Freedom and Growth
“—the free play of mind and life is essential for the growth of consciousness: for mind and life are the soul’s only instrumentation until a higher instrumentation develops; they must not be inhibited in their action or rendered rigid, unplastic and unprogressive.”
The spiritual aim will recognise that man as he grows in his being must have as much free space as possible for all its members to grow in their own strength, to find out themselves and their potentialities. In their freedom they will err, because experience comes through many errors, but each has in itself a divine principle and they will find it out, disengage its presence, significance and law as their experience of themselves deepens and increases.
But what is Freedom?
After all, what is freedom? To go about doing whatever you like? But do you know what is “you”? Do you know what is your own will? Do you know what comes from you and what comes from elsewhere? Well, if you had a strong will I could have allowed you to work. But it is not like that; it is only impulses that move you and they are also not your own. They come from outside and make you do all sorts of stupid things. …If you have a strong will, if your will, your impulses and all else are centred around the psychic, then and then alone can you have some taste of liberty and freedom; otherwise you are a slave.
…Sweet Mother, can you please say a few words on the subject of this freedom?
The freedom of which I speak is the freedom to follow the soul’s will and not that of mental and vital whims and fancies. The freedom of which I speak is an austere truth which tends to surmount all the weaknesses and desires of the lower, ignorant being.
The freedom of which I speak is the freedom to consecrate oneself entirely and without reserve to one’s highest, noblest and most divine aspiration.
Who amongst you follows sincerely that path? It is easy to judge, but it is more dif?cult to understand and still much more difficult to realise.
The student should not arrive half an hour late just because he is free, because this kind of freedom is not freedom, it is simply disorderliness. Each one must have a very strict discipline for himself. But a child is not capable of self-discipline, he must be taught the habit of discipline. So he should get up at the same time, get ready at the same time and go to school at the same time. That is indispensable, otherwise it becomes an impossible muddle.
The true freedom is to be free from desire.
The true independence is to be independent from passion.
The true mastery is to be master of oneself.
That alone is the key to happiness; all the rest is passing illusion.
Freedom does not come from outer circumstances but from inner liberation.
In every other case one is a slave, whether of the will of others, or of conventions, or of moral laws, or of vital impulses, or of mental fancies, or, above all, of the desires of the EGO.
Men say and think “For my country!”, “For humanity!”, “For the world!”, but they really mean “For myself seen in my country!”, “For myself seen in humanity!”, “For myself imaged to my fancy as the world!” That may be an enlargement, but it is not liberation. To be at large and to be in a large prison are not one condition of freedom.
[Thoughts and Aphorisms by Sri Aurobindo]
To be free, one must come out of the prison. The prison is the ego, the sense of separate personality. To be free, one must unite consciously and totally with the Supreme and through this identi?cation break the limits of the ego and eradicate the very existence of the ego by universalising oneself, even though the individualisation of the consciousness is preserved.
Do not mistake liberty for license and freedom for bad manners: the thoughts must be pure and the aspiration ardent.
What is Independence?
You know what independence is? It is precisely the freedom of choice. Independence means the freedom of choice and initiative means the fact of choosing. First of all, one feels that one is free; and then one feels that no one can prevent him from choosing; and ?nally one uses his freedom to choose and one decides. These are the three stages. So these three stages: the feeling that you are free, the idea that you are going to use your freedom for choosing and then the choice—these three things I call the pragmatic tools and devices.
…I was saying that these three things, the feeling of freedom, the will to choose and the choice made are the devices that Nature uses in us to make us act, otherwise we would not move. If we did not have this illusion that we are free, this second illusion that we can use our freedom for choosing and the third illusion of choosing, well, we would not move. So Nature gives us these three illusions and makes us move, for she requires us to move.
Freedom and Service
Freedom is a sort of instinctive need, a necessity for the integral development of the being. In its essence it is a perfect realisation of the highest consciousness, it is the expression of Unity and of union with the Divine, it is the very sense of the Origin and the ful?lment. But because this Unity has manifested in the many—in the multiplicity—something had to serve as a link between the Origin and the manifestation, and the most perfect link one can conceive of is love. And what is the ?rst gesture of love? To give oneself, to serve. What is its spontaneous, immediate, inevitable movement? To serve. To serve in a joyous, complete, total self-giving.
So, in their purity, in their truth, these two things—freedom and service—far from being contradictory, are complementary. It is in perfect union with the supreme Reality that perfect freedom is found, for all ignorance, all unconsciousness is a bondage which makes you inef?cient, limited, powerless. The least ignorance in oneself is a limitation, one is no longer free. As long as there is an element of unconsciousness in the being, it is a limitation, a bondage. Only in perfect union with the supreme Reality can perfect freedom exist. And how to realize this union if not through a spontaneous self-giving: the gift of love. And as I said, the ?rst gesture, the ?rst expression of love is service.
So the two are closely united in the Truth. But here on earth, in this world of ignorance and inconscience, this service which should have been spontaneous, full of love, the very expression of love, has become something imposed, an inevitable necessity, performed only for the maintenance of life, for the continuation of existence, and thus it has become something ugly, miserable—humiliating. What should have been a ?owering, a joy, has become an ugliness, a weariness, a sordid obligation. And this sense, this need for freedom has also been deformed and has become that kind of thirst for independence which leads straight to revolt, to separation, isolation, the very opposite of true freedom.
Independence!… I remember having heard an old occultist and sage give a beautiful reply to someone who said, “I want to be independent! I am an independent being! I exist only when I am independent!” And the other answered him with a smile, “Then that means that nobody will love you, because if someone loves you, you immediately become dependent on this love.”
It is a beautiful reply, for it is indeed love which leads to Unity and it is Unity which is the true expression of freedom. And so those who in the name of their right to freedom claim independence, turn their backs completely on this true freedom, for they deny love.
Is there then no real freedom? Is everything absolutely determined, even your freedom, and is fatalism the highest secret?
Freedom and fatality, liberty and determinism are truths that obtain on different levels of consciousness. It is ignorance that makes the mind put the two on the same level and pit one against the other. Consciousness is not a single uniform reality, it is complex; it is not something like a ?at plain, it is multidimensional. On the highest height is the Supreme and in the lowest depth is matter; and there is an in?nite gradation of levels of consciousness between this lowest depth and the highest height.
In the plane of matter and on the level of the ordinary consciousness you are bound hand and foot. A slave to the mechanism of Nature, you are tied to the chain of Karma, and there, in that chain, whatever happens is rigorously the consequence of what has been done before. There is an illusion of independent movement, but in fact you repeat what all others do, you echo Nature’s world-movements, you revolve helplessly on the crushing wheel of her cosmic machine.
But it need not be so. You can shift your place if you will; instead of being below, crushed in the machinery or moved like a puppet, you can rise and look from above and by changing your consciousness you can even get hold of some handle to move apparently inevitable circumstances and change ?xed conditions. Once you draw yourself up out of the whirlpool and stand high above, you see you are free. Free from all compulsions, not only you are no longer a passive instrument, but you become an active agent. You are not only not bound by the consequences of your action, but you can even change the consequences. Once you see the play of forces, once you raise yourself to a plane of consciousness where lie the origins of forces and identify yourself with these dynamic sources, you belong no longer to what is moved but to that which moves.
This precisely is the aim of Yoga,—to get out of the cycle of Karma into a divine movement. By Yoga you leave the mechanical round of Nature in which you are an ignorant slave, a helpless and miserable tool, and rise into another plane where you become a conscious participant and a dynamic agent in the working out of a Higher Destiny. This movement of the consciousness follows a double line. First of all there is an ascension; you raise yourself out of the level of material consciousness into superior ranges. But this ascension of the lower into the higher calls a descent of the higher into the lower. When you rise above the earth, you bring down too upon earth something of the above,—some light, some power that transforms or tends to transform its old nature. And then these things that were distinct, disconnected and disparate from each other—the higher in you and the lower, the inner and the outer strata of your being and consciousness—meet and are slowly joined together and gradually they fuse into one truth, one harmony.
It is in this way that what are called miracles happen. The world is made up of innumerable planes of consciousness and each has its own distinct laws; the laws of one plane do not hold good for another. A miracle is nothing but a sudden descent, a bursting forth of another consciousness and its powers—most often it is the powers of the vital—into this plane of matter. There is a precipitation, upon the material mechanism, of the mechanism of a higher plane. It is as though a lightning ?ash tore through the cloud of our ordinary consciousness and poured into it other forces, other movements and sequences. The result we call a miracle, because we see a sudden alteration, an abrupt interference with the natural laws of our own ordinary range, but the reason and order of it we do not know or see, because the source of the miracle lies in another plane. Such incursions of the worlds beyond into our world of matter are not very uncommon, they are even a constant phenomenon, and if we have eyes and know how to observe we can see miracles in abundance. Especially must they be constant among those who are endeavouring to bring down the higher reaches into the earth-consciousness below.