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..:: Freedom ::..


Alan Schneider


              As we struggle along life’s often tortuous path, enveloped in the dust of daily battle that is the hallmark of biological existence, we may occasionally ponder the meaning and implication of freedom during the periods of respite from our toil.  This SYNERGY essay will highlight some of the meanings of freedom knowable from the human perspective. 

            The condition of the flesh is not fundamentally free – we are quite literally festooned at the distil end of the central nervous system in the prefrontal lobe of the cerebral cortex – this is where the “me” that “I” experience as “myself” resides, as a highly complex, interactive sequence of neural synoptic patterns.  Paradoxically, the realization that this is “identity” on the Physical Plane is the beginning of the access to the more relatively free states of consciousness that can be attained from our perspective among the living! Let us examine the developmental facets of this, the jewel of extended human experience...

            The observer must, of course, at least be prepared to question the supposed literal nature of existence to progress along this path, otherwise, the television set and junk food are always waiting to re-anesthetize the mind! I myself invite open-minded inquiry as a matter of course, and this approach has constituted the primary investigative tool of most of the SYNERGY essays.  Once the questioning of existence has been taken seriously, the additional questions arise; “If I am not the focused self that I have presumed to exist, or at least am possibly more than that, then what am I?” At this point, progress can begin in the investigation of ourselves and our consciousness... 

            A logical next stage of inquiry is to probe the external environment beyond our physical forms for more clues to this mystery.  Do I possibly exist outside of myself in some context or other?  There certainly appears to be a plethora of other upright, verbal bipeds around, engaged in all manner of presumably interrelated activities.  This, of course, is the matrix of society and culture, and it is here that our synaptic existence derives most of its meaning – we are defined in relation to each other’s beliefs, actions, and mores.  In the absence of this condition, we would seem to have only instinctual behavior patterns and conditioned responses to fall back on as the derivatives of consciousness.  Is that it? Are we merely programmed autonomatons? Or is there more to this picture? 

            The very first problem endemic to conscious experience is encountered at this juncture – the issue of control.  At the biological level of expression, we are compelled by our physiological appetites to seek control over not only various aspects of the external environment, but over the other aforementioned sentient bipeds we share space with.  This compulsion has accounted for the great bulk of suffering in human history, as those individuals “fortunate” enough to have effective control Karma have developed more and more sophisticated (and invasive) methods of asserting that control over the great bulk of the human population.  The annals of fascism are filled with the technology of control – intimidation, manipulation, harassment, incarceration, brutality, and discrimination are but a few of the modalities that such individuals as Machiavelli and Adolph Hitler cataloged for posterity.  At the biological level, it does not concern such individuals that the brief instant of mortality on the Physical Plane passes so swiftly – they customarily do not think beyond fixations with social power and advantage. 

            Most of the control approaches noted in the last paragraph are more or less literal in character, and can be recognized and thwarted by the trained observer of phenomena as human beings seek out freedom, others are much more subtle in character.  Numbered among these more insidious methods is the process of cultural hegemony.  In its simplest form, hegemony amounts to the dominance of subordinate groups by advantaged groups, but it is the methodology of this dominance that is so potent.  Hegemony entails the use of all manner of indoctrination authorized by the advantaged groups(s) to train and convince the subordinate groups that they are subordinate because they should be, for their own good, and that only the prescribed methods of social change officially accepted and ordained by the dominant group may be practiced for the attainment of resources, and advancement in the social system.  Many times, the mechanisms of hegemony have existed in a given social system for hundreds or thousands of years, passing into the collective subconscious, and never questioned again.  So it is that the process of questioning cultural assumptions is so very important to the support of freedom and free inquiry in any society.  Only through the ongoing application of this process can the wheat of freedom be separated from the chaff of repression.  And if we are confronted with a condition that is inherently restrictive – as we, in fact, are in the manifestation of physicality – then the threshing process becomes all the more important!  

            The great threat of hegemony as the most present mechanism of cultural control in today’s world is exemplified by the subtlety of that presence – often subconscious, couched in persuasion and rhetoric as opposed to dictation, and residing in the background of society concealed by custom, tradition, and social mores.  Hegemony exists in parallel with functional provision, and can be very difficult to distinguish from that, its much more legitimate partner.  Just think for a moment about all of the customs in our culture that we take for granted – certainly some, such as stopping for red lights at intersections, are most functional and prevent much chaos, while others, such as arbitrarily deferring to apparent authority without question, are much more debatably functional.  Most of us will tend to simply follow the crowd in these matters, and “do as the Romans do when in Rome” – i.e. conform – and this is an instance of the root power of hegemony – the herd instinct – the tendency to blindly follow whatever group or individual has demonstrated leadership capacity by whatever means were expedient.  The questioning process, in comparison, is challenging – it continuously requires both internal and external confrontation with mental habits and social power elites.  No wonder we so often just look away from oppression – to directly confront it is no mean feat!            

            Once the social institutions generated by hegemony are set in place by custom and habit, they become accepted across time, and the extensive consequences to the human condition are all too often lost to human perception.  While it is true that hegemony contributes to a more convenient society, it is also true that the price of this convenience is the loss of freedom and creativity, as we become deeply entrained in advancing cultural mediocrity and blank materialism at every turn.  

            Beyond even the questioning of culture and the authority structure is another consideration that impinges upon hegemony – the need to question reality itself.  There is no more basic set of acculturated assumptions than that governing what we accept as real and tangible to the senses.  It is at this point of inquiry that the hegemonic process is most comprehensive and most deeply concealed from investigation, because we so often do not even think of looking here.  Is not what appears to be real to the senses in fact real?  How can my senses deceive me regarding the concrete nature of the world around me? The truth is that they can and do.  As was suggested in a previous Synergy 2009 essay,  Observation,  the very nature of the senses is deceptive by their very biological structure – the world they reveal to our consciousness is only a small fraction of what exists in the universe of observation.  And the conclusions the observations of the senses suggest to our consciousness about what is concrete and what is mutable, and the relations between the two, are highly questionable as well.  One need only take heed of the conclusions of our supreme human cultural achievement, science, to see some examples of just how misleading the evidence of the senses can be.

            As I sit here typing this essay, the keyboard of my computer seems to be solid enough, as does the surface of the desk supporting it. But the powerful instruments of magnification of science have assured me that the vast majority of both the computer and the desk are empty space, bounded by submicroscopic foci of electromagnetic influence, the whole constituting the sensory experience that I perceive as “solidity”.  As I write this, time seems to be passing, but mathematical analysis has confirmed that this “fourth dimension of existence” is really a sequence of seven additional dimensions beyond basic length, width, and breadth having the appearance of the passage of time to my limited human sense perception.  The very fabric of the universe is so distorted that, if I were to make a fantastic journey traveling always away from Earth to the best indication of the most sensitive instruments of science, and travel long enough, I would eventually return to Earth right where and when I left! Quantum mechanics maintains that it is impossible to simultaneously know the position and velocity of a particle.  If I attempt to make such an observation with instruments of any sensitivity, what is really a wave is collapsed by the intrusion of the measurement into a particle.  And this list goes on and on.  I must accept that what I see in front of me is no more necessarily “real” than what I fantasize within me, it just appears so. And cultural hegemony creates these appearances. 

             The first step away from the “prison of culture” is absolutely to question everything that occurs within our physical matrix in every way possible, beginning with the supposed flights of imagination and fantasy that are only one small step away from realization, if we could only see this.  It is our blind hegemony that defines one reality and denies another, perhaps many others, perhaps even an infinite range of others.  Somewhere within that range are undreamed of possibilities of expression awaiting discovery by open minds and free awareness.  So, my friends, the key to knowing genuine freedom is asking questions, and then having the courage to follow them where they may lead us!

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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