Paideia 21st Century: Step 1– Freedom begins with a decision to be free.
Decisions and choices. Free will. Obvious and simple. But what will happen if we take a serious look? Let the mysteries, and the dangers begin.
Who decides? Our seemingly obvious first step takes a sinister turn when we do a little psychic selfie by asking who is the self that decides. The existentialists get us started by showing us that consciousness, time, and freedom are linked, inseparable. Our conscious self brings time into being. “Time is the horizon of being”, as Heidegger famously said. But what the devil does this mean? It means that we are always, every minute, linking past and future. Try it. Monitor your thoughts and look at what crosses your mind. We are either reacting to what has happened or thinking about what we will do. Our conscious self is thus a relation between what we were and what we will be. In that sense, consciousness IS time. And only within our conscious selves does possibility exist, the future. It does not exist in the universe. Since possibilities exist only within us, we are, as Sartre said, “condemned to be free.” We MUST decide, we MUST choose. It cannot be avoided. It is our essence, endless possibility.
Most of the time we decide to act in a way consistent with our mental concept of ourselves. Our economic and social standing, our emotional security, all seem to force us to abandon this essential freedom for the sake of belonging to the system, the matrix, our community, our one big happy family. Stepping outside this is very scary stuff. From the earliest paleolithic shamans to the great sages it is said that we must die before we die. As the Master said, “he that loses his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 10:39) It is deciding to exit the matrix and all that is familiar. Perhaps this is the esoteric meaning of Luke 12:53:”They will be divided, father against son, and son against father, mother against daughter…” Much easier to do what one is told, and then watch TV.
So, which self decides to become a Christian? Gurdjieff expressed this conundrum masterfully:
“Man has no permanent and unchangeable I. Every thought, every mood, every desire, every sensation, says “I”. And in each case it seems to be taken for granted that this I belongs to the Whole, to the whole man, and that a thought, a desire, or an aversion is expressed by this Whole…man has no individual I.” (Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 59)
Some turn to a form of Christianity to be part of a social group. Fundies are caged in their bibliololatry. Drug addicts, alcoholics, and others haunted by their personal demons seek refuge in a religious safe haven. Many years ago I knew a former teacher, an extremely intelligent young man, who was never content to be a mere member of a congregation, he had to be a pastor. One can only imagine what Ted Cruz’s motives are.
My friend and mentor, William James, once said that a man’s philosophy was the great fact about him. One’s vision of the universe, whether conscious or unconscious, expressed in thought and action, is a tremendously revealing fact that wells up from our deepest self, and lays out our universe of possibilities, our fate.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also>” (Matthew 6:21) Your treasure is what you most consistently think about.
to be continued…