From our human viewpoint, when we speak of absolute freedom, we expect that we are unbound by the force of any law, rule, custom, habit or creed, to do “whatever we please”. We find any law antithetical to this freedom. On the other side, those who seek for some imperative law of existence which governs our actions find the exercise of freedom of this sort to be a reckless disregard of the needs of others and the society in the egoistic attempt to attain self-satisfaction. Both of these views operate at the level of the mind and its fixed method of creating “either/or” scenarios that become, at that level, irreconcilable.
When we see, however, that the evolution of consciousness has not yet achieved its final term, we can recognise that the mind is limited and imperfect and not able to judge effectively or find the solution to the dilemma into which it has plunged itself. We can envision a mode of consciousness where we see all the manifold variances of the world and actions in the world as elements of a complete whole which has its own significance, goals, and processes, of which the limited actions of mind, life and physical form are details being managed by that wider, higher level of conscious awareness that embraces and includes them, but also transcends them.
What appears to be irreconcilable from the mental perspective becomes self-evident truth when a new comprehensive view unfolds for the seeker. In such an instance, as Sri Aurobindo has made clear, imperative law is not inconsistent with absolute freedom, as we no longer are living in the state of egoistic limitation, but have identified with the divine consciousness which has both total freedom and a systematic plan of manifestation.
In The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo writes: “…there is, above society’s external law and man’s moral law and beyond them, though feebly and ignorantly aimed at by something within them, a larger truth of a vast unbound consciousness, a law divine towards which both these blind and gross formulations are progressive faltering steps that try to escape from the natural law of the animal to a more exalted light or universal rule. That divine standard, since the godhead in us is our spirit moving towards its own concealed perfection, must be a supreme spiritual law and truth of our nature. Again, as we are embodied beings in the world with a common existence and nature and yet individual souls capable of direct touch with the Transcendent, this supreme truth of ourselves must have a double character. It must be a law and truth that discovers the perfect movement, harmony, rhythm of a great spiritualised collective life and determines perfectly our relations with each being and all beings in Nature’s varied oneness. It must be at the same time a law and truth that discovers to us at each moment the rhythm and exact steps of the direct expression of the Divine in the soul, mind, life, body of the individual creature. And we find in experience that this supreme light and force of action in its highest expression is at once an imperative law and an absolute freedom. It is an imperative law because it governs by immutable Truth our every inner and outer movement. And yet at each moment and in each movement the absolute freedom of the Supreme handles the perfect plasticity of our conscious and liberated nature.”