(Excerpt from: “Sunday Talks at Coombe Springs”)
20th December 1964 -- J.G. Bennett
Where is the point at which we are all free, at which we have power to do what we choose? This depends on what we really wish for. This power of wishing is ours and it is never taken away from us. We can wish what we decide to wish. But that decision must be taken by ourselves, we cannot push it off on to anyone else.
We must be sure that we know the difference between wishing and wanting, desiring, or even needing. The way I shall use the word 'wish' in talking to you now refers to the inward decision that every one of us has to take as to what really matters to us. But it does not mean that because we wish for something that we also have the power to achieve it. Nor have we even the power to want, because our wants are divided ‑‑ one part of us wants one thing and another another; one part desires one thing, another hates it. We cannot get away from this conflict of desires in ourselves, or the changing of our wants: we now want this then forget all about it and want something quite different. This is how we are, but none of this touches a true wish, because wish is where will is anchored. Wish is really the simplest thing because wish can either be to belong where we do belong and to find the place that is destined for us, or it can be a wish to occupy the place that we want, that we desire. In another and a still simpler way of putting it, we either can wish to serve God or we can wish for the satisfaction of our own egoism. It is said that there is no place for two in the soul: it must be either I or God, not both. I say it is at this point that we have full power to wish for what we choose. That is why the place of supreme responsibility is where we have to decide what it is that we wish. None of us need be confused about this question. It does not require any learning, it does not require any particular articles of faith nor belief in this or that creed. It is before and beyond and more intimate than all of that.
So long as this is not faced, life is troublesome. We approve of this or of that, we are affected by things, by people, by their behaviour, by success and failure, by pleasure and pain, but none of these can touch us when we know what we wish. If you see any person who is affected by what other people think, by how they stand in other people's eyes and so on, you must know that they have no stable unchanging wish, and if you find that you yourself are such a kind of person, you must know that your wish is not clear. If you wish for God, for reality, for Truth, for what is right, none of these things will matter. They cannot, because they all belong to the wish that you have rejected; that is, the wish for your own egoistic satisfaction.
Until you have not cleared this question of wish, you will be afraid, because you will not know how to face the future. If you are clear about this, fear disappears, because you know that whatever happens and whatever may come, your wish will remain unchanged. When people have a strong wish they are strong in their lives. We must not forget that the power of wish also applies to people whose wishes are founded on their own egoism. They wish for success, they wish for dominance, they wish to stand well in the eyes of people, and they go all out to get it, ruthlessly. And because of this, they have not got these kinds of subserviences to what people think or to pleasure or pain. They will face being affronted, having to suffer overwork; they will deny themselves, because they know what they wish for.
You know the parable of the Unjust Steward. When he saw that he was going to lose his job, he took every precaution to see that he would be all right, and to everyone's surprise he is commended. Even Christ says that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. Why? Because it is necessary to know what one wishes for and who does not know what he wishes for is nothing at all, because this is the centre of everything for us. There are many people who can be called children of light, who are sincerely drawn towards truth and reality and yet are all the time looking over their shoulders to see what is going on behind them, or looking at other people to see whether they are approved or disapproved of, or waiting to be commended, or something. They are the kind of people of whom it is said: "The children of this world are wiser than they." When one is really clever, how can any of these things matter?
It may be that we cannot make the image of what we wish for clear to ourselves, but we can, without any question, make the direction clear. By that I mean that a person may say "I wish to serve God, l wish for the realisation of truth, I wish for the love of God, for impersonal objective love" without being able to fully comprehend what these things mean; but everyone can be clear about whether the wish is for himself or for what is right. We must all of us see without any doubt that about this there can be no self‑deception. When this wish is clear then all the other things will come, and that again is expressed by the saying of Christ: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness... ."Even if you do not really know what it means, this is the direction to which you can turn and the rest will become clear by itself. There has to be an implacable, uncompromising demand of oneself that one will not deceive oneself, because with self‑deception we fall into every kind of misery. We become afraid, we depend upon people, we have no kind of confidence.
When I say we must be clear about what we wish, I do not mean that this solves all our problems, far from it. We still will want the wrong things, we shall still forget all about it, we still will be drawn towards stupidities. This is how things are, we have very little power over all that. But once we are clear about our wish and return to it again and again to be quite certain that it remains unchanged in us, that we really know that we do not want our own egoism to be fed, pampered, by anything whatever, then we have the extraordinary assurance that enables us to face anything. But as soon as we are again caught by this egoism of ours, every misery enters again. This must be clear.