Freedom is a component of our essential nature along with trust of Realty and care for self and neighbor. Yet we flee from this freedom, just as we distrust Reality and neglect care for ourselves and others. Flight from freedom is an estrangement from realism.
The Primal Merging with Freedom
When we have been blessed to see beyond our self images, personality structures, and social conditioning, we discover our intentionality, our initiative, our freedom to act beyond those self-inflicted boundaries. Too easily, we tell ourselves that we can’t do what we can do. The truth is we don’t know what we can do. We think we are determined where we are not. For example, if I am by habit a shy person, I can still discover my freedom to risk myself in gregarious contact with others. If I am by habit a boisterous person, I can still discover my freedom to calm down into being sensitive to others. Personality impulses exist, but so does freedom, unless we have squelched it.
Our essential freedom does not control the future—almost always he future comes to us as a surprise. Our freedom is not absolute control, but a participant in options. And this freedom is a gift—a gift that must to be received and enacted by us. Freedom is our profound initiative to make a difference in what the future turns out to be. Our free initiatives mingle with massive forces beyond our control to form a future that is both a surprise to us and a result of our initiatives.
These initiatives can be categorized as many types—here are four types of initiative that have characterized the Christian practice called “prayer”: (1) confessing our unrealism, (2) giving thanks for our life, our possibilities, and our forgiveness, (3) making requests of Reality for our own temporal being and for its further realization, (4) making requests of Reality for specific others and for the general social conditions that care for whole groups of people as well as for the circumstances of our home and planet. Such initiatives involve more than thoughts in the mind; they are acts of inner choice. These prayerful initiations are proposals for speech and for bodily movements of action in the world. These deep interior acts of Primal Merging with Freedom are intentions to engage in real life. True prayers are internal initiatives that change my actions and thereby change the course of history through the attitudes and actions that flow from such a life of prayer.
Such prayerful initiatives access the power of our true being—a power that is not an achievement or a possession of the ego or a quality of the personality. Such freedom is a capacity for initiative—a gift given to us by the Power that posits us in being. Our access of the power of freedom is not an accomplishment, but a merging, an allowing of our awareness to merge with the capacity of freedom that characterizes our deep being. This deep initiative is a capacity to create “out of nothing” responses that have no cause except our own initiative. It remains true that many of our responses are automatic actions that derive from our genetics or our social conditioning or our personality habits. We can be surprised by the extent to which an old childhood-developed habit imposes itself inappropriately into our present living. But along with all this past-determined behavior, something more exists in our now of living. We simply ARE a capacity for uncaused initiative that no psychological theory can explain.
From time to time, our experience of this profound freedom can break through our personality habits. This radical freedom is a permanent aspect of our true being. We have no excuse for not being our freedom. Our flight from freedom is our own doing. We use that freedom to choose no longer being free. And when we deny our freedom, we become stuck with an enslaved self.
The Inherent Purity of Being Freedom
Freedom is an Inherent Purity that includes living beyond the good and evil that our minds can forge. Freedom means living beyond the stories our superego holds—our oughts, duties, customs, and morals. Freedom means living beyond the approval of our parents, offspring, friends and other social peers. Freedom means living beyond all the libraries of ethical thought, and beyond all the definitions of our dictionaries. Dictionaries are past oriented. Freedom is openness to the future, including dictionary writing. This freedom also includes living beyond all the preferences of our own bodies, minds, and habits. Our pure freedom is an Inherent Purity because it is an obedience to the true state of affairs of our profound being.
Freedom is an audacious boldness that can use our personality gifts when appropriate, but will also contradict all personality habits and values without qualms. All impulses to be righteous in terms of superego conditioning are bypassed in the act of freedom; a new form of righteousness reigns: freedom itself. That we spend most of our lives squeezing freedom into some narrow box of morality or social acceptability does not contradict the fact that a deep audacious boldness is our true being. We insist upon being guilty before our social norms rather than alive in our inherent freedom. Nevertheless, living “beyond good and evil” characterizes the real “me.” In spite of the fact that our parents, our community, our friends, our enemies teach us good and evil, we are each an audacious boldness that uses these teachings and also leaps beyond these teaching as we deem appropriate to the situation.
When we understand this truth about our true being, we can understand the story of Adam and Eve who ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thereby experienced a fall from their authenticity—which fall, the following Genesis stories imply, results in all the estrangements known to the human species. That so-called knowledge of good and evil promising to make us divine turns out to be a deadly illusion. The snake in this story lied. The knowledge of good and evil is not a step up toward divinity, but a fall down into human depravity. The knowledge of good and evil is a forbidden food—forbidden by Reality. Our essential being is and remains ignorance-of-good-and-evil—an ignorance that is also freedom.
All our actual decisions are ambiguous. Many standards of good and evil may bring thoughtfulness to our free decisions, but contradicting values and standards are always present. We are vulnerable without any known final justification for what we do. We are choosing all by ourselves from an abyss of freedom that frightens us as much as it may also fascinate us. We are making wild leaps into unknown futures. We are making choices that are determining our own future and the future of the world. If we can embrace our fear of this gift, we can also experience its glory, its courage, its flexibility, and its knowledge of forgiveness before, during, and after we act.
The Attuned Working of Freedom
Reality is not a fixed fate, automatically working itself out like a piece of recorded music. Rather, Reality is an “open-for-options” fluidity that can work out in a large number of different ways, many of which can seem impossible or miraculous to our self-contained personality and ego establishment. It is in this sense that “Attuned Working” means living beyond fate. It means giving up all fatalism. This does not mean that we create our own reality, as so many false teachers claim. We do indeed create the worlds that our minds believe to be true, but these creations, being human made, are therefore illusory in some or all of their components. The effects of these self-created mind-worlds on the actual course of history are unpredictable and typically tragic in some way or another. These self-created mind-worlds always involve some sort of neglect of Reality, and thereby yield disappointments so extreme that despair eventually overwhelms the so-called “reality creator.” Freedom is realism, but freedom does not “create reality.” Freedom only alters reality in accord with realism. Freedom is “Attuned Working”—an obedience to realism in the real situations that we are being given and within which real situations we are called to be free.
In other words, freedom is a response to the gift of a situation with the gift of freedom to respond. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is given to say, “My Father is working still, and I am working.” (John 5:17 Revised Standard Version) Attuned Working is such working in the context of “what-is-doing” in the overall course of things. Attuned Working pays attention to what is going on, and then is obedient to that “working,” not in some robotic fashion, but as a free being attuned to the real options. Such living can be very powerful; our tiny little actions can instigate an echo from the whole of Reality.
When out of his deep awareness and honesty, Martin Luther nailed some discussion topics on a cathedral door, he could not have imagined the echo Reality would give to his action. It was as if the whole of European history turned on the pivot of this man’s persistent working. Some of Luther’s responses may not have been well tuned, but he nevertheless rang a bell of Freedom that enabled nobles and peasants to break with the stodgy traditions and the oppressive familiarities of that time and place. Many of the consequences of Luther’s actions were unintended and some may be judged tragic. Nevertheless, his attunement to what was so in his time joined with the existing trends and potentials, creating an avalanche of historical change. Luther’s Attuned Working, combined with the Attuned Working of others, set in motion a new era of human living that was less estranged from the deep truth of our true being. Freedom itself was set loose in the world.
In the lives of most of us, Attuned Working may not be Luther-level dramatic, but each of us has in our essential being this same potential for Attuned Working within the times of our lives. We are manifesting Attuned Working when we act out of our sense of how the cultural, political, and economic liberation of women is relevant for all of us in today’s world. We are manifesting Attuned Working when we act out of our sense of the relevance for all of us of the care of the Earth—its climate, its soils, its water ways, its diversity of species, and so forth. Freedom as Attuned Working means creatively living within the actual challenges of our times. Flight from these challenges is flight from Freedom; such flight is a cowardly compulsion, or a greedy obsession, or some other cop-out of estrangement from our real lives of courageous and free response within actual events.
Attuned Working can break through our personality habits as a state of being that happens to us from time to time. And we can also realize that Attuned Working is a permanent dynamic of our true being. This Freedom is given and supported by Reality; we never need to choose unfreedom. And if we do, we are dependent upon Reality to rescue us from our departure.