Hazrat Inayat: The Freedom of the Soul lecture pt II

Here is the conclusion of the public talk delivered by Hazrat Inayat Khan in the Lenox Theatre, New York City,  on January 24, 1926.  The first part of the talk was posted here

In all ages prophets and masters and thinkers and philosophers have taught that the ultimate aim of philosophy and mysticism was to attain the freedom of the soul. Different ceremonies, religious legends and philosophies are narrative of this truth, the freedom of the soul. Whatever this person is longing for in life, whatever may be his life’s pursuit, his object to attain, 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 appreciate this idea when he is absorbed in getting things in life, which things will make him free, because he does not give a thought to freedom, but only gives thought 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, he would see deeper in life and he would not attach importance to things that he usually attaches importance to.

If one asks what kind of captivity it is, I will say, “For a spider the thin threads of the web are a kind of captivity; for an elephant iron chains are a captivity.” The stronger the person is, the greater the captivity; the greater power he has, the greater difficulty he has before him; the stronger the soul is, the greater the load it has to carry. Therefore in captivity we are all equal. When a person sees only on the surface, it appears as if one person has an easy life and the other has to toil all day, as if one has a gay life and as if the other is miserable. But that is the outside. When we look deep into life, in some way or the other, whether a person looks cheerful or gay, some captivity is hidden behind. We do not know. In order to understand the situation in their life it is not enough to have a glance from outside. We only see the prisoners; if we saw the prisons, we would be shocked.

One might ask, “Why is this condition so tragic, why can it not be better?” The answer is, “It is natural.” What is man? Man is a process; the 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 itself loses its freedom. Freedom is lost in order to come to freedom. That is the tragedy. But at the same time, in the end it is happiness, because for the fulfilment of this object the whole creation was intended.

To every thinking soul, to every feeling heart tragedy appeals. Why? Because tragedy is going on continually. Man would like to go away from tragedy, but what appeals to him is tragedy because the soul is always in that condition; it is longing for freedom when it does not know what it is.

In the Bible and in the Qur’an we read, “Die before death”. What does it mean? It means that in order to be free, we must first die. The rituals of the old ceremonies all have this as the greatest secret, and it is this which is taught through ceremony, philosophy and mysticism. This is the main secret of all those things.

But is it really dying? No, it is playing death. No one dies really. What dies is death; what lives is life. Life lives, death dies. Therefore, the art of the mystic is to learn how to play death. Call it meditation, call it contemplation, call it concentration, call it worship of God, it is all playing death.

And what is it in man that must die? It is not his real self; it is the false conception that he has of himself. It is that false conception which brings about all limitation. Man is not really limited as he seems to be. But because there is a cover over his soul, that cover makes him limited. That is why he sees no further. His world is himself, his own environments, his conditions, his impressions, his experiences, all his concerns. That is all he knows; he knows nothing beyond. Therefore, what is to be crucified in man is that false self, not the real self, and resurrection follows crucifixion. In that way the soul experiences its freedom.  One might ask, “How is it to be achieved? How can one play death?” And the answer is that we have played life and we play life every day. For what is it, the life from morning till evening, if not a play? The more we study it, the more we shall find that the world is subject to change. Conditions that alter, situations that change from moment to moment–If it is not a play, what is it?

Of course, if one thought it a play, one would not take it seriously. But if we are able to play life, we are able to play death also. By playing death the eyes become open; the soul which becomes captive by the closing of the eyes, that soul begins to soar upwards once the eyes are opened.

People say, “Here is a dead man.” But in reality it is the living man. For in order to live, one must die. And what must die? Death must die, and life must live.

God bless you.

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