Elephant standing Firm

James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, once wrote about something he termed Perfect Freedom.

Says he, “The Heavenly Freedom is freedom from passion, from cravings, from opinions, from the tyranny of the flesh, and the tyranny of the intellect […] The Freedom that begins within, and extends outwardly until it embraces the whole man, is an emancipation so complete, all-embracing, and perfect as to leave no galling fetter unbroken.” This Perfect, or Heavenly, Freedom, in Allen’s opinion, brings peace and gladness, driving away stress and weariness. This is internal freedom, which is different but related to freedom in a country.

James Allen goes on to say that “The Land of Perfect Freedom lies through the Gate of Knowledge.” So, it is through education that you can free yourself, become pure, and overcome through “individual self-conquest.” Ultimately, Freedom comes down to knowledge and self-discipline, in Allen’s opinion. Winston Churchill evidently agreed, saying “No one can make you inferior without your consent.”

Allen goes so far as to imagine a utopia if each person achieved Perfect Freedom. “All outward forms of bondage and oppression will cease to be when man cease to be the willing bond-slave of passion, error, and ignorance. Freedom is to the free.” Allen goes on to explain what these outward forms are: “Freedom does not reside in cooperative aggression, for this will always produce, reactively, cooperative defense – warfare, hatred, party strife, and the destruction of liberty.” Finally, Allen believes in examples. “Free thy soul from sin, and thou shalt walk a freed and fearless man in the midst if a world of fearful slaves, and seeing thee, many slaves shall take heart and shall join thee in thy glorious freedom.”

I see and believe in the power of examples and the ripple effect as well. However, I don’t think that Perfect, or internal, Freedom will end all bondage and oppression -just give you the internal dignity and self-respect, yes, even the internal freedom, to overcome it. You see, Viktor Frankl found meaning, and watched others find meaning, in a Nazi Concentration Camp, through internal freedom. Louis Zamperini and other POWs in Japan during WWII also found Perfect Freedom in controlling the things they could control, like performing little acts of rebellion that disciplined themselves, giving them Perfect Freedom. You see, this internal or Perfect, freedom didn’t save them. These guys were still oppressed and in bondage. They just could bear it. In fact, in many cases they were more free than the undisciplined, uneducated guards over them.

Before we can bring freedom to others, bring freedom to our state or country, or bring freedom to the world, we first need to bring freedom to ourselves, through knowledge and discipline. This internal freedom will give us the strength and example we need to lead others, even if it doesn’t go as far as James Allen believes it could.