The Transcendent Liberty is arrived at through the active operation of Law. Liberty apart from law is inconceivable. When a man thinks of light and dark, life and death, right and wrong, good and evil, he unconsciously conceives of law; he also declares and prophecies the Liberty which ensouls the law, and which transcends its painful operation; for law is only painful when violated, but when obeyed it is as though it were not, and it is this freedom from all consciousness of restraint through utmost obedience that constitutes perfect Liberty.
Take, for example, the man-made law against stealing. The thief mistaking anarchy for liberty, brings the law into operation, and suffers the consequences of his act. As far as the honest man is concerned, it is just the same as though the law did not exist, for it cannot operate against him. Thus, by utmost obedience to the law, he enjoys the most perfect liberty.
It is the same with the Great Law by which the universal harmony is sustained. It operates in the life of man, in the form of pain and suffering, when violated, but when obeyed, bliss ensues, and so complete is the freedom, that it is as though there were no law in existence, for the law cannot operate against the righteous man.
Now, it is very pleasurable for the thief to steal, so much so that it is very difficult for him to learn to obey the law against stealing, and, in order to gain such obedience and ultimately become honest, he must pass through a period of painful self-restraint. His effort to be honest will at first and for a time be painful, for temptation will frequently occur, and in refusing to take advantage of opportunity, he will feel that he is deprived of some coveted thing which he might have possessed.
But as he perseveres in the practice of honesty, the restraint will gradually pass away; the desire to steal, which at first burnt within him so fiercely, will become more and more feeble, opportunity will cease to tempt, and will at last not be seen at all, and when his mind and life have become firmly established in honesty, he finds honesty joyful (as distinguished from the feverish pleasure of stealing), and he is not only freed from the fear of the law and the restraint of the law, but even from his own self-restraint, so that his freedom is so perfect, and his knowledge of the two conditions (stealing and honesty) and what they entail is so complete, that he cannot, under any circumstances, go back to stealing again. His liberty, in that particular direction, is complete. It is even so with all forms of impurity and unrighteousness which are violations of the Law of Truth. It is very pleasurable for an unregenerate man to sin, and his first efforts to rise above sin and to obey the higher Law of Righteousness will lead him through a period of painful self-restraint. But as he perseveres in the practice of purity and righteousness, restraint will give way to freedom, until at last it will become natural and spontaneous for him to do those things which are right and sinless, and this is the state of perfect Liberty; it is also a state of perfect knowledge in which sin and sinlessness, and what they entail, are understood.
Selfishness is anarchy, and anarchy is bondage. Sin is the ignorant attempt to defy law. Obedience leads to liberty, that is, freedom from the restraint of law. To be free from all inclination to evil, and to love and live in those things which are good, is to comprehend and enjoy "the perfect Law of Liberty."
There is no confusion in the Universe, for it is one with Law, but there is suffering in the mind of man until he apprehends and Obeys Law. He who disciplines himself into perfect obedience to the Law of Good, banishing from him all sin in thought and deed, attains to the Liberty which is free from all suffering and restraint. Thus, Law and Liberty are one.
More from James Allen
James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.