Hazrat Inayat: The Freedom of the Soul lecture pt I

Here is the first part of a talk given by Hazrat Inayat Khan at the Lenox Theater in New York City on January 24, 1926.  Highly edited versions of the talk were included in the orange volumes of the Message series, but this text is closer to what was actually said that night.

The Freedom of the Soul

Beloved ones of God,
I will speak this evening on the subject of the freedom of the soul. Man wants 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.

And at the same time, if we look at human life with a magnifying glass, whether man seeks freedom or not, what he pursues is captivity in some form or the other. The ancient people whose imagery was beautiful, they put an idea in a beautiful form. There comes a Hebrew story* that God made a statue of clay, the first form of mankind, and commanded the soul to enter. The soul refused to enter, saying, “In this dark room I am afraid to enter, an imprisonment, a captivity; do you wish me to enter in my grave?” Then God said to angels, “Sing and play and dance,” and the angels sang and played and danced. And the soul came into an ecstasy and in blindness of ecstasy entered into this body of clay, in which then it was captive. This gives a beautiful illustration, an illustration of the soul in the first place, which is the dweller of heavens and the life of which 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. It is not a soul, but spirit; it is not human, but divine by nature. It is therefore that the soul realises continually through life a limitation, as a fish would realise being out of water, as a bird would realise having its wings trimmed.  As old Persians have said, no infant is born smiling, the first thing the infant does in coming on earth is crying. It is in exile, it is a captivity. A thousand other reasons people may give for the infant’s cry, but you can read in its trembling, in its cry, a feeling of captivity. It is a difficult experience the moment it has come on earth, it is feeling different, it feels that it is audible by nature and yet its audibility is limited. In the two eyes he can see only so much and no further. Its ears are limited, it can hear, but no further. By nature it is the sight itself, it is hearing itself, but now it depends upon the ears to hear, upon the eyes to see, and that makes its horizon narrow, smaller, its world becomes limited.

Someone asked a wise man, “What is the reason of pain, of unhappiness?” And the wise man answered, “If I were to say in one word the reason of all the pain you see in the world, it is limitation.”  Limitation is the cause of it all. One says that, “My means are scanty.” Another one says, “My position is not high enough.” Another says, “I lack the love that I need.” Another one says, “I have no learning, or no friends.” Maybe twenty thousand different complaints come out of it. That is limitation in one word. And where does this limitation come from? This limitation comes from a heavenly being turning into an earthly being.  There is nothing to be surprised at in this life when we see that nearly no one seems to be perfectly happy. 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 one thing, and that is limitation.

What one pursues, what one seeks after, is a feeling of freedom. And yet everyone pursues freedom wrongly. The nature of life is such that whenever one thinks, “That will make me free,” that itself makes him more captive. And he cannot realize it until he gets it. As long as he has not got it, he thinks, “That is what will make me free.” And so life goes on. And man goes on in the pursuit of freedom and what does he get? He gets captivity. With all the talk of freedom today, life is more a life of captivity than ever before. Have you ever heard such a thing in the past history that in order to cross the boundary of one’s country, in order to go in another country they have to have the trouble of a passport? They were free to go in one another’s country. There was more brotherhood then than today. Yet there Is not only passport; there is custom, duty, and many other conventions which at once make a person think this earth is no more for man now, for people, for inhabitants of this particular part. 

Today an architect is not free to express his soul’s freedom; he has to abide by the laws of that particular town. A composer has to keep within the rules of harmony that the other writers of music have recognised; he cannot express himself freely. A play writer has to keep to the technique, to observe the poetic rules. Everyone has his limitations and cannot reality express himself freely.

With all the talk on freedom, have they come nearer to it? No, they are further every day. Not knowing the real meaning of freedom, chasing the moon, the nature of freedom is coming closer and closer to captivity. Man lives in a captivity because he thinks little. The more he will think, the more he will find that as he pursues the path of freedom, at every step he goes closer to captivity.

To be continued…

*This story in fact comes from the Muslim tradition.

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