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Freedom—Individual and Universal

The true secret of freedom, then, is to attune our soul sphere until it beats in rhythmic harmony with universal harmony.
—The Light of Egypt
There are two freedoms—the false, where man is free to do what he likes;
the true, where man is free to do what he ought.
—Charles Kingsley
Who is the true man? He who does the truth and never holds a principle on which he is not prepared in any hour to act,
and in any hour risk the consequences of holding it.
—Carlyle

The Nazarene said on one occasion, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." When Jesus gave utterance to these words he was having a discussion with certain ones among the Jews, who referred to Abraham as their "father." We find the Jewish people everywhere dating their birth from Abraham. The Jewish idea was very different from the Christ idea: "For One is your Father, which is in heaven." And the Hebrews referred their religion to "the God of Abraham." With Christ it was different: to him there was one great Father of all—our Father.

It has been men's custom throughout all time to quote authorities in defining their position. True authority is not to be found outside of one's self. It is not what some other person, however distinguished, may say; it is not what any institution or any book may say; it is the voice of God speaking to man in his own soul that constitutes the ultimate authority of life. There is no real authority to be appealed to elsewhere. It is not the acceptance of anything from an authority that makes us free; it is the Truth that does this. We should seek, therefore, to know all that can be known about truth.

"What is truth?" asked Pilate. The question is always pertinent. While truth is eternally the same, man's relation thereto is ever changing. Sometimes we live in a valley, wherein the objects that surround us seem very large; but when we begin to climb the mountain-side they appear to grow smaller. As we continue to ascend, our view becomes enlarged, but the things in the valley have apparently dwindled away. So it is in life, wherein one change seems to necessitate another. What seems true to us today may be untrue on the morrow.

Many people believe that, if they arrive at a certain decision, "consistency" requires them steadfastly to maintain it. We can only hold to a thing until we get something better. When something larger comes into the life, the smaller thing must go out. Yet we find many people tenaciously adhering to old things while trying to lay hold on the new. They are trying to balance themselves between two conditions. They declare that, having derived benefit from the old in the past, they have no desire to abandon it; that, while they may get no good from it now, on account of its former usefulness it should not be set aside.

Just as soon as anything becomes an impediment to one's growth the obstacle should be removed; otherwise there can be no real development. It is only as we die to the things of the past and live to the things of the present that we enter to any degree into the fullness of life. We should not hamper our lives with traditions, but rather seek to make a new way for ourselves. It will be a living way if we put our real selves into it. Whatever we do, it will partake of our own life and power. The past may have helped us to reach a higher plane of thought and action, but if it does not assist us in the present it has outlived its usefulness. It can no longer be a part of ourselves.

We wish to adjust ourselves to life in the best possible way, and we try to do this with the least possible effort—often making serious mistakes. We think that it is our duty to satisfy, in some measure, the people of the world about us. But we cannot satisfy the world, no matter what position we take. Is it not better to live in the fullness of individual freedom—in the fullness of our own power—than in a way that is apt to minify the life? Is it not better to live a great life than a little one? Which, think you, would eventuate in the ruling of our world?

Freedom is something that we have the power to choose. A man may make his own life free if he only will. We may have the full freedom of life, but only in one way—through knowledge of the truth and conformity thereto. That way leads to peace. Coming into this freedom and peace, however, we all may sound notes of discord; but this seems necessary in the evolution of life. We should not be affected by what others say or think; yet we should heed the voice of God within our souls. If we are obedient to this, everything good and true will come into the life. If we are consciously disobedient we must accept the consequences of such disobedience. That which to a certain degree is demanded of one may be required to a much greater degree of another. We are all in different stages of development; no two have developed alike. All any one may be asked to do is to live up to his highest knowledge—his loftiest ideal of life. If he does this he is free, and if he refuses to do it he is in bondage.

Now, on the lower plane—in the valley—there are very few requirements; but these must be met. The law of that plane must be fulfilled. If we view life first from this physical plane, and consider its demands—that one must be temperate, kind, and considerate, to the extent of that plane's possibilities—we shall bring about a state of mental poise and physical harmony. But the things required of a person living on the next higher plane, where people think and reason about life's problems, are more varied; there are here more things to think about. Such a person has entered into a higher knowledge of life, which brings with it added responsibilities; and these he cannot evade if he would be free. Freedom is essential to perfect development. Where there is not freedom there is no real growth. Many things are required of us on this higher plane—something greater than kindness, and something greater than temperance, as that term is commonly applied. It is the temperance of right thinking; i. e., to think kindly and to form in mind true pictures of life.

When we come to the highest plane of development, the spiritual, we find the requirements are vastly greater than those of the other two combined. Knowledge of life on the animal and mental planes is very partial. But we come to a clearer and higher knowledge in the realm of the spirit. We are required to know, first of all, in order to be free, that there is but one authority in the universe; that is, God, as expressed in the life of man. If one would speak out of the fullness of his own life he must always depend on this Authority. On the physical plane authority is required.

There exists in most minds the worship of symbols, wherein formal religion got its first impetus. On the intellectual plane there is authority—that of personalities, who formulate dogmas for others to believe in. This may be legitimate on the purely mental plane, but on the spiritual plane there is only one Authority. We desire to be free spiritual beings. We wish to unfold to all that is in us; but we cannot unfold to our highest and best if we recognize any authority other than that of the divinity within. There is where the real freedom of life is to be found.

"But," says someone, "in doing this we will have to live in a way entirely different from the ways of the world—the ways of others." "If any man be in Christ," said one, "he is a new creature: old things are passed away." That is why all things have become new to the dweller on the spiritual plane, and why real authority is in man's own life. It is not something apart from man. So the new creature does not allow any other soul to dictate as to what he shall think or do. The voice of God in his own soul is his only criterion. There is no other source of leadership; and when one determines to be led by the spirit he comes into the only true freedom of life, remaining no longer in bondage to the customs and forms of the world, or to his own desires. The desire universal comes into his mind, and he realizes for the first time that he is one with all things, with all power, with all intelligence, and with all love and faith and hope. His whole life is immersed in this oneness. He no longer leads a personal life, but lives universally.

It is only as we lay hold on the new that we come into the fullness of life. Many people look upon this as a sacrifice to the world of their personal lives; yet it is only apparent at best. If in relinquishing one thing we acquire a greater thing, there can be no sacrifice. That is something that appeals to the mind of the world, not to that of the spirit. The spiritual man is above all sacrifice. He is superior to the storm and the tumult of the world. He is not affected by its jealousy, deceit, and hatred. He takes all things at their true valuation.

Is it not reassuring to feel that we have God working within us to will and to do, and that we are equal to any emergency that may present itself in our daily lives because of this inner power? We place everything in God's care when we acknowledge God in the life and choose to follow the dictates of our own conscience. This is the one essential thing. We can never satisfy the world, no matter how hard we try to conform to its opinions. When one sees that the task is a hopeless one, what is the use of continuing the effort?

Let us conform to the best that is in our own lives, and we will soon realize that our influence for good will be far greater than any influence we might bring to bear when we try to adjust our condition of life to the standards of others. Man makes his outer world what he chooses to make it. We may consciously and actually make this world just as bright and beautiful a world as we wish to make it; but we cannot serve God and also serve the world. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." If we desire to be Godlike, and to express outwardly all that we are inwardly, we must acknowledge the power of God in the individual life by co-operating with the divine process—by consciously working out the God-plan of life and so placing ourselves in at-one-ment therewith that we may apprehend the result as we proceed.

At this point the element of faith comes in. Faith is the ground-work of such knowledge; but we must ever work with one object in view—to know the truth, and, through knowing it, to be free. Sometimes, however, we know the truth and yet are in bondage. Only as we are the truth—become one with it—can there be any real freedom.

In all our spiritual aspirations there will be a thoroughly harmonious breath-action, whereby, starting from the center of life, we may produce true vibration in both mind and body; but this harmony does not end here.

We look at a rose; it is a beautiful thing. It occupies very little space, but on entering the room that contains it we smell its perfume everywhere. We sense the soul of the rose, just as, through knowledge of the spiritual life, we apprehend God in our lives. We may exhale a fragrance more sweet than any rose. Sometimes a weed diffuses a disagreeable odor, and so from many human lives there emanates a deleterious influence that is equally subtle. It is because in many cases the individual knows, but fails to act—fails to be; and thus produces a wrong vibration, which disturbs his own mind and body and communicates in harmony to others. It is true that some persons have the power to smell the most delicate perfume while being unable to smell the most disagreeable odors. This is because they have related themselves to their environment in the true way. To them, all agreeable things will attract, while disagreeable things will repel. It all hinges on the question of relationship.

Some think this philosophy has a selfish aspect; but is it not right to desire the beautiful things in life? Every individual is doing more than living his own life; he is living for others as well. If he can show a way to live other than the ordinary way he should do so. If he can rise superior to the discordant things of the world he is not true to himself or to his fellowman if he fails to do so. We can make our lives just what we will to make them, and by so doing we bring wider knowledge and greater freedom into the world—because "no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." If we are living as we should live, we affect the lives of others by bringing new life to them. If we are living in a condition of passive contentment, and our minds are absorbed in things that bring no spiritual gain, we will neither bring good into the lives of others nor develop that quality in ourselves. If we could realize the importance of this we would never radiate any inharmonious atmosphere. We would begin at the very heart of life and work toward the circumference, and we would affect those about us in a thoroughly harmonious way.

Through accepting the guidance of the higher impulses, we think rightly through right feeling and breathe rightly through right feeling and thinking. We cannot shape our lives from any outer model. It is the creative power within that makes all changes, even in the things about us.

Persons not satisfied with the present order seek to reform it. The first step in any reformation is to conform to this inner law. We should strive to change the outer through the inner. Thus do we become thoroughly harmonious in mind and body and avoid being led into bondage of any kind. We wish to be free in the Christ—the Christ thought and order of life; for there is a Christ order, which frees us from all the sin, sickness, and slavery of the world. Obedience thereto enables us to rise above the world and its limitations and to become a law unto ourselves—a law that brings only that which is true and good and pure into the mind. If we would avail ourselves of its beneficence we must acknowledge its spiritual operation in our individual lives. Thus shall we realize that we are children of God and joint heirs with Christ, and that we have dominion and power over all things.

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Charles Brodie Patterson

  • Canadian New Thought author
  • Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917
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