There is release (or deliverance) (vimokkha) and there is freedom (vimutti).
Release is the having been released from something. The having been set free.
Freedom is the state attained subsequent to having been released.
There is release relating to things 'of Time' (samaya)
and there is release relating to things 'not of Time' (asamaya).
There is freedom relating to things 'of Time' (samaya)
and there is freedom relating to things 'not of Time' (asamaya).
Things of time are things that have come into existence,
have been own-made;
this includes the five support-compounds (kkhandha); the six sense spheres (salayatana) and such mental states as the four jhānas, the four arūpa-jhānas, and even the state perceiving ending of perception and sense experience. Or, in other words, every existing thing.
Things not of time are things that have not come into existence, have not been own-made.
There are 3 releases and there are 8 releases. The three are:
attaining a state empty (suññata), of lust, hate and blindness;
attaining a state without signs (animitta), of lust, hate and blindness;
attaining a state without ambitions regarding (intentions aimed at getting) (appaṇihita) things involving lust, hate and blindness.
The eight are:
coming to know and see shape (rūpa) as it really is (that is, as compounded of the properties: solidity, liquidity, heat and motion; or, ultimately as aspects of light);
attaining a state of formlessness (arūpa) while recognizing forms;
attaining the perception 'How Pure!";
attaining the four arūpa jhānas:
the Sphere of Endless Space,
the Sphere of Endless Consciousness,
the Sphere of Nothing is to be had,
the Sphere of Neither-perception-nor-non-perception;
and attaining the state where perception of sense-experience ends.
The three releases and the eight releases are releases from things of Time.
The states themselves are not the release;
release is the freedom resulting from attaining these states.
The eight releases are a hierarchy only in one dimension;
in terms of their being vehicles of release, each is of an equality.
Focused on the release mechanism
one is only freed from the thing that came before,
a relative freedom,
which is called:
"Freedom as to things of Time".
Attaining the topmost mechanism,
the state where perception of perception and sense-experience ends,
is not freedom
and is not the goal
and the freedom attained by way of release from that is a matter of an intellectual comprehension that the state was own-made and that to attempt to construct higher mental states would only lead to getting more bound up than before.
In other words, it is an arbitrary end point to the process.
One could have stopped anywhere earlier to the same effect.
Release from that freedom —
that is that freedom attained by release from things of Time —
is release from something not of time.
Things of Time > Release from Things of Time > Unstable Freedom from Things of Time (A Thing Itself Free from things of Time, but temporary because relative to things of Time) > Release from Things Not of Time > Stable Freedom from Things Not of Time.
If that freedom that resulted from release from things 'of Time' were not a thing itself 'not of Time', it would not be freedom from things 'of Time'.
Once again: Focus on the fact of being free from X and that is 'freedom as to a thing of Time'; focus on the freedom itself and that is 'freedom as to a thing 'not of Time.'
Think of it like this: 'focus' is a detachment (an awareness of awareness; a being one step beyond) which is another way of saying 'freedom'.
The Buddha is saying that if you can do this, the resulting freedom is unshakable or is what is also also known as 'the unshakable freedom of heart and freedom of wisdom'.
This is having been released from things of time,
and having recognized in the resulting freedom,
that this freedom
is freedom from the corrupting influences āsavas:
(sensual pleasure, existence, blindness, points of view)
with such clarity
that it is known and seen
that this state is of such a nature as to guarantee
rebirth is left behind,
lived is the best of lives,
duty's doing is done,
and that there is no more being any kind of an 'it' at any place of 'atness' left
that could cause one to again own-make (saṅkhārā) this world
or any other 'thing of time'.
The freedom is too sweet;
the pain of the alternative too obvious.
There is nothing missing from or incorrect about the PTS version of the Pali.
In fact I suggest that the versions of the Pali that differ are efforts to 'correct' this version and are themselves in error. The alteration requires slightly more than the simple addition of 'a' before two words. There is enough there to say that the change is conscious.
In the first portion of the last case the seeker has attained release from things of Time with the resultant freedom being freedom based on things of Time. Such freedom is not stable because the base is not stable.
This is the man searching for heartwood who has found heartwood and has taken it away with him seeing that it will be useful for things requiring heartwood.
In the second portion, (which in other similes in other suttas is usually a repetition of the first portion) using the same method, one attains release from things of Time then release from things not of Time (the freedom attained by release from the freedom based on things of Time).
The key is seeing the distinction between release, relative freedom and absolute freedom. The first man becomes the second man by using the heartwood.
The problem seen by the translators, (that the first half of the sequence does not match the second half) is not a problem, it is intentional. It points to the otherwise missing (unstated) path to the freedom based on things 'not of time' resulting from release from things 'not of time.'
As long as the seeker is thinking that there is something there which is giving him his freedom (something released from which he attains this freedom); his freedom is temporary because that 'something' has been own-made and is unstable. When he lets go of that, (not thinking 'This is the real me', 'I have attained this') there is no longer an unstable basis for his freedom and that freedom is absolute.
The only thing that has changed between the two situations (the first portion and the second portion of this case) is the perception of the situation. It doesn't need to be re-stated in an additional case, it just needs to be seen differently.
The first, temporary release, will be noted because the seeker is after permanent release, but he also knows he has the right method because temporary or not it is freedom, so he focuses on that and discovers ultimate freedom.
This business of consciousness being able to be conscious of consciousness and of consciousness being able to be conscious of not being consciouss of things is an essential skill needed to realize Nibbāna.
Presenting the issue in the combined way we have it presents a problem (the problem the translators are reacting to) which when focused on with the idea 'how can this be understood to be correct' rather than 'this does not follow the usual pattern and so must be a mistake' results in insight. It is a pedagogical technique, not a mistake. This sort of shift in the use of a frequently-used pattern is not unique in the suttas. Keep'nja onjatoz.
Warning: There is frequent inconsistency in the terms used to translate vimokkha and vimutti with the terms 'Release' and 'Freedom' being used for both. Ms Horner speculates where she should be able to see the certainty: Vimokkha is an objective reference to the things one is freed from; while vimutti is the subjective experience of (mental) freedom.