By Stephen Hawley Martin
Many spiritually advanced people believe that there are no accidents, that everything that happens is orchestrated by the force and intelligence we call God. They would say that whatever happens is part of God’s plan and that he or she works in mysterious ways.
If this is so, why do bad things happen to good people?
To be sure, God works in mysterious ways, but not everything that happens is planned in advance. For example, what about absolutely horrible events like the abduction and murder of an innocent child?
When something like that happens, we need to remind ourselves that humans have been given free will and that we, individually and collectively, can choose to act evil ways. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we can disobey what we know the Deity within would have us do.
Accidents, also, can and do happen, as when a faulty gasket leads to the space shuttle exploding on take off. If every event were orchestrated by God, then God, knowing the end of the game, would be guiding things along to arrive at that end. What would be the purpose of free will? Could we even call it that?
The bottom line is Infinite Intelligence appears to be about the task of fostering life, growth and evolution. This includes the evolution of its offspring-your soul and my soul- toward reunification with itself. This is what the myth of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is about. We became separated from God when we evolved self-aware egos that wanted to be like God. Since that time, we have been slowly working our way back. But we still have a long way to go, and Infinite Intelligence, in a sort of partnership arrangement, uses circumstances to help us. Our own higher selves, what some call our souls, lead us unconsciously into these circumstances and situations that are catalysts for growth.
A thought exercise will help you get in touch with the meaning behind any event- especially the challenging problems that seem without purpose and leave us asking. “Why is this happening to me?” First, select a recent personal misfortune. Once you’ve made your selection, imagine another self lives inside you, one that is far wiser than your ordinary self. Imagine this higher self is able to design and conjure circumstances that have a purpose and a lesson to them, that this higher self is capable of constructing life situations and then leading your ordinary, conscious self into them.
Think back to the particular event that your ordinary self has labeled a misfortune. Now use your imagination to try be that higher self. Remember why you created this event. What was the opportunity for learning and growth you had in mind?
Sometimes this exercise isn’t easy. Our ego consciousness can be very resistant, putting forth arguments that may be tough to overcome. It might argue, “I’m not to blame for this misfortune because someone else did it to me. “Or, “My higher self would never play such a trick on me!” Well, accidents may happen, and sometimes evil may result from man’s free-will choices, but the vast majority of situations and conditions come about for the purpose of soul growth. There is almost always a deeper meaning to be found in troublesome events.
This thought exercise requires you to envision a hidden self that often has a quite different agenda from that of your ordinary self. Some people label these two parts of your being “the personality” and “the individuality.”
The distinction is that the personality, which is the ordinary self is the one with which you are most familiar. It’s made up of your likes and dislikes, beliefs and biases. The personality is not only your inner life of attitudes and emotions, it is also the way you appear to others-your facade. Jung called it the persona.
Where does the personality come from? For the most part, it is the product of imitation. From earliest childhood we learn patterns from parents, teachers, books, radio, and television. The inclination to copy others is strongest in childhood, as most parents have observed, but it continues in adult life. Our personalities function largely by habit, with routine ways of thinking, feeling, acting, and reacting to the world. They are necessary for living in the material world, since some activities such as driving a car and eating, for example, can be performed effectively without full conscious attention. The problem arises when this ordinary self tries to assert too much authority, when habit patterns begin to control everything and a person begins to identify him or herself fully with the personality, and forgets the individuality.
The individuality, which is also called the soul, is the real self in the sense that it is permanent and continues from one lifetime to another. It is capable of authentic creativity and free choice, while the personality self is rooted in habit and rarely exercises the will. The mission the soul has selected for a lifetime resides within the individuality. It is from this part of yourself that you can gain knowledge of your mission and access the resources needed to accomplish it.
Certainly the personality has a role to play in all this. But its job is to be responsive to direction of the individuality. In the fully- actualized individual, the ordinary self becomes the vehicle of expression for the higher self. Consider that you have developed certain skills and abilities over the years perhaps over lifetimes. But talents don’t create a meaningful life by themselves. They can fall into nonproductive ruts or be directed by selfish movies. You begin to fulfill your soul’s mission when the individuality starts guiding those abilities so they are fully creative and used for service in the world.
How can you go about finding the exact nature of your soul’s purpose? First, make a conscious effort to trust that life is purposeful and that the vast majority of events happen for a reason. The great twentieth-century psychic, Edgar Cayce, suggested that every day something happens that provides you with an opportunity to get more fully on track with your mission. It’s a sad fact that most of us ignore or misunderstand many of these situations. We misinterpret them as annoyances or inconveniences simply because our egos want to stay in control.
Belief in yourself also means acceptance of your own greatness. You and everyone else you meet are extraordinary. This may sound illogical. How can everyone be extraordinary?
We usually think the world implies an elite category of people who stand out from the crowd. But isn’t every snowflake with its unique, intricate pattern extraordinary? Wouldn’t every sunset or lightning storm qualify, too? Human souls are the same. Each is a wonderful, unique blend of talents and sensitivities. Every soul is equipped to make remarkable contributions to the community and to the world in which it lives. Yet many of us fear our own greatness.
To find your soul’s purpose, all you really need to do is ask and answer four basic questions:
What is your spiritual ideal? In your peak spiritual moments, what have you recognized to be the highest truth about yourself and about life? On those rare occasions when the problems, demands, and busy agenda of your personality have briefly disappeared, what feelings were awakened within you? What you can recall of these moments can be called your spiritual ideal.
This is not strictly your “mission,” but rather describes a state of consciousness from which that mission may be directed. Joyful surrender, freedom, peaceful creativity, and oneness without fear are a few examples of phrases others have used to clarify their spiritual ideals.
What are your key talents and abilities? By taking an inventory of your aptitudes and past successes, you can probably come up with a pretty good list. As you itemize, be sure to include talents that you sense are within you even though you may not have had much of a chance to use them yet. Think back to your most significant accomplishments and recognize the abilities that were required. You’ll probably find you can compile a list of six to ten of your most noteworthy talents and skills.
What words capture essence of your mission? A short summary of your soul’s purpose will help guide the implementation of what you were born to do. What’s needed is something more specific than “To be loving” or “To serve God”, since deep down we all share these inspirations. Your mission statement should more precisely fit your talents and the contribution you are here to make. It is usually expressed in four to fifteen words, and describes how you will use your talents and what kind of creative service you will offer.
Your mission may or may no to be fulfilled through the occupation by which you earn your living. It’s a great joy when this is possible, but there may well be times in your life when your mission is fulfilled most directly through free-time activities and so-called hobbies.
Here are a few typical mission statements:
To help people through transitions in their lives.
To edit and reshape the ideas of other so those ideas can be better understood.
To be a spokesperson for peace.
To be a stimulus for new ideas in the world.
To comfort and bring peace to those passing through difficult, emotional times.
Finally, how will you put your mission statement into action, if you are not already doing so? It is usually best to begin with little steps. You might formulate a plan that involves two or three practical initiatives that will test the accuracy of your mission statement. Until you actually give expression to your statement, you won’t know for sure if you have correctly identified your mission. Of course, you can hardly expect every small experiment to be a rousing success. But some of them should bear recognizable fruits if, in fact, you’ve properly discerned your calling. Look for some or all of the following as encouraging signs:
Events falling into place or being at the right place at the right time.
Seeing benefits come to other people.
Feeling closer God.
Recognizing how all of life is purposeful.
Experiencing reserves of energy that seem to come from beyond yourself.
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” Sometimes its may simply be an accident or the result of others choosing to do evil, but more often than not, bad things happen for a reason. Infinite Intelligence and our higher selves orchestrate events in order to get our ego’s attention and direct us back onto the path of soul evolution. The next time something bad happens, look for the message and the lesson behind the event. By taking the time to do so, you may be reminded why you are here, and of your purpose and your mission.
Stephen Hawley Martin is author of many books on spirituality that can be purchased at www.OakleaPress.com.