves (i.e. without interference by the professionals) tend to accept both free will and destiny and not necessarily see a contradiction between them unless they try to over-analyse and think that one has to exclude the other. We experience ourselves as free to choose, and while theories that our choices are dictated by heredity and circumstances may be true up to a point, they are not the whole truth. There is always something in us that remains individually autonomous and free. At the same time, certain events in our life do seem pre-destined. We can’t prove that but we do feel it and, though it may be the fashion to dismiss such feelings as irrational, a wiser course might be to see them as intuitive recognitions of truth while never, of course, ruling out the possibility of self-deception or superstition which will always exist until the human mind transcends its limitations.
So to the question as to whether we are fated or free there is only one possible answer. We are both fated and free but the fated aspect of our lives only exists to bring us greater freedom.
To continue with these thoughts, why do bad things happen to good people? First of all, who is good? I know I am not. Are you? What I mean is that none of us is perfect. We all have things to learn. If there is tragedy or suffering in your life I would ask you to consider the following suggestions as to its possible cause. I would also ask you to try to understand that it is unlikely to be a random or meaningless event but that there may be a purpose behind it. I know this is hard but acceptance of purpose can help us to come to terms with suffering and even heal wounds that will remain open if we reject the idea that there is meaning to everything.
It may be the result of karma. For those who acknowledge reincarnation this should not be too difficult to accept but a theory or belief can be severely tested when the practical realities of that belief come about. If we can accept unpleasant circumstances as possibly being the return of karma created in the past by our own shortcomings that should help us to to experience them with a degree of detachment, and without the inner resistance that can only ever prolong suffering.
It may be a chance to learn a lesson that our soul has elected to learn in this life. In our worldly minds we do not know what decisions we took before incarnation and what experiences we and our teachers chose to give us the best possible opportunity for spiritual growth. But if we try to attune ourselves through prayer and meditation we will surely see a way forward. And if we are honest with ourselves, and free of self-pity, we will see what it is we can learn from the situation. Maybe our attitude to life needs to change and this event is the crisis that forces that to happen.
These are the two principal reasons for suffering and hardship (if we understand karma not just to be the effects of causes set in motion in past lives but also the natural outcome of our current psychological state), but because of the highly imperfect condition of this world there are two other factors to take into account.
You might be the victim of another person’s abuse of free will. Even here it is likely that you would have some karma to be resolved with that particular person but their behaviour might aggravate the situation. In these circumstances, perhaps circumstances where you are attacked or unfairly traduced, it is essential that you avoid reacting in kind. In other words, that you turn the other cheek. Take it as a lesson in forgiveness and non-attachment to your own feelings. The incident may not have started as an intended lesson but it can be used as an opportunity for you to dis-identify yourself from the ego and its reactions, and deepen your connection to the source. You are not responsible for what others do to you. You are responsible for your response to that.
Lastly it is possible that you might be the victim of an attack by discarnate forces. As the Master said ‘the greater progress (you make) the more (you will) be assailed by evil in all its forms.’ This will usually manifest inwardly as attempts to influence your feelings and thoughts but occasionally it may take the form of attack (verbal attack, attack on your reputation) by individuals manipulated by the dark forces. Normally the Masters can protect their disciples from outer attack but if it does take place the way to respond to it is, again, with non-reaction and calls to the higher powers for protection.
Not everything that happens to us in this world is pre-determined or the result of karma. Much is and that is the destiny side of things but we have free will and can be the victims of others misusing their free will. However experiencing adverse situations gives us the opportunity for spiritual growth if we react to these situations correctly. And if we are spiritual disciples we should know that God and the Masters are always with us. We should know too that suffering may be a fact of life in this world but, to paraphrase the Masters, we are going down a river and there will be eddies, currents and even waterfalls but one day in the not too distant future it will flow into the sea of tranquillity and we will know peace.