Volume VII - In an Eastern Rose Garden
THE FREEDOM OF THE SOUL (3)
In the East it is said that the reason why an infant cries immediately after its birth is because it grieves over the loss it experiences, and this loss is the loss of freedom. The soul, which was once free and could float into the spheres higher than the birds, and could expand and live as light and life, has become captive in this limited body of flesh and bones when it came to earth, a sphere, which is quite new and strange to the infant. Neither has it yet made any connection with earthly beings nor with the earthly atmosphere. That is why the first thing a soul does is to cry. The Sufis, all mystics, have recognized this fact and have founded their philosophy on this theory, that through every condition in life man is consciously or unconsciously seeking for freedom.
It may be that one is seeking freedom from having to work. Another may be seeking freedom by getting away from some influence, which surrounds him. Perhaps another seeks freedom from a national point of view. But they each and all strive continually for freedom, and what gives the incentive to strive after freedom is the unconscious craving, which the infant feels from the moment of its birth. That is why man is continually striving, knowingly or unknowingly, to attain to that freedom.
Our despair, our depression, our sorrow, our worries may have innumerable causes. But at the back of all these is one and the same cause, and that is that our soul is striving every day for freedom, which is something that perhaps only death will give us. People very often commit suicide hoping they will obtain freedom by it. Sometimes people think that getting away from everybody will give them this freedom. But they do not know that whatever effort one makes to get out of a situation, one will still not be free, for it is one's own self, which is in captivity. Apart from all outward situations, which give us the impression of imprisonment, even our own self is captive, we are a captive in ourselves.
The relation between the soul and the body is that of the spark and the charcoal. When the spark of the fire touches the charcoal then it is caught by the charcoal. The saying, 'it has caught fire' means that the fire, which was apart from it, has been caught by it. And so the soul is caught by the body. One can also look at it in another way: that the body is caught by the soul, or better, that the body is used by the soul. And as the charcoal turns into ashes, so the body in the end is destroyed. But the fire is not lost, it has disappeared to its own element, which is heat.
It is the sun, which is in electricity and gaslight and in all forms of heat. It is the sun, which manifests through different processes. It is the same with the spirit, which, like the sun, has appeared through different processes as souls. One has become many in different forms, although it is not many in reality. Light appears as a fire in a room, or as six or as a hundred different lights, but in reality it is one light. It is only in appearance, because there are so many globes, that each light is limited. In the same way each human body has absorbed divine light and shows it as a separate light; and all these lights seen in many globes are called souls. But we may call them the light itself, for it is one spirit seen in different globes as different souls. All human beings are part of one consciousness, they have one source and one goal, although the spirit is caught by different vehicles.
The condition is that the body holds the soul and the soul holds the body. The soul holds the body in order to accomplish its purpose, and the body holds the soul because when the soul leaves, it will return into nothing. Therefore, the body is continually striving to keep the soul, because it is made for the soul and lives for it. It is the body's continual desire that the soul should live in it. That being so, it is only when the soul feels it has finished its work and should no longer exist in the body, that it leaves the body. Or perhaps the body has become so feeble that it can no longer hold the soul. This is the way it happens, and as a result there is death.
Very often there are people who wish to die and do not die. The reason is that it is the mind, which wishes death, but the body is still clinging to the soul and the soul is still using the body for its purpose, although the mind is against it. That is why death does not come. Sometimes one thinks that the body is too feeble, that it can no longer hold the soul, and yet the mind says, 'I have not finished. I have not seen my friend, or my husband, or my daughter, I would like to live until I see them'; and it goes on living because the soul, having the impression that something is not finished, keeps holding on to that body, which can no longer hold the soul. It holds on as long as that particular desire lasts.
After the soul has been caught by the physical body, there comes a time when the soul awakens. As long as it is asleep it is in a kind of dream in the physical body. That is the condition of the average man, a kind of dream. The mystic is the one who is awakened. The amusing thing is that the average man will call the mystic a dreamer, whereas, in reality it is he himself, who is dreaming! During this dream the soul knows nothing except what appears before it, for instance desires, habits, wishes, experiences, environment, actions, thoughts, and impressions. All these are like a dream, which a soul dreams. One person will perhaps dream all his life. There is another, who will wake at an early age or in his youth. But there are souls, as in the case of Jesus Christ, who, from childhood begin to manifest their awakened condition. There fore, it does not depend upon a certain age. Even an infant may be awakened. And it may be that a person will live all his life in a dream and may leave this world in the same dream. Yet, though there is a subconscious awakening when something begins to say, 'You are dreaming. There is something else for you to know!' often one does not listen to it.
But sooner or later that time may come in our lives when we waken from the dream. And as soon as we wake from this dream our first thought is, 'What is it all about? Why are we here? What are we doing here? Where do we go? What is the purpose of our life?' And when this thought comes, then a person begins to feel a little less interested in the things of daily life. This does not mean that he is less capable of doing them, on the contrary, an awakened person can accomplish greater worldly things than the one who dreams, and in a better way. If our politicians today, and our great merchants and wealthy men, educators and scientists, were spiritual persons, the whole world would become different; and they themselves would not be any less than they are. Indeed, they would accomplish greater things.
Do you think if the generals of today and the politicians and statesmen and business people were awakened souls, we should have had wars? By this time we should be past those days of stupidity when people killed one another. We are in a different stage of evolution, and today there should be no need for war. Humanity has grown up, it is no longer an infant. But even after a war there is no security of peace. We do not know what will happen tomorrow, and that shows that there is something missing. And what is missing is the realization of the dream. People think that they are awakened, that they have common sense, and yet they are still asleep. We must be awakened from this dream we are in. The soul must come to the realization of what it is. Then a better day will come for us.
The first sign one notices after the awakening of the soul, is that one begins to see from two points of view. One begins to see the right of the wrong and the wrong of the right. One begins to see the good of the bad and the bad of the good. One begins to see that everything is reflected in its opposite. In this way one rises above intellectuality, which then begins to appear as a primitive or elementary knowledge. One sees the dark in the bright and the bright in the dark, death in birth and birth in death. It is a kind of double view of things. And when one has reached this, then reason has made way for higher reasoning. No doubt one's language will become gibberish to others. People will not understand it. They will be confused by what one says. To some it will be too simple, to others too subtle. Too simple for those who only hear words without meaning, and too subtle for those who strive to understand the meaning and do not reach it.
The third aspect is that in failure, one will not feel such disappointment, and in success not such a great joy. In adverse conditions one will not be so dejected, in favorable conditions not so conceited. And these continual changes we experience in this world, such as friends turning into enemies, love sometimes turning to hate, sense to senselessness. These little surprises that we experience every day in this world, when things are different from what we expected, all these shocks will not be felt so deeply. Life in the world is full of shocks, there is no end to them. At every turn we find some surprise, all the time something new, but when the soul is awakened, we do not feel those shocks so deeply. They come but they do not hit us so heavily.
At the same time, in spite of all this there comes a deeper feeling. An advanced person is more susceptible to hurts than the one who is not advanced, because his heart becomes tender and he feels acutely. He is living. A rock would not feel it. This awakening of the soul gives fineness on the one hand, and strength to sustain shocks on the other.
And then we come to another stage that develops after the awakening of the soul, and that is the desire for freedom. People think they can attain this by retiring from the affairs of the world. No doubt that is a temptation; a spiritual person regards it as a temptation. An awakened soul no longer considers the dream important, and yet he will say, 'When I retire I shall still work, because I shall still be able to be useful.' That is the thought when one is less selfish.
The ultimate freedom of the soul is gained by concentration, by meditation, by contemplation, and realization. What concentration is needed for the freedom of the soul? The concentration on that object which is prescribed by one's spiritual teacher, that by the thought of that particular object one may be able to forget oneself for a moment. And then what contemplation is necessary? The contemplation that 'this, my limited self, is no longer myself but God's own instrument, God's temple, which is made in order that the Name of God be glorified'. What meditation is required? The meditation on the thought of God, the Being of God, forgetting absolutely one's limited self. And the realization is this, that then whatever voice comes to one is God's voice, every guidance is God's guidance, every impulse is divine impulse, every action is done by God. It is in this way that the soul is made free, and in the freedom of the soul lies the purpose of life.