How free are we?
To possess complete freedom has always been a human being's greatest desire. The fundamental human rights guaranteed by society are not sufficient for acquiring inner freedom. A personal effort is also necessary. What then is freedom and how can we find it?
Is complete freedom possible?
When someone says that he wants to be free, oftentimes he means that he wishes to act as he sees fit, without any restrictions, without being hindered by anything, without being accountable to anyone.
Complete freedom is impossible since a person benefitting from such freedom needs only to be confronted with another and his own freedom is quickly called into question. Consequently, the decisions he has made can come into conflict, frustrate or even be thwarted by the decisions of the second person. Complete freedom, therefore, would only be possible for a person in isolation. This is a well-known fact and is summarised in the popular saying: 'My freedom begins where yours ends.
But to be alone in the world would still not mean freedom. For man finds himself facing an external reality that he did not choose; a reality of nature that he is forced to take into consideration. Immutable laws –the laws of nature or the cosmic laws – that greatly limit his ability to exercise complete freedom govern this reality.
A human being can indeed choose to walk or to run, but not to fly, because this goes beyond the laws of his constitution. He can also decide to sow wheat rather than any other type of seed, but once this wheat is sown he cannot oppose the reality that he is then unable to reap oats! Freedom, therefore, does not just begin where another person's freedom ends, it is also ends where external realities begin.
While the possibility of living in complete freedom remains forever impossible for the human being, this does not mean that he cannot exert a relative freedom; that is to say within the framework of the laws pre-set by the Creator. The laws are indeed the expression of the Will of the Creator; they demonstrate the manner in which He wants Creation to function.
Laws, a restraint to freedom?
The prevailing framework formed by laws is felt by some to be an intolerable limitation. Following the example of those who want to live 'fearing neither God nor man', that is to say without moral (spiritual) principles, or earthly laws, such people would effectively be demanding complete freedom, which is not possible for human beings. Such would like to be able to decide everything by themselves. The question, however, arises: would they be capable of assuming such freedom? This actually implies deciding how the universe should function. The answer to this is obviously 'no' because the wisdom that governs the Laws of Creation, Laws that gear into one another, that harmonise and complement each other in such a perfect manner, guaranteeing everyone and everything his or its space, place, and so on, are high above the capacities that a human being can deploy.
Moreover, the laws are not there to limit but to safeguard the freedom of each and everyone. Due to the large number of human beings on earth, our individual freedom would be greatly restricted by that of others if there did not exist a set of rules for all to observe so that everyone can take advantage of a maximum personal freedom. These rules are contained in the Ten Commandments and were summarised by Christ when He exhorted human beings to love their neighbour as themselves.
In fact, doing unto others as we wish to be done by is the best way of respecting our mutual freedom, and to thereby giving everyone the greatest amplitude of freedom possible.
Human freedom, freedom to decide
The Creator having determined the nature and the functioning of the framework in which a human being can act, man's freedom applies only within this framework and not therefore on the structure itself. Thus it is not a question of being able to create but the freedom to decide within a pre-established framework. This ability to decide freely that is always at man's disposal is what is called the free will. In this world, only man possesses a free will.
Certainly, animals also make decisions. These decisions are, however, not free, but always predetermined. Faced with a particular event, several reactions are possible for them. They can choose what they want, but in so doing cannot choose other than what belongs to their species. For example, in the face of an adversary, a dog can choose to bite or flee, but it cannot decide to head butt its enemy as a goat or a ram would do! Lions are carnivorous. Eating meat is innate to them. They will therefore not be able to decide to adopt another diet and become vegetarian. The human being, however, can choose to do so. He can even decide to malnourish himself or to eat healthy. The repercussions of erroneous decisions will obviously make themselves painfully felt, but it is possible for man to take these decisions none the less.
Human beings sometimes envy animals because they live freely in nature. However, as we saw above, the decisions that animals can make are very limited compared to those that a human being can make. Moreover, with animals the action is always only a reaction to a stimulus produced by its environment or from its body, whereas where a human being is concerned, it can also come from a deeper wish. Thus a human being can develop because he wants to, while the animal is urged towards development. Also the evolution of man is cloaked in forms that he himself fashions, which is not the case with animals.
Where is the seat of our free will?
If the free will is a particularity of man, then where can it be found in him? At first we might assume that it is situated within the brain. However, if we reflect on the brain's functions, we must arrive at the conclusion that the brain is clearly conditioned, thus preventing it from making uninfluenced decisions.
In fact, at birth the brain does not yet contain anything. It is a completely new instrument that will be fed information as life develops. This information is received through the five senses and then stored in the memory and the intellect can work on this information through association.
This information would necessarily be different from one individual to another by virtue of upbringing, nationality, schools attended, chosen professions, newspapers that are read, radio or television broadcasts that are followed, advertisements, friends, a particular political party that is favoured, and so on. These examples clearly show that the brain is incapable of making an uninfluenced decision since all its reasoning is impregnated and conditioned by its desires, concepts and opinions … influenced by the outside world.
However, to make an absolutely free decision, it is necessary that the decision-making centre be capable of choosing without being influenced by external conditioning.
Therefore, if the free will is not seated in the brain, where is it? Given that the body possesses no other organ as sophisticated and noble as the brain, the free will must be sought elsewhere, without, however, seeking only in a materialistic fashion as man of today is used to doing. If, in fact, we exclusively use this materialistic approach, we are forced to look for the free will only in another of the body's organs.
But the constitution of a human being is composed of an immaterial element. This element is the spirit, used in the sense of soul. The spirit, which originates in the spiritual plane, or Paradise, does not have the same constitution as the physical body. It is composed of substance from the spiritual plane, while the physical body is composed of materials from the material plane. The nature of these two planes differs greatly and because of this difference the spirit sojourning on earth must be cloaked in a covering or be equipped with an instrument that allows it to make contact with its surroundings and to react therein. This instrument is the physical body. Consequently, the spirit incarnates into the body, but it is not the body itself. Neither is it the brain.
Due to its origin, the spirit is immune to all the socio-cultural conditioning to which the brain is subjugated. It is indeed struck by the impressions originating from the terrestrial plane, but they are not engraved on the spirit as they are in the brain. In fact, unlike the brain, the spirit is not empty but possesses spiritual abilities conferred on it by the Creator. The external impressions compel these abilities to react and to manifest, which in turn contribute to their development. There is therefore no question of a conditioning, but only development of the inner, personal abilities.
Therefore, it is the spirit that makes uninfluenced decisions, that is to say freely. The spirit is the seat of man's free will.
Inner obstacles to freedom
Freedom is sometimes presented as something unto itself, outside of a human being that man can appropriate. In truth, the possibility of being free exists deep within the human being. It becomes a reality only when man uses the free will of his spirit.
In this light, freedom of belief, of thought, of expression, to assemble and so on as may be contained in a bill of rights are not freedom as such, but laws of society that serve to guarantee each person the possibility of using his free will unhindered. However, these laws only make it possible to use our free will, they do not force us to do so. And if a person does not use it, he is not free, even if he were living in a country that guarantees fundamental human rights. The obstacles to freedom can therefore be internal as well as external. More often than not they are internal.
The main reason for this is that, normally, during his earthly sojourn, the human being should essentially make decisions with his spirit and his brain should execute them. This division of labour can be explained as follows: the earthly plane where the spirit finds itself for the duration of its incarnation is alien to it due to its different nature. It is therefore unable to fully grasp this plane and to react upon it in the same way the brain can due to its nature. Thus, the role of the brain is to assist the spirit and carry out the decisions it makes. In order to accomplish this it must likewise possess the ability to decide so that it can make a choice among the multiple material possibilities that are available to it.
The intellect's decision-making centre has a much narrower field of activity than that of the spirit. It only understands the material world, whereas the spirit has a larger view that extends beyond matter. Nevertheless, for a long time now man has opted to use only his cerebral capabilities, his intellect, above all else instead of primarily using his spiritual faculties that are on a much higher level hierarchically and should take the lead over intellectual abilities. With time, the latter became overdeveloped, much to the detriment of the spiritual faculties and the result is that decisions are taken more often by the intellect today rather than by the spirit.
But the more a human being consults and submits to his intellect, the less he uses the free will inherent in his spirit. And the less he uses his free will, the less freedom he has. The loss of spirituality therefore quite naturally leads to a loss of freedom.
By submitting to the intellect, man again hinders himself in another way. Owing to the restricted vision of reality that the intellect possesses, the decisions that it makes without the spirit's lead are consequently fragmented and because of this are often opposed to the Laws of Creation.
By making decisions that oppose the laws he creates a difficult destiny for himself. Man's destiny is indeed not arbitrary, but there are consequences of past actions: 'whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap'. Obstacles, conflicts and problems that he will be forced to live and that will in turn limit his possibilities to act completely freely.
Disrespect for the laws and the obstacles that bar the way to the free use of our will can also arise from a person not positively developing his abilities but instead who cultivates some sort of propensity. Effectively, an inclination for money or likewise envy, hatred, and so on, will always 'incline' the person towards a precise direction. Such a person can then no longer make a free decision because he must constantly struggle against this inclination that is persistently knocking on his door. Instead of having many different choices at his disposal, one powerful and influencing element is always at the forefront. And this influence is an obstacle that blocks the complete and total use of his free will.
The non-observance of the laws therefore leads to the loss of freedom. This is the exact opposite of what is commonly believed. In fact, where the Laws of Creation guarantee the maximum freedom for everyone, their non-observance logically leads to a loss of this freedom.
What is the purpose of the free will?
The human spirit did not create itself; no more than it created the abilities that lie in it. The Creator placed these abilities in his spirit as possibilities, but it is man's duty to bring them to full blossom from this state of possibility to a state of reality. Does the history of humanity, and moreover that of the mineral reign, the vegetable and animal kingdoms not demonstrate a movement from the simple to the complex, from the slightly developed to the more developed, or even from the unconscious to the more conscious? But these capabilities can only be developed when they are used. And for this to happen, the spirit must want something. By wanting to be respectful, patient, helpful … the spirit engages the corresponding faculties that lie within it and forces them to manifest. Thus in the same way that muscles develop through exercise, so do our spiritual capabilities develop and blossom the more they are used.
The ultimate goal of the efforts we expend throughout our existence is therefore not only our material survival and ultimately the achievement of great things on earth, but it is to develop the innate abilities that reside in the spirit. Moreover the goal of human existence is to fully develop the abilities of the spirit, for it is only when the spiritual abilities are brought to complete maturation that the human spirit can return to its home: Paradise.
Preventing someone from using their free will unhindered, whether this is the State by not guaranteeing the fundamental human rights to its citizens, or by an individual, through the exertion of various types of pressures, is one of the most serious crimes against humanity. This does not only generate earthly suffering, but spiritually it hinders the development of the spirit that is the true essence of a human being.
The use of the free will should therefore be seen less as only a possibility that we can choose to use or not, but rather as something within that man must absolutely apply in his life. Because for the human spirit in Creation, freedom is less of a right than a duty and the more an individual becomes free by observing the Laws of Creation, the more those in his surroundings can become free as well.