We continue with the series of lectures by Hazrat Inayat Khan on the subject of the freedom of the soul. Here, he speaks of the inherent reason for our longing for liberty. The previous post in the series may be found here.
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 the 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 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 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.
To be continued…