exploring self-realization, sacred personhood, and full humanity
Editor's 1-Minute Essay:
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The following represents a distillation of Dr. Adler's Syntopicon Essay plus my own thoughts:
"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name--liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two different and incomparable names--liberty and tyranny." Abraham Lincoln, address at Sanitary Fair, April 18, 1864
Dr. Adler, after many years of careful study, states that few words tender to us more meanings, with accompanying perplexity, than the great idea of Freedom.
Given the ample disparity of opinion among the great teachers, Adler asserts, this word is almost impossible to define.
Nevertheless, there seem to be three main categories under which the past discussion of Liberty divides itself:
(1) freedom to act as one pleases (granted by circumstance): this is the freedom of men and women in relation to others and society. Included here are social, political, economic, and other freedoms. In all of these, the primary issue is one of an ability to act or do as one wishes. For example, one may wish to dine at the Ritz, but, lacking the enabling element of money, this may not be possible. Also, one may wish to exercise a freedom to speak or pursue a vocation of one's choice, but if the political climate of one's country will not allow these benefits, freedom to act as one pleases will be severely restricted. Expressions of freedom in this area will become reality only as circumstance and good fortune allow;
(2) freedom of choice (granted by natural endowment): while some philosophers deny that humankind possesses free will in any real sense, the general consensus has it that man enjoys the power, the freedom, to choose his course of action -- circumstances may disallow the actual execution of such choice, but the power of will remains untouched. Men and women enjoy such capacity, not as a blessing of circumstance, but as innate attribute -- we have it simply by virtue of our being human;
(3) freedom to will as one ought (granted by acquisition): this kind of freedom speaks to the beginnings of moral perfection. Theologians might call it "freedom from sin"; psychiatrists may view it as "freedom of the integrated personality" versus the compulsiveness of the neurotic. It is the freedom to become what we ought to become in terms of our potentialities as persons. In this light, the apostle John writes: "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Liberty of this sort comes to us not by innate right, nor by circumstance, but, if at all, through personal development.
Philosophers speak of many problems, many questions, associated with Liberty, for example:
As mentioned, some deny that man has free will, an objection based on a view of man-as-machine, man as just another object of matter in the universe and, like all objects of matter, subject to forces acting upon him. These forces, they say, will mechanically produce their results -- and man's free will is merely so much illusion in the process.
Some debate the nature of law in relation to freedom: do government-decreed laws reduce freedom; is law an obstacle to freedom? -- or does law enhance and protect freedom? While each side of this issue has its proponents, the most helpful comment, I think, comes from those thinkers, for example, John Locke, who differentiate between freedom and license.
These thinkers say that, if laws are "just" (see Editor's essay: Justice), freedom is enhanced by their observance; that freedom, properly construed, is not permission to do evil, but a liberty to choose as one ought.
Mark Twain once quipped:
"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practise either of them."
America's favorite humorist begs the question:
How much freedom should a man or woman have? J. S. Mill, a great advocate of personal freedom, has this to say: "The only freedom which deserves the name," Mill thinks, "is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it";
"in proportion to the development of his individuality, each person becomes more valuable to himself, and is therefore capable of being more valuable to others. There is a greater fullness of life about his own existence, and when there is more life in the units there is more in the mass which is composed of them."
Adler takes us even closer to an answer when, in a burst of insight, a synthesis of many years' study, he suggests that:
"When I act -- I am free!"
A simple statement, but expressing much. Adler is saying that when a human being exercises choice, such volition is an expression of the hidden inner-person -- the self. Choice without execution is ineffectual. But choice translated into action implies the possession of freedom. "When I act -- I am free!"
Liberty, in full blossom, works with the power of person -- the self -- to do, think, and become, activities, in terms of initial stirrings, which flow from the inner-person -- and given wings by Liberty!
As such, Liberty is a real (not merely apparent) good of life, essential to Happiness, a life comprised of all truly good things.
But, Liberty is a limited real good -- we can never need more Liberty than is good for us, but we can want more than we should have.
And how shall we know when Liberty has stepped over the line of propriety? Adler wisely instructs us:
Men and women should have as much freedom as justice allows; as much freedom as he or she can use justly without harming any one else or acting against the general welfare of society.
freedom as autonomy, a 'law unto oneself'
- Editor's note: The following excerpt is taken from the "Believe" page. I would strongly encourage you to read the entire article as it touches upon unimaginably important concepts.
"Believe that you have received
your request and it will be yours."
"Nothing will be too much for you! - this mountain, for instance"
"Embrace this God-Life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you! This mountain, for instance: Just say, 'Go jump in the lake' - no shuffling or shilly-shallying - it's as good as done. That's why I urge you to pray... Include everything as you embrace this God-Life, and you'll get everything." (The Message)
Coming into view now is a most grand vision of heroic altruism, without border or boundary, wherein success is no mere possibility but a foregone conclusion!
How does this process work?
Some of the translations of Jesus' instruction veer into contingency statements such as, "if you can believe," seemingly suggesting, "you can move that mountain if you grit your teeth hard enough, huff-and-puff with enough effort, and then your will power will make it happen."
And now we're back to the advice of the Queen of Hearts - but this is absolutely errant and borne of the Small Ego. Elizabeth Fry is right and the Queen of Hearts is wrong.
Jesus in effect is saying this:
"Embrace this God-life. Immerse yourself in it. Allow its energies, as a naturally-flowing artesian spring [John 4] to bubble-up to the surface of consciousness. In this rising from the depths of being, you will come to know many things. As my sister Elizabeth stated so well, you will realize, automatically, within yourself, what you are to do. This sense of direction will be yours as a result of meeting God within your deepest sacred awareness. As the 'heavens open' for you, you will begin to see your place in life and where you are to serve. Everyone in God's family is involved in service toward those less developed - and some of the problems that afflict our wayward brothers and sisters are very big problems, indeed. These bulwarks of evil in the world are like mountains to overcome; and there are so many mountains, it's a whole mountain range.
you always wanted to be a Big Rock star
"But do not be daunted as you survey these granite behemoths. With God as your partner, you cannot fail. Your part will be to move only a particular 'mountain' of darkness. Which one to select? My advice is, do not make a choice. Allow this goal and direction for your life to 'percolate upward' from the depths, that is, allow it to be God's choice for you. If you do that, how could you possibly go wrong, and how could you fail when it is God's own directive leading you! And so I say to you, and to all of God's children - Embrace this God-life! Really embrace it! And when you do, you will begin to discern which particular 'mountain' has your name on it! It will be the one for you to scale and to conquer. Do not despair to know that moving a mountain might take a thousand years, as some of these service projects will require. The time to completion doesn't matter. The important point for you to understand is that your success is assured. It's as good as done. Therefore I encourage you, when you pray, include all of the details of what you want to accomplish with your particular mountain-moving project - include everything as you embrace this God-life, and you'll get everything."
What do I really want? Where shall I serve?
This becomes the question - not "will I succeed" but "what do I really want?"
Embrace this God-life and the answer will come to us regarding direction. Do not allow the Small Ego to choose; that way, we'll get everything wrong.
For those who enter the next world as an "adult," I think the freedom of self-expression to be experienced will approach something akin to what an outsider might deem to be anarchic! - so vast will be our powers to effect, our latitude of discretion, concerning whatever our sacred intentions might dictate! We will have absolute autonomy!
Editor's note: The word "autonomy" literally means, "a law unto oneself." This kind of freedom might be of concern to some. But there is no need for pause here.
A long time ago the apostle Paul envisioned a day when "the law" would be written on the hearts of God's people. In that coming day of spiritual maturity, we will direct our lives by an internal guidance, a personal, inner link to God. This is the "law of love" that we will live by - a total autonomy - and the world and universe will bless us for it.
What do you really want?
This will be the unspoken dictum of our lives. Everyone will want to know. What do you really want? What do you plan to create? What good thing, even now, is brewing in that altruistic and loving heart of yours? What great program of world beneficence will flow from those famous divine soul-energies of yours? We know you're thinking about it, you always do - we know this because we know the Family from which you come! And we know that, once you decide, once you receive clear, affirming direction from God within, you will be unstoppable, and no opposing power in the universe will dare stand in your way.
- Editor's note: I am reminded of Paul's teaching in Romans how the entire creation yearns and groans - the Greek, as I recall, suggests, "stands on tip-toe" - desperately waiting for the unveiling and coming of the glorified sons and daughters of God.
Two Years In Heaven, Dr. C.H. Carson, channeled testimony from his wife in the afterlife:
"My mind is filled with plans of what I hope to do. How glorious it will be to enter into active work and to realize that whatever I set out to do I shall be able to accomplish through the efforts I make! It seems good to be alive; to feel so well and strong that one’s whole being vibrates with new and wonderful life…
"Every moment of the time I spent in spirit life was occupied with something helpful and instructive… [to] furnish me with some helpful idea that I could impart to others to aid them in their progress toward higher, grander, and better things...
"My soul is alive and vibrant with plans for the future, and I am happy and more glad of life as each day passes, not for myself alone, but for those who are to follow after me and whom my influence is to lead heavenward."