by a disciple
We all want freedom, but sometimes we are greatly exhilarated at the idea that we are free ...when we are perhaps —seriously forging fetters for our feet. When the shackles are tight about us, we begin to smart under the pain and send a shrill cry for freedom ...to the skies. Somebody comes along and teaches us how to manufacture a file. We file off the shackles, and are free again.
The file now becomes interesting. We turn to the file for "fun." We have got to have it in plenty, no matter whether we need it or not. The factory, attic, cellar, living room, bedroom, kitchen —every place— we pack with files ...till we get sick of the sight of them. We want to get out of the house or get them out of it. We want to be free from them. But what did we want so many files for ...when we did not need them? Because ...they looked interesting. Did we not know that looks were deceiving sometime? We know, but not enough to get away from the deception.
Hypothetically speaking, that is the way things go on in the world. Every means of freedom becomes a bondage ...because of our wrong conception or gross use of it. Men wanted to be free from one another's tyranny, so they put somebody up as king who was to rule over them all. One king fought with another and employed men for the battle. Bloodshed, carnage, destruction were the results. The people wanted to be free from that condition. They wanted a strong emperor who could keep peace throughout the land and keep the kings and governors in their proper place. An emperor came, but in time turned out to be whimsical—his will was law, his displeasure was death; "he can do no wrong." Men wanted to be free again from that subjection. Advisers of the emperor, from being puppets, became strong-willed representatives of the people's will and began to curb the emperor's will, and he became a puppet in turn. Still the people would not rest: "Why is the heavy load of a king or emperor on our consciousness?" They wanted to be free from that. "I am the same as a king or emperor. Why will he rule or his son rule? We will rule ourselves. Everybody has a right to rule." Then came democracy where everyone rules, rules by casting votes for their representatives, rules by majority.
The American constitution was then written. But now the complaint is in the air ...that money in many cases, directly or indirectly, controls votes. People want to be free from the misdirected power of the moneyed class. Thus there is always the attempt to reach out for freedom ...after we forfeit it through our own faults or by letting others commit them.
You want children. You get married and bring up a family. You like the household, but it is not capacious enough to hold your attention. You want to be interested in other people and things, too. You like to know about neighbors, community, city, country, world and many other things, and, if possible, do your little part in improving them. You cannot remain absolutely engrossed with your own self. You have to love your dog, or a dress at least, or something of that sort. We want change, we hate monotony. Why? Because we want freedom from the past or from a certain item of the present. Freedom does not always mean forgetting the thing—root, trunk, branch and all—that we want to be free from, nor does it mean its neglect ....though sometimes it does mean that. When you were a child, every time you wanted to multiply one sum with another, you had to look at the multiplication table. You are grown up now, you still multiply two sums, but you do not go back to see the multiplication table. The table is in your head. You are free from the table but you do not need to be free from what the table represents. You may forget the table but not the laws of the table.
Freedom leads to expansion of consciousness, not exclusion from circumstances. When it is more exclusion and less expansion, it is another form of bondage. You hate the city on account of its noise and crowds; you come to the country and have less noise and crowd. You gain than much. But if you are not careful, even that —less noise and crowd ...will, by and by, fill and monopolize your consciousness and your mental freedom will be gone. You were a prisoner in nets in the city, you will now be a prisoner in a mass of cobwebs in the country. Unless you try in the city to bar noise and crowd —from your consciousness, you cannot try to do that while in the country. If you had had expansion of consciousness ...you would not have been bothered by noise; your mind would go beyond the noise ...to the subject in hand, anyway. Circumstances would not have handicapped you so much.
What is meant when it is said that freedom leads to expansion of consciousness? It is not spacial expansion, as consciousness does not occupy space, though it is aware of it. Freedom has an expansion in the sphere of its influence and intensification in its quality. That is real freedom. One having real freedom, not only strongly resists an undesirable habit that tries to entrap him, but keeps away from others that have not yet set the trap. He is not an unquestioning slave of good habits, either. He lets good habits rule him only when he can give them the command to do it. He is free in every place—no matter where his body is. Dungeon darkness or heaven's dome does not make any difference. The sphere where he exerts his freedom's influence is vast. But the culture of freedom starts from his own consciousness, his own bosom, but it takes the whole world within its power. Freedom is of the soul. If you have some of it, you will dislike unreasonableness of every sort. By and by ...your expanded consciousness will cover every detail of your life under its wings. Walls of circumstances will not shut your distant vision ...if you get up to the soul's pinnacle; then you can take in everything in a broad sweep. When you have not achieved real freedom, you can be free of one thing ...yet not of another, but true freedom leaveneth the whole mass—the whole consciousness; you are then free from all bondage, every sphere is covered by its influence.
A free consciousness is a unique one. It is different from an enslaved consciousness in many ways. It has power and intensity, pluck and exhilaration. It looks up ...instead of down. It makes one tingle with energy and makes one ready to walk over the fence to get into another man's land but imparts him enough self-control to wait by the fence ...till an invitation is extended to come through the gate. It quickly senses possibilities in others when they try to raise their heads above difficulties, and sympathizes with their attempts. Meanness cannot go with freedom. Those who are slaves to bread and butter necessities, slaves to the spirit of aggrandizement and exploitation, slaves to the spirit of imperialism ...are mean. A truly free nation, or an almost free nation, cannot be mean.
But national freedom is one of the kindergarten schools where the soul can learn only the alphabet of its ever-free language. It is not enough. Free speech, free thinking, free pursuit of happiness, the three cardinals of a free national consciousness, are needed absolutely—but they do not always imply... real freedom. Free speech may start discussion, brighten dark points, clear ground, initiate healthful actions. So is it that free speech is better than gagged speech. But if free speech is used for vituperation or vileness, acrimonious attacks or advertisements of fetishes of worldly life; if it is used for hardening the line of difference ...rather than to make prominent the points of similarity among peoples; if it is used for exalting the demon of ignorance and trying to feed its insatiable maw with unscrupulous propaganda ...then free speech, from the standpoint of the soul, defeats its own purpose ...however glorious that purpose may look to the average person. To the extent you have freedom within, to that extent you are free without. To the extent you act from the soul, or at least from the reason center of your mind, to that very extent ...you are stopping your innumerable —so-called free institutions or free activities— from manufacturing fetters for your feet. That's the case, too, with free thinking, free opportunities ...for the pursuit of happiness.
If general happiness, peace of mind and a spirit of service are the criterions by which the worthwhileness of life should be judged, then people, living under monarchy and having peace, happiness, spirit of service and higher ideals, but not having so many rights and privileges as in democracy, are undoubtedly better off than people living under the latter with every privilege, but no peace, with every opportunity ...but no ideal, with every comfort ...but no spiritual craving. This is no comment on democracy, but simply points out the difference between real and apparent freedom.
You cannot make me free ...unless I am willing or ready to get freedom. I cannot make you a slave ...if you refuse to wear the chain. I may shackle your body, but your mind will be free. On the other hand, if your mind is not free, I may take you out of one prison, but you will run into another. Our soul is always free ...but its puny proxy, our limited self —including mind— is in chains in ordinary circumstances.
When an idea possesses you so ...that other ideas are thrown overboard, even if the latter were shouting for a hearing ...there must be something wrong with you. You have to give hearing to everything in the world that approaches you. It is then your choice to grant or deny its request ...or admit its claim. When pleasure comes or when sorrow forces itself on you, you have to give hearing to both but that does not mean that you have to jump with the former ...or die of the latter. One who loses himself in pleasure is, from a transcendental standpoint, as far removed from freedom ...as one whose pillow is wet with bitter tears. Levity goes with license, not with freedom. Real freedom gives a composure that dislikes excitement. When chains of bondage start falling off a man's feet, he jumps in joy, but after a while he maintains a steady gait and does not think of making a "fuss" and drawing a crowd. That state comes from real freedom.
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