Is freedom always good? We often assume it is. But is it?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting oppression is preferable. I was just wondering: what do we mean when we talk of freedom? Do we always mean the same thing by the word “freedom”? I mean, I love freedom but is it possible to have too much freedom? Could the opposite of oppression, lack of restraint, be an equal and opposite evil?
English occultist and ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley is famous for saying, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.” It sounds brilliantly contemporary (even if the language is archaic) but I was reading some books on sociopathy, psychopathy and antisocial personality disorder recently and you know what? “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” sounds awfully like the code of the psychopath to me.
Yeah, yeah, I hear some getting ready to protest that Crowley also says, “Love is the law, love under will,” so I should read Crowley more holistically. I know. But my primary concern here is not to critique Crowley so much as follow the train of thought that his words spark in me. Here’s my question: Is not the psychopath the freest sort of person around?
Crowley says, “Sin is restriction.” I say! Do we take that to mean restriction is the only sin? By that measure the psychopath must be absolutely sinless, more so than Christ, because only the psychopath is free from all social restrictions and ethical restraints.
But why stick to considering individuals? I am reminded of the book, “The Corporation,” which suggested that systems can also be psychopathic. And not only corporations. Many nations would suggest the world has had too much of America’s freedom thank you very much. Freedom seems to be the most valued value of America but others observe: the free society is the predatory society.
So, what is a more Christian understanding of freedom? The apostle Paul speaks of freedom quite a bit. But if my understanding is correct, he sees freedom as much in terms of “freedom to” as “freedom from”. Moreover, he does not see freedom as equal and opposite to discipline. Only the disciplined athlete is free to win the race. Only the disciplined heart is freed from addictions. Only the disciplined student is free to blitz the test. The truly freed mind is the one that is honed into a fine instrument. The truly freed life is one that is no longer enslaved to things other than the infinite. This sort of freedom is not the equal and opposite of restraint. It is the freedom to live the balanced, harmonious life.