If it happens, it is grace
Jan van Delden

We are sitting with a very small group of people in the mild October sun in the Dordogne (France) and ask Jan 'the shirt off his back' about 'free will'- do we have that or don't we have that?

Jan: You have to come to the conclusion yourself that you can only say something about 'free will' after everything has become clear. I always use Odysseus as an example to talk about these things. When the story of Odysseus begins, he has just won the Trojan war with his Trojan horse stratagem. Odysseus insists that he thought it up and did it. He finds that he did that out of his free will, and everyone around him confirm that. As far as 'the world' is concerned it is clear that everyone has a 'free will'. You can't meddle with that. As long as you are only looking from the level of 'Johnny' (the personality) there is free will. That is how you experience it, and that is how you have to be with others, otherwise you are cast out.

Meanwhile I can say to seekers: 'If you had free will, you would stop wanting anything and be happy NOW.' You would after all have become happy long ago! Then you have to admit, after all, that you have never succeeded in making yourself happy. Looking back you will see that it is therefore not in your hands, that it is not by means of a 'you' that you are happy. For a long time I wanted to stop smoking, but you can say that you want to stop smoking, but that does not mean that you also can DO it. I have since stopped, but not because I wanted it at the moment that I wanted it.

Question: That happens suddenly? Therefore you cannot DO anything? It is either there or not?
Jan: The head says: I want to stop smoking/greed/ sexual desire/gluttony or whatever, but the DOING is not in your hands. That can also be an eye opener to let you see that free will does not exist. If I have to choose between two cookies, and I know that almond cookies are not as tasty as those chocolate cookies, then my hand goes automatically to the chocolate cookies, mmm. There is no need to carry on a discussion at that level. I choose that cookie, Period. I can prove that intellectually, then it seems to be true: I choose, therefore, Free will. Just like the Trojan Horse — the whole world agrees. There are no difficulties with that. The difficulty comes when you say that it was not Odysseus, but Consciousness itself that thought of the Trojan Horse. 'If God doesn't do it, then Johnny tries it in vain' Then everybody is ready to jump on you. All the Mothers Teresa and Presidents Bush become angry. Then you are taking away their little successes or actions. And that is what the world is all about.

It is easy to say that in a welfare state, but how do the poor people in Africa or Afghanistan, for example react?
If that is 'imposed' on them then you can ask that. What do millionaires say: I was at the right place just at that moment, or at the Exchange, or born in a good nest or whatever. People often do not see that everything is grace. You might have been born in poverty this morning. For the rest, most poor people are in India or such, and if there is no direct war they are very happy. In India there are also many people who are conscious of the fact that it is Consciousness that arranges everything. When Americans can't make do with what they have, they always begin to talk about God, because they have no social safety nets such as we do. Everyone in American has learned to believe. Much more than is the case with us. Actually 'Free will' makes no sense. You are either happy or not. You are either thankful or not. You can give as much as you like, a person can always misunderstand what they are given.

So we actually have nothing to want?
I would think of 'free will' as an abstraction, and once you understand that 'free will' does not exist, then you are comfortable in your skin, then you have understood the story well. Before that time there exist no 'will' at all, The whole idea of 'willing' is based on having, having, having. And there are always conditions to getting anything. 'Please, in the future I want to have.. a family, two children, a nice house'. Everyone 'wants' and is unhappy later. 'If I do not have this or that I am unhappy' That is inherent in life. That belief in what is not there brings us a lot of grief. It is better not to want something.

There are people who purposefully make something, they create what they say they want. What about that?
I used to walk with my ex along the beach dreaming and fantasizing for hours about everything that we were going to do: living in the woods, finding mushrooms, making cheese, growing vegetables. We dreamed like that for years. Now, I could say: look, it succeeded, I live in the woods now, but that is nonsense. Afterwards you can say that it is so, but that is only true for a few people, not for everyone and if it does not apply to everyone, then it is a belief and has nothing to do with the truth. I always tell the story of the shark and the pilot fish who swim around him and think they know which way the shark is going to swim: he is going left, no, right, oh no he is turning around, see, I was right. All that drivel is in our heads all day long while the shark just swims along and the pilot fish's bullshit has nothing to do with whether he swims right or left, under or over. But that is where we live all the time, that is what we believe and that is what we suffer from. If you just look at what happens, then that whole 'I did it' business stops, and you don't listen to it anymore. Simply let the little fishes bullshit. Don't listen to the little fishes anymore. They only talk about what might happen and how it could happen…. If I had not done that, then .. if I actually had done that… then … if he or she had or had not said this or that, then … The shark has nothing to do with all that. He is just living completely spontaneously.

How is it possible then that it does seem to succeed for some people?
If the idea helps you, then it is okay. But you are naturally creating an artificial situation. You have no influence on the NOW! Sooner or later you will get a kick in the ass, because Consciousness has somethig to tell you sometime that you overlooked. That HAS to happen sometime if you are fated to come Home.

Is that the spiritual master's 'job'?
You need a spiritual master to teach you how to handle what the Nothing is like. Before you are ready for the Void you must be finished with your spiritual master! Odysseus also experienced that. He tried to attack Troy for ten years and finally he succeeded. The whole world says: 'Fantastic Odysseus!' But, Poseidon, ruler of the sea, does everything possible to thwart Odysseys, because Odysseus has burned out the eye of Poseidon's son Polyphemos, the one-eyed Cyclops (the truth), and Poseidon wants to teach him a lesson. Poseidon says: 'Yes, yes, conceited, irritating little man we'll let you know who is really in charge…' Odysseus has to wander all these years until he becomes suspicions and begins to understand that the gods and not him do everything. He has to travel that long path to discover what 'free will' actually is.

Thus, everything in its own time. There is a season for everything.
Yes, therefore it says in the Odyssey': 'You have to begin somewhere.' One person might have a Rambo in himself who has to live itself out at the last moment, another might belong to the 'Phalaken', another can not pass by the Sirens and cannot cope with the 'Bag full of wind' (that is with 'Nothing') yet.. Sooner or later you meet all these facets, but at the moment that it is needed the only thing that works is 'grace', and there are people who need the strength of the word or of belief, and sometimes they also arrive completely Home. But finally they will see that the strength was not in Johnny/Odysseus/personality/ideas, but in the realization itself; the wave was made of water, but the wave imagines that it has discovered water. At a certain moment you have to see how ridiculous that is.

So, if I think my free will is at work that is actually a signal to take a better look.
Yes! At first you go in search of the water and that seems to be an investigation of the wave (the person). When the wave realizes that it is made of water, and that all the other waves are also made of water, and that there is nothing else than water, then it sees the ridiculousness of the whole search, because there has never been anything else except water. Then the whole structure collapses. Until then you have to stay where you are at. You must therefore not just believe what I say. It is not about belief, it is about your seeing it! But there are many bhaktis who derive much from the strength of the word and who also can see wonders therein — who do not use their thinking, but their trust in God and that always works, but if you use your trust in God for your personal preferences then sooner or later you will see that it turns around. If I think, 'God is for America', then I am making a real mistake. Then sooner or later he comes to be on the side of the terrorists because there are always two sides to every case. The Americans have been to church, but so have the Germans, just to name another country, And both boast about their own God — sometimes it is true, but in the totality it is not true.

If free will does not exist, is then everything predestined, including realization?
Yes, that's correct. But what is predestined? That the wave discovers that it is made of water? Even though he is made totally of water? That's neither here nor there! If you have seen it all, that makes no difference either. The most you can say is: there was a self image in the Self in which a dream played itself out and it really looked as if there were something, but finally it was all rubbish. Water has the same wetness everywhere. And nothing has ever happened except the imagination of a self. There is only the knowing of a dream: there is no dream, there is the knowing of a dream; in the dream there are no objects, no material, thus only the knowing was. Therefore nothing is the matter. But, you must not say that when you are watching TV and you see all the distress happening now! That's not right. Then you are making a mistake. But you do have to see how it actually is inside yourself. That does not mean that you don't sympathize, or make no contributions or anything in situations where support and help are needed now!

Do you still dream?
Yes, I sometimes dream. Never about anything that has to do with the teaching. I dream when I have eaten something bad, or have the flu. Then I wake up in the night and have difficulty in falling asleep again, and when I do fall asleep it is early in the morning and those are the moments when we dream. I often have the same dream, mostly about a squat that I always come back to, and I have conversations with people whom I don't know at all in the waking state. Strangers to me, but in the dream I know that I have said the words a thousand times. The dream comes back again and again. So you can see that dreams, just like the waking state also have continuity. So you can not say that a dream is more abstract than the waking state or anything like that. It is absolutely the same. The more you see, the better you know that the dream state is the same as the waking state; all sort of things happen in both and the same way in both. In the dream the experiencing is exactly the same. The waking state has more so-called continuity, while the dream state is more chaotic and varied. If I am full of worries, then I am also full of worries in the dream state. That does not say that this (the waking state) is real! … In the beginning it is a way of finding the reality, but you can also try to distinguish between the knowing and the known by using the faculty of differentiation. Later on you don't have to do that anymore, then you know it.

If you actually examine it from all angles then I understand that it makes no sense to still talk about 'free will'. That actually becomes laughable, because that is the level of the person. And yet, I still have the stubborn idea that I can for example choose to I identify or not. I can after all know that I am in an identity and I can either leave it like that or change it.
Is that so? Do you really have this choice? If it happens it is grace, it is always grace. No matter how you look at it. There is no other way. When the time is ripe it happens. So, if you think that there is something like subject-object and that you are on the subjective side you can pay attention there. That moment is indeed very important; that is what determines it. Then it becomes a fact, but if you can direct your attention there, then that is also grace. Thus, there is grace if that happens and not because there is an 'I' that can do something. It is always consciousness that does it. In and of itself it is always an opening if you can direct your attention, but that is pure grace…

Directing your attention is a fantastic opening, because it is exactly like the NOW, and you see more and more clearly that the whole free will is an empty word, but that this empty word brings you to the fact that consciousness arranges everything. The more you go into it, the more you see that Consciousness arranges everything. Then you stop explaining things to people and trying to improve them if they do not want it themselves. If I see more and more that Consciousness does everything then I have no job. Moreover, I have no job.

Then you can also no longer be vexed by other people.
No. nothing. There is annoyance sometimes, that is possible, but that does not happen because of the people; it is no more than a passing thought.

So you can actually not do anything wrong.
No. And you can also do nothing right.

Actually I wanted to do this or that. Is that all nonsense?
Yes, that is pilot fish bullshit. I see a little tree, I am mowing around it, I fail to pay attention for a moment, little tree gone. I should have paid more attention! That is neither here nor there. And the next thought says: you see, you are not paying attention. Then the pilot fishes go to work. And if you allow it, then you are even going to believe them! You do your best, you know that. And, if you don't do your best you know that too.

That does not mean that you have to restrain yourself if the kids are bawling, or count to ten before sinking into a pool of self pity. It does no harm to pull your self together then. But you need not exaggerate that; in general there is no need to do anything. Let it be. At most you can say 'Johnny' was a bit dumb, but at eventually it means nothing more than that.

At least then you have a certain distance.
That is what I used 'Johnny ' for, for a long time; if that appeals to you use 'Johnny', but as a third person, because that way you see that it is Johnny's problem and not yours. Because you are not Johnny, You are that in which Johnny appears. That way you continually make the subtle distance between John and his world, and You. Until it becomes definite that you can not be any part of that John and that only the knowing of John exists. Then there comes a definite break. In the beginning you have to yo-yo with it a bit.

Like a film in which Johnny does this and that?
Yes.

It has nothing to do with me?
No. Even if Johnny falls like a ton of bricks for all the stories and opens all the e-mails, sob songs and all, as soon as you come around again, you see that it was all nonsense. And thus you need not fall into 'you see, it is not for me because I have opened the e-mails again, I got fooled again, so again I have not understood it, etc. etc.' Then you have to pass through that also. And as soon as you can do that, then it no longer matters if you fell again, or you identified again, because how can the water fall into something? And once you know that everything is water, then it makes no sense to think that one 'wave' could have done it better than another 'wave' if you are talking about water. But, if we are talking about skills, or capacities, or talents, then yes, that is something else, but then we are talking about a totally different level. Then I say: 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's '. You just have to know what your strong and weak points are, as a person. My strong points are such and so, my weaknesses are so and so. That is what makes life so nice.

Do you have any more advice?
The best thing is to know ahead of time that twaddle comes into your mind at difficult moments. Thus, you have to anticipate that at moments when there are not yet any problems. You must know that. Don't go 'searching' just when there is a rotten situation, because then you are going to call up rotten situations just so that you can go 'seeking'. Many people only begin to search, or to look at themselves seriously when they feel rotten or have fallen into a crisis situation. Then 'seeking' is going to intertwine itself with rotten situations and will create rotten situations in order to keep 'seeking'. If you regularly 'seek' and then just at the moments when you feel good, when apparently you have no need to look at 'yourself', then that is much better, because then that associates a good feeling with 'seeking' and you can slowly 'train' that better, whatever that might be…

In my case I got a lot from the 'humming of the silence'*. If that appeals to you, you can apply it during washing the dishes, or drinking coffee, then you can do it also when there is a crisis situation, or you are crying because all your things have been stolen, or in processing all kinds of traumatic things. By directing the attention to the humming, which as it happens seemed to be a good natural method for me, you can go on doing things and simultaneously see how things are and at the same time see that you are completely powerless and that there is also absolutely nothing in which you had, or ever had any say. Then you no longer judge the results of your actions because you see that nothing has ever been asked of you…

And hopefully you may even succeed in avoiding the WHY-question! As soon as you have a why-question, stop immediately. Delete the e-mail immediately without opening it. Delete. WHY? Delete. WHY? Delete. It becomes easier and easier.

Alexander always said about the 'why this or that' or 'this wanting or not wanting': 'You want what is not there, and you don't want what is there', it's that simple, he said, and according to you Wolter was also not so eager to go into that 'wanting', or into 'free will' and so forth.
No, because 'wanting' always implies 'wanting something' and that implies that you are not in agreement with what there is NOW. You want to change something in reality! Wolter did not like to speak about it because it does not make things clearer but actually complicates them. You can simplify instead of complicate. He said: 'You do have a free choice, but you can not choose the choice itself,' or: you can choose between right or left, but you can't know WHY you have the choice between right and left.

That happens spontaneously. He saw of course, that you have to be careful, as I do and as do all the others that know it, that you have to be careful because things are always intertwined and most people who are on the first level want answers on the second level; grade school children who come on with Einstein's relativity theory, that leads nowhere. We must not be impolite, so we say as much as we can about it. And in reality it is so simple. Everything was so intellectual in the past. All those philosophy books… yeah.. I looked into them for three hours.. I could not say a word about them! And this is all so simple, so concrete, so unimaginably simple .. that you can't even understand that there are so many books written about it.

And that you even can talk about it!
It will stay that way. I can always talk about it.

Nisargadatta said that too, even when he was dying and could still speak.
Yes, it is surprising. It is the only thing you can wake me up for.

I decide now to go read, or to go listen to a tape. So I am after all making a choice.
Yes, but you can't make the choice itself. The moment that you indeed make the choice is not in your control. 'I now choose to stop this lousy mood'. That you can not do. No one can do that!

Or you say: 'I'm going to stop smoking now' and the next minute you light a cigarette.
Or I am going to decide now not to have anymore bad thoughts.

So what it's about is that we should not mix levels.
Yes. Give Caesar what is Caesar's and give God what is God's. And is some cases you must not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

Another piece of advice is to investigate 'free will' by for example, going to buy a house and asking yourself why you prefer one house to another. You can ask yourself why you want to drink coffee with one of the owners and not with another. You can ask yourself why you find something beautiful; you can ask yourself why you buy one auto and not another. Investigate it. Look to se if YOU do it. The you will discover that the answer is 'I don't know' and that therefore you don't know why you 'do' something. When I stood here then I knew, 'I want this house'. When that moment comes it comes by itself, but then the head immediately says: 'I decided it'. That is not at all true. It came spontaneously. But most people don't want to hear that, because most people are busy trying to make things concrete — I want a job, a family, a child, money in the bank, a car — and I say that at that level 'free will exists'. If you want a better job, then do as if free will exists, create your job, create your house, bring your life in order, learn to choose, see to it that you have skills to enable you to live — but that is all at a different level than we are here discussing. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's. You should not mix up these two levels.

Otherwise, you might say 'I do not need any more education' and such. No, you do need an education. You must be able to function in this world. Keep on voting, participate, develop yourself, try to get a balanced ego, only then can you be free of it. A frustrated ego can not let go of itself. It can only damage itself and kill itself, but not see through itself. It would be beautiful if you could create balance in your personality to a certain extent. An inferior feeling little ego such as I had, needs a diploma to know who he is. The moment I got my diploma it became clear to me. It was my last diploma, If my ego had then said that Johnny must still become a professor … then I would have had a problem. The moment when Johnny had achieved something I could let Johnny go.

Did that happen the very same day?
Yes.

When was that?
June 3, 1983. The day that I had to defend my thesis.
Then I refused to play that little game any longer. And then in the train on the way to Wolter in France, there was a friendly homosexual who did everything for me, as if he understood that something had happened with me. I observed everything, but I was only directed inwards. I mean by that; I did not go 'outside' I remained sitting calmly. He went for the sandwiches and cared for me without being asked.
I always say: if you still have a longing then go for it first, at least if it is realistic. You have to examine it continuously. 'Who am I'? or 'Where does that appear'? You have to examine that constantly. Preferably when you have no problems.

What is the difference between the search for truth and the psychological route? Those are certainly different tracks?
That depends on your tendencies. If I have a frustrated little ego and I do hatha yoga, stand on my head, meditate and get some peace out of that, I might have perhaps gotten the same rest from a good encounter group as they were then called. It doesn't matter. It is about the moment when you seriously ask yourself, 'who am I?'. From that moment on you really begin to seek. Previous to that it is just tinkering with yourself, with your personality, on the outside. I went searching because I couldn't get along in the world. I was unhappy. I did not know what love was and such. There is often a whole range of preconditions. If I become enlightened I will … It doesn't work that way. If you still have plans, if there are still some buried agenda items it is better to bring them out into the open, and to do them. That is how you learn to look at your longing. See clearly once what happens and then you know. Do you still want to climb the Eiffel tower ten times? Do you want to have that feeling? Do it then and see what happens to your longing. If a new longing arises immediately then you recognize what has happened. Keep going in this way until you can see that movement arising in you. If you realize that the previous longing didn't mean anything, and that it didn't mean anything this time, then you perceive that your new longing will also not bring what you actually seek. And then you know that longings belong to the person and not to who you actually are.

I still want to dare to make a parachute jump.
I can understand that. I used to have that sort of thing also, but it is nonsense. First there has to be a little challenge.. and then only.. are you happy? Are you only then going to live? A Johnny that has to first dare before he as a wave can see that he is made of water? … First dare and then only can the realization complete itself? Yes yes, that is what we call 'creating preconditions.'

*See Amigo #1 'Hummology'; Jan over attention to the attention.

[interview: Belle Bruins]

 Jan van Delden