It is of liberty that I would first write unto you, for except ye be free to act, ye cannot act. Yet all four gifts of the Law must in some degree be exercised, seeing that these four are one. But for the Aspirant that cometh unto the Master, the first need is freedom.
The great bond of all bonds is ignorance. How shall a man be free to act if he know not his own purpose? You must therefore first of all discover which star of all the stars you are, your relation to the other stars about you, and your relation to, and identity with, the Whole.
In our Holy Books are given sundry means of making this discovery, and each must make it for himself, attaining absolute conviction by direct experience, not merely reasoning and calculating what is probable. And to each will come the knowledge of his finite will, whereby one is a poet, one prophet, one worker in steel, another in jade. But also to each be the knowledge of his infinite Will, his destiny to perform the Great Work, the realization of his True Self. Of this Will let me therefore speak clearly unto all, since it pertaineth unto all.
Understand now that in yourselves is a certain discontent. Analyse well its nature: at the end is in every case one conclusion. The ill springs from the belief in two things, the Self and the Not-Self, and the conflict between them. This also is a restriction of the Will. He who is sick is in conflict with his own body: he who is poor is at odds with society: and so for the rest. Ultimately, therefore, the problem is how to destroy this perception of duality, to attain to the apprehension of unity.
Now then let us suppose that you have come to the Master, and that He has declared to you the Way of this attainment. What hindereth you? Alas! there is yet much Freedom afar off.
Understand clearly this: that if you are sure of your Will, and sure of your means, then any thoughts or actions which are contrary to those means are contrary also to that Will.
If therefore the Master should enjoin upon you a Vow of Holy Obedience, compliance is not a surrender of the Will, but a fulfilment thereof.
For see, what hindereth you? It is either from without or from within, or both. It may be easy for the strong-minded seeker to put his heel upon public opinion, or to tear from his heart the objects which he loves, in a sense: but there will always remain in himself many discordant affections, as also the bond of habit, and these also must he conquer.
In our holiest Book it is written: "Thou hast no right but to do thy will. Do that, and no other shall say nay." Write it also in your heart and in your brain: for this is the key of the whole matter.
Here Nature herself be your preacher: for in every phenomenon of force and motion doth she proclaim aloud this truth. Even in so small a matter as driving a nail into a plank, hear this same sermon. Your nail must be hard, smooth, fine-pointed, or it will not move swiftly in the direction willed. Imagine then a nail of tinder-wood with twenty points — it is verily no longer a nail. Yet nigh all mankind are like unto this. They wish a dozen different careers; and the force which might have been sufficient to attain eminence in one is wasted on the others: they are null.
Here then let me make open confession, and say thus: though I pledged myself almost in boyhood to the Great Work, though to my aid came the most puissant forces in the whole Universe to hold me to it, though habit itself now constraineth me in the right direction, yet I have not fulfilled my Will: I turn aside daily from the appointed task. I waver. I falter. I lag.
Let this then be of great comfort to you all, that if I be so imperfect — and for very shame I have not emphasized that imperfection — if I, the chosen one, still fail, then how easy for yourselves to surpass me! Or, should you only equal me, then even so how great attainment should be yours!
Be of good cheer, therefore, since both my failure and my success are arguments of courage for yourselves.
Search yourselves cunningly, I pray you, analysing your inmost thoughts. And first you shall discard all those gross obvious hindrances to your Will: idleness, foolish friendships, waste employments or enjoyments, I will not enumerate the conspirators against the welfare of your State.
Next, find the minimum of daily time which is in good sooth necessary to your natural life. The rest you shall devote to the True Means of your Attainment. And even these necessary hours you shall consecrate to the Great Work, saying consciously always while at these Tasks that you perform them only in order to preserve your body and mind in health for the right application to that sublime and single Object.
It shall not be very long before you come to understand that such a life is the true Liberty. You will feel distractions from your Will as being what they are. They will no longer appear pleasant and attractive, but as bonds, as shames. And when you have attained this point, know that you have passed the Middle Gate of this Path. For you will have unified your Will.
Even thus, were a man sitting in a theatre where the play wearies him, he would welcome every distraction, and find amusement in any accident: but if he were intent upon the play, every such incident would annoy him. His attitude to these is then an indication of his attitude towards the play itself.
At first the habit of attention is hard to acquire. Persevere, and you will have spasms of revulsion periodically. Reason itself will attack you, saying: how can so strict a bondage be the Path of Freedom?
Persevere. You have never yet known Liberty. When the temptations are overcome, the voice of Reason silenced, then will your soul bound forward unhampered upon its chosen course, and for the first time will you experience the extreme delight of being Master of Yourself, and therefore of the Universe.
When this is fully attained, when you sit securely in the saddle, then you may enjoy also all those distractions which first pleased you and then angered you. Now then will do neither any more: for they are your slaves and toys.
Until you have reached this point, you are not wholly free. You must kill out desire, and kill out fear. The end of all is the power to live according to your own nature, without danger that one part may develop to the detriment of the whole, or concern lest that danger should arise.
The sot drinks, and is drunken: the coward drinks not, and shivers: the wise man, brave and free, drinks, and gives glory to the Most High God.
This then is the Law of Liberty: you possess all Liberty in your own right, but you must buttress Right with Might: you must win Freedom for yourself in many a war. Woe unto the children who sleep in the Freedom that their forefathers won for them!
"There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt:" but it is only the greatest of the race who have the strength and courage to obey it.
O man! behold thyself! With what pains wast thou fashioned! What ages have gone to thy shaping! The history of the planet is woven into the very substance of thy brain! Was all this for naught? Is there no purpose in thee? Wast thou made thus that thou shouldst eat, and breed, and die? Think it not so! Thou dost incorporate so many elements, thou art the fruit of so many aeons of labour, thou art fashioned thus as thou art, and not otherwise, for some colossal End.
Nerve thyself, then, to seek it and to do it. Naught can satisfy thee but the fulfilment of thy transcendent Will, that is hidden within thee. For this, then, up to arms! Win thine own Freedom for thyself! Strike hard!