“Without a foe a soldier never knows his strength, and thought must be developed by the exercise of strength. And so this carnal nature soon became a foe that man must fight,” so that it could embody the strength that God created, says Noble Drew Ali in The Circle 7 Koran (Ch. 1).
Many modern “spiritual people” see good fortune in coincidences and synchronicities. It is “meant to be,” we are told. It is flattering to us who hear such pronouncements, and it is flattering to whoever is making them, since, in their own mind at least, they have become the voice of the will of the universe — the interpreter and mouthpiece of fate, telling us what is “mean to be” and, by implication, what is not.
In my experience, however, things that come easily go easily. Friendships that fall quickly into place rarely last. The sudden promise of money or love just when we most need it might well be a wonderful blessing, or, just as likely, it might be an age-old scam. Initial success with a practice gives way — as it should if it is at all real — to struggling with it.
We must, however, note an essential exception to our dismissal of coincidences and synchronicities — and that is those that comes not at the beginning, but after a long time of diligently working at something. When researching, for example, you might have an amazing stroke of luck, uncovering some previously overlooked goldmine of research material. Or, if practicing martial arts, you might find yourself moving and striking at exactly the right time, as if the body moved itself, with the conscious mind catching up afterward. A painting comes easily one day, when others had to be labored over. Or it might be an article or poem.
But such things don’t miraculously appear.
Coincidences and sychronicities that push you forward will occur, but we should trust them only when we’ve reached the level of an expert or master, or, at least, have passed significantly beyond the level of the beginner. We cannot become a great fighter if we win our fights because all our opponents miraculously slip and fall over. Such a synchronicity would rob us of the real treasure of learning, and we would be defenseless against any real attacker.
We need that foe — to use Noble Drew Ali’s word — whether it appears in the form of an opponent or partner in training, as archives and materials we need to examine when writing a book, or the techniques we must master when learning any art.
Contrary to what lazy, modern spirituality tells us, it is the foe that is meant to be. Not what we do without effort.
Look at the world’s great religious texts. Over and over, we hear of God — or the gods — testing their favorites, putting obstacles in their way, driving them beyond the comforts, capabilities, and spiritual and mental capacity of lesser men.
The prophet does not want to be a prophet. The warrior does not want to be a warrior. But the foe, the great obstacle, appears, and while others all around wail and complain that this wasn’t meant to be, or that it shouldn’t be, he or she rises up, and an ordinary man or woman slowly realizes that they have the capacity for greatness.