Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE FREEDOM OF THE SOUL (2)
Man seeks freedom and pursues captivity. There is not one single person whom the word 'freedom' does not touch. And there is not one person, who does not long for freedom.
At the same time, if we look closely at human life, we see that man pursues captivity in some form or other, whether he seeks freedom or not. The soul of man is a dweller in heaven. It is able to see more than the eyes can see. It is able to hear more than the ears can hear. The soul is able to expand further than man can journey. The soul is able to dive deeper than any depths that man can ever touch. The soul is able to reach higher than man can reach by any means. Its life is freedom, it knows nothing but joy and sees nothing but beauty. Its own nature is peace, and its being is life itself. It is not intelligent. It is intelligence itself. It is spirit. Its nature is not human but divine. It is for this reason that the soul feels a limitation, continually all through life, as a fish would feel when it is out of water and a bird when its wings are clipped.
If someone asked, what is the reason of pain, the answer would be that if we were to summarize in one word the reason of all pain we see in the world, it is limitation. And where does this limitation come from? From a heavenly being turning into an earthly being. There is nothing to be surprised at, when we see that hardly anyone seems to be perfectly happy in life. A rich man has his tale to tell, a poor man has his story. A wise man has his complaint to make, a foolish man has his own legend. And so everyone has something to say. And what they all have to say is the same thing and that is: limitation.
What one pursues, what one seeks after, is a feeling of freedom. And yet, nearly everyone pursues freedom wrongly. The nature of life is such that whenever a person thinks, 'that will make me free.' That in itself makes him more captive, though he cannot realize this until he gets it. As long as he has not got it he believes it will make him free. And so life goes on. Man goes on in the pursuit of freedom and what he gets is captivity. With all the talk about freedom today life is more a life of captivity than ever before. Man lives in captivity because he does not think enough about the real meaning of freedom. The more he thinks the more he will find that as he pursues the path of freedom, every step brings him closer to captivity.
Today, in this world of science, where materialism mostly prevails, there are fewer every day who believe in such a thing as the soul. They say, 'The only thing we know about is the body. If there is a soul, we have never seen it.' It is true that nothing comes out of nothing, but their idea is that as the human being is the flower of this tree of manifestation, intelligence must have developed gradually through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms until it manifested more fully in man. But how can matter develop into intelligence? It is intelligence, which is the source of all, but it is the captivity of intelligence in matter, which we see. That is why it seems to us that manifestation begins from matter, and as it manifests in man we think man is a development of matter. In reality, man identifies himself wrongly with the material part of his being, for the body is only a cover over the real man. Real man is soul itself. And when one says, 'I do not see the soul, I see my body,' my answer is that the eyes can never see themselves, though they can see all other things; and as the soul is intelligence, it can see all other things, but it cannot see itself.
The very fact that it cannot see itself makes it the real self. Besides, all things that we can point out, which are intelligible to ourselves, we call 'mine.' And so, we call our body 'my' body. Naturally the body is not the self. But, as man does not know himself, he thinks it is. If an actor were to play on the stage with a mask on, those who saw him would recognize the mask, but they would not know what was behind it. So it is with the soul. The manifestation of the soul is only seen through the body, therefore, one identifies oneself with the body, and this keeps one ignorant of the soul.
If the soul is intelligence, where does it come from? What is it in essence? All the scriptures of the past agree, as well as most philosophers, that the source and goal of all things is the Intelligent One. But if it is the intelligence itself, why call it the 'Intelligent One'? Because it is a being; it is not called a thing, nor is it a condition. It is first a being, and then it is all conditions and all things. It is a great mistake when a man considers himself as a being, a person, recognizing his own personality, and when it comes to the source and goal of all things he calls it a force, an intelligence. People want so much to get away from the idea of a Person behind all, that they prefer to say 'gods' instead of 'God.' Instead of calling Him the divine Being, they say 'forces.' They would like to turn into plurality the source and the goal, which remains one and the same through the whole process and all stages of evolution. The oneness of the Spirit is so great that even in this world of variety there is one spirit and one being.
In all ages, prophets and masters, thinkers and philosophers, have taught that the ultimate aim of philosophy and mysticism is to attain to the freedom of the soul. This truth is disclosed in many different ceremonies, sacred legends, and philosophies. Whatever be man's longing in life, whatever his life's pursuit, his object of attainment, behind it all there is only one pursuit and that is the craving of the soul to become free from all bondage. Man does not want to think about that which will make him free when he is absorbed in getting things in life. He does not give a thought to freedom, but only to what he pursues for that moment. Perhaps if he gave a thought to the real condition of life he would become different, his attitude would change, his outlook would become wider, and he would not attach so much importance to the things he usually thinks important.
If one asks what kind of captivity it is, the answer is that for a spider the thin threads of the web are a captivity, and for an elephant iron chains are a captivity. The stronger a person is, the greater the captivity. The greater power he has the greater are his difficulties. The stronger the soul, the heavier the load it has to carry. Therefore, in captivity, we are all equal. When a person sees only the surface, it appears as if one has an easy life and another has to toil all day. As if one has a gay life and another is miserable. But that is the outside. When we look deeply into life, in some way or another, whether a person looks cheerful or sad, some captivity is always hidden there. We do not know. In order to understand their life's situation, it is not enough to cast a glance at people from the outside. We only see the prisoners, if we saw the prisons, we would be shocked.
I have met numberless people who do not know what they want to do next week. They only think of today. Life is becoming uncertain, and its burden is greater. They say that we are progressing. But towards what? Freedom? No, towards captivity. A greater and greater load of duty and responsibility is put on our shoulders. Perhaps it is worse in the West, perhaps it is worse in the East. But the cause of it all is the lack of understanding of freedom. One must look in another direction to see the sun or the moon. One must not look at the earth. How to die before death is something that man today does not know. And he does not care to know. The central theme of life today is self-assertion. When a person speaks about himself he wants to make himself ten times more important than he is. He cannot help it. If he does not do so the others will not understand. I even heard one man say to another, 'Your modesty is your greatest misfortune.'
Every man has to be self asserting, continually guarding his interests in order to live. There are many who toil from morning to evening, guarding their self-interest and thinking about nothing else. And what is it all for? In order to exist. But even germs and grubs exist and enjoy life much better! Birds fly in the air and are quite happy. But man is loading his heart with a thousand troubles, making his responsibilities greater and greater. And in the end, he gains nothing. His health is spoiled, his spirit wrecked. He does not know any more where he is, nor where his spirit is; and if he has nothing here, he has nothing in the hereafter. Many die without ever having given a thought to the deeper side of life. Not that they did not care for it, but they could not find time for it. They had too much to do in life.
One might ask, why is this condition so tragic? Why can it not be improved? The answer is that it is natural. What is man? Man is a process, manifestation is a process through which the spirit goes from one condition to another condition, from one pole to another pole. And through this whole process the attempt of the spirit is to find itself. In that process the spirit first loses its freedom. Freedom is lost in order to arrive at freedom. That is the tragedy. Yet in the end there is happiness. For the whole of creation was intended for the fulfillment of this object.
To every thinking soul, to every feeling heart, tragedy appeals. Why? Because tragedy is going on continually. Man would like to get away from tragedy, but it appeals to him because the soul is always in that condition. It is longing for freedom though it does not know what it is.
The highest perception of freedom comes when a person has freed himself from the false ego, when he is no longer what he was. All the different kinds of freedom will give a momentary sensation of being free, but true freedom is in ourselves. When one's soul is free, then there is nothing in this world that binds one; everywhere one will breathe freedom, in heaven and on earth.