THE ROAD TO FREEDOM
Janet and I sat beside the Ruby Angel, looking out toward the snowy hills. There was a tang in the air. The wind whistled among the bare branches of the trees at our feet, and then, rushing up the hillside, swirled icily about us. The grass on which we were sitting was crisp to the touch. Here and there, green patches broke through the crust of snow. I took up a handful of the sparkling crystals, pressing them between my fingers and then letting them drop to the ground.
“Why is it,” Janet asked suddenly, “that although there is this wintry scene all around us, we are not cold?”
“That is queer!” I broke in surprisedly. “Why, I am absolutely glowing – and we have on the same robes, too.”
Our angel-teacher smiled, making no reply, and in a sudden inspiration, I cried:
“Why, that is the question you wanted us to ask!” He turned to us, then, with the absorbed, glad expression of countenance I recognised as his prelude to a lesson in Truth.
“Yes, this is the illustration I have chosen from Mother Nature’s book.”
Janet moved nearer to me, leaning her shoulder against mine so that she could watch our teacher’s face.
“You do not feel the cold,” he continued, “because you are on a higher plane. If some travellers passed this way they would be unable to see us although the scenery would be perfectly clear. You yourselves can touch the snowy grass, yet you are raised to a slightly higher vibration so that, while feeling the chill of its touch, you are not chilled.”
Once more Janet and I ran the snowy crystals through our fingers. We did not speak, for we knew our teacher had more to say, and presently he went on:
“This is a symbol of the life of freedom that is possible for a man on earth. While he lives among the crowd, unthinking and careless, he is attuned to all that is lowest in the physical realm. The sensations of earth-life sweep him here and there, first delighting him, then angering him; again, soothing him or paining him. His feelings of the moment, his circumstances and the moods of those around him are all-important to him. His happiness is wholly rooted in these things. But the man who withdraws from the crowd, who reasons for himself and looks for wisdom in the simplest examples of life, begins to learn mastery over himself. He learns to say ‘No’ to the demands of his lower nature, to school himself by reason instead of being led by feeling. Gradually, he rises above his lower nature so that his circumstances, the moods of others and the sensations of life no longer have their sway over them. He begins to free himself!
“Do you mean that he no longer feels these things?” Janet asked. Our angel turned swiftly toward us, his face kindling.
“No. That is a mistake so many, many make. They see a man, calm and controlled, refusing to be swayed by every sensation of life, and they think he has become frozen, wooden, unfeeling They know no other state than that of being led by every emotion and swept by every sensation. They think the mastery of the lower state means the killing of all the powers of feeling. Foolish ones! Did they but know it, such a man feels more keenly, both in joy and in sorrow.”
“I think I knew this,” Janet said, and I added: “But we like to hear you make it quite clear.”
“Yes,” he said, smiling, “and it is such an important lesson that it can bear repetition…. What has happened, is this. The man, by schooling his desires, is no longer living wholly in the lower world. Instead of being led by the emotions, he is guiding himself by reason. Even his reason has made its submission to the dictates of the soul, and this in turn prostrates itself before the shining spirit that is in him. ‘Know you not that you are the temple of the living God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth within you?
“How does he begin to acquire this blessed freedom?” I asked, pressing my foot absently into the snow.
“Look,” said the Ruby Angel, “you have answered yourself. See how you have pressed out the snow under your foot so that it bears the imprint you have made upon it. Man does this with his emotions. He puts them under his feet, pressing out those he does not desire and shaping those that he sees to be pure and good. You see, his whole view-point has changed. He no longer thinks that ‘I like this’ is his creed and his rule of life. He comes to measure all things by the will of his spirit. When he says’ I like this,’ it now means, ‘the spirit within me likes this.’ He has come to be identified with it, to live in that higher consciousness.” “Yet he still feels the lower impulses,” Janet mused.
“He still feels them,” our teacher agreed. “Think for a moment of a baby who sees for the first time the golden, dancing flame of a candle. The child is fascinated by it and fervently desires to touch the attractive object. He straightaway stretches out his hand – and then draws back with a cry of pain. Now, what happens? Gradually, the child learns to curb this desire, to put it beneath his feet. He still thinks the flame is pretty, but his desire to touch it no longer moves him, for he associates it with pain. Instead of being led by his desire, he guides himself by his reason. This is true of every lesson of life.”
“How very clear that is!” I exclaimed gratefully.
“Yet how blind the worldlings are,” sighed the angel. “Instead of letting a few such lessons teach them the way to freedom, they go waveringly on, drawing from life countless pains and persisting in learning every separate lesson by the bitterness of experience. They argue that if they want to do a thing it is sufficient reason for doing it, and so they live blindly, the slave of every desire, reaping in bitter pain and disillusion what they sow with so much carelessness. The man on the road to freedom, however, is not insensible to the allurements of the world. He knows the pleasures of the senses, but he will no more submit to their mastery of him than the child will again put his hand into the candle’s flame. Around him the world beckons and calls! Dispassionately he looks on, serene and steadfast in his mind, of fixed resolve in his heart. Why should he turn and plunge once more into the mire, to languish in exile, eating the food of swine, when he has found the bliss of his Father’s home?”
Our teacher smiled tenderly upon us. “When you see snow, my children, remember the bliss of the man on freedom’s road.”