Towards Freedom – Caveat

If the seed, the germ of freedom starts to germinate in you, there may be a long way to go and that quest is beset with pitfalls. It is a noble quest and one that tests your mettle. Humanity is, perhaps, heading towards a new age where the forms and structures both current and of the past, are starting to quiver and fail. Against such a backdrop, for the right kind of individual, the times are more fertile in terms of this quest. With the individuating being less needful of organisations and churches, the genuinely new has yet to materialise. As such the role of devotion, mindless or otherwise, shall cease to dominate. The cult of the personality fades as the masses are educated and learn to think for themselves. The need to hand power over to some hero, guru or leader, is less strong. Nevertheless, belonging to a club, an organisation, a group, a party, a cult or a church, still has a strong draw. That idea of belonging, tribal as it may be, remains powerful.  If you are to hand your salvation over to a saviour, of whatever denomination, in all likelihood, you will be disappointed. Given so much power over, few can resist its temptation.

This is not to say that within organisations there is nothing of merit. Many have great value in their core teachings and a sense of community in their society. To swap one world version for a better one, is not bad. It is ultimately limiting. In this the provenance of lineage is often touted. The idea is that the teachings are pure. However, if genuine adherence to doctrine is maintained, it swiftly becomes out of date. A truth remains a truth, but it is best flavoured with an essence of the times and not laden with the vinegar of preservation. A teaching intended for an Indian body and psyche, may not transfer directly to a Dane or a Belgian. Flexibility, according to make-up and culture can enhance learning. Dogmatic worship of the past, can hinder. Be very wary of anyone, or any organisation, that asks you to hand your power over to them. Even if you seek the kudos and bragging rights of beings associated with some guru or other, use discernment. As I have suggested before a free being will not seek power over any other being. Handing your power over to a saviour does not make you free; paying for blessings and potions, cannot liberate you. There is only one reliable way, do it yourself.

One can cherry pick from a tradition, but this can, at least in the early stages, lead to confusion. Some immersion is needed to gain benefit. This is best done with the caveat of discernment. There are no short cuts, you will have to hanker down for the long run. As you traverse you will see that what appear to be major differences in ideology may simply be down to manner of communication and contextual setting. When you get to this stage cherry picking is much safer.

Along the way you will encounter your own prejudices and predilection. If you are by nature a space cadet, unless something is weird and far out, it will not attract you. If you perceive yourself a rational being with a scientific approach, you will seek out evidential proof from within the context of your world version. There must be proof. Unfortunately, not all things in the universe are subject to reductionist working. This may jar with how you think things ought to be. The trick is to be open minded and reserve judgement, yet not to be gullible and over easily led.

The glamour of ritual holds strong with many. It accentuates a sense of belonging and can create a near hypnotic state as mind is handed over to group mind. These experiences can be pleasant or otherwise. They do not represent freedom in its purest. Glamour can be found on all sides and as one develops it is easier to assume a premature omniscience, which exists not. The human Ego is one tricky son of a bitch and it will play game after game with you. In this respect taking most things with a pinch of salt, is helpful. Do not be overly cynical and negative because, guess what? That can be your omniscient Ego talking to you….

It is likely that you may be attracted to people who think in a roughly similar manner to you, this provides the coterie of group satisfaction. It generates a group consensus, to which temporary loyalty may be felt. It can lead to defence and an inward-looking mentality. History shows that when groups of beings, blinded by devotion, encounter others, war results. This group-think is by definition, limited and cannot be free. The parameter space of truth and reality cannot be fully explored whilst there is subscription to consensual world version. There is an added problem in that within all groups there is a tendency towards social politics and hierarchical position. With a sad inevitability this leads to intrigue and gossip. These are the antithesis of freedom and not the predilection of a free being. Should you start in earnest on the walk to freedom, sooner or later, you will experience the pointing finger and the stabbing tongue.    

Having made these caveats, and should you be determined or fated, then what are you waiting for?

The quest for freedom starts with an urge, proceeds via control over your own mind and talking, towards a greater objectivity. In being honest and real, you will start to listen to your heart. The concrete world version you started with will slowly dissolve as you open your mind. In the search beyond the façade for your authentic essence, you will develop an authenticity hitherto unsuspected. Thence a sense of equanimity and choice develops. No more will you be a slave to drama and soap opera. And without knowing it you will be imbued with both a centre of beingness and an ever-increasing understanding of freedom. You will be on your way to becoming a free being, a magical creature of the universe.

Towards Freedom – Materialism and Possession

I think it fair to comment that a swathe of humanity is somewhat obsessed with material things; houses, ‘phones, cars and maybe even yachts. There is a desire for the less concrete material things, the man-made things, like position, status and kudos. These are the markers, the accoutrements of the show-and-tell story of success, material success. People attach a lot to objects and stuff. Some houses are brimming. There is a like of the shiny, the medals, the trophies of societal conformity. One can even have a trophy wife and post-nominal letters. These things can be taken away, an event which causes distress and suffering because of the attachment, thereto. People have possessions and are possessed by them. That which they are attached to has power over them. In the hunger for acquisition rarely does it occur that people are giving their power over to their possessions.

If you are to be free then the equation of freedom is that the fewer things that have material power over you there are, the freer you become. In the limit of no possessions, one might wander the streets penniless dependent upon the hand-outs of others. This, depending upon mind-state, is a state of powerlessness. This can also not be free, because of the dependency. Is there perhaps a happy medium? Well in a world where relative might operate, there is. One can have only those belongings which one actually needs and that suffices. Many acquire way more than this, perhaps in a vain attempt to satiate some hunger, some hole in being. Their “happiness” is correlated somehow, to number count of material accoutrement. It is straightforward to see that, in such cases, the thinking behind is faulty.

Even then it is likely that some degree of clinging to accoutrement occurs. This clinging is needy and not free. If one uses, with respect the needed things, knowing that their use is a temporary gift of the universe and without a sense of entitlement, there is less attachment. Non-attachment without respect is wasteful and profligate, it engenders a throw-away society. Non-attachment with respect is perhaps a hallmark of a free being. In this one has no belief that the universe owes us a living or anything much at all. Thereby one is grateful for the loan of the material things offered, yet not attached to having them.

Materialism implies a lack of spirituality, which comes in many flavours and degrees. Despite all the reason, logic and justification, many find that some sense of spirit is the icing on the cake of life. Without it life is incomplete, unfinished. In our times spirit seems to be dying in favour of material, it may be that this underlies the tremendous levels of world angst and anger. This is an opinion for you to consider.

There are many wise quotes that suggest materialism is a hollow path, that whilst shiny and bauble laden, offers no lasting happiness or peace. This gnawing materialism is insatiable; at the end of its rainbow is the pot of enough, which cannot be found because for those so oriented it simply does not exist. This elusive enough, often sought, can cause suffering. It is sought with the wrong mind-set and motive and ergo, is elusive.  There is a Buddhist expression which I am fond of; hungry ghosts. A ghost then is a being divested of spirit seeking always to quench a thirst and silence a hunger pain, in the netherworld of materialism. If you don’t believe in “actual” ghosts, perhaps you can see the manifest hungry ghosts walking alongside you on our streets? They are quite common, and they do come out during the day.

In order to walk towards freedom, it is necessary to reorient in respect of the material so that it all but ceases to have power over you.  Despite the prevalence of totems, relics and the like, they have no inherent power. The power is only in the mind of the reverential and acquisitional. This power is a mental construct attached by the being who holds it. These attachments can bind and hold.

Objects can be the talismans of memories, markers of stories and anchors of such. They evoke baggage and strengthen its hold. To be free of the past is to reconcile and dissolve it. To evoke and bolster it is unwise. In this respect sentimentality is a burden.

A major part of the obsession with materialism is, as I have hinted, this show-and-tell competitive social behaviours based in comparison mind and exploited by the advertiser. This fear of missing out on the latest grooviest thing is the marketer’s dream and a fundamental weakness in the herd of consumers. So many buy stuff they do not need so as to partake of a show-and-tell life. This to the extent of living beyond means in many cases. A trophy cabinet is of little solace when the creditors foreclose. You could say that this attraction to shiny baubles is a little primitive and yet pervasive.

If one looks ever outward to the material world for “happiness”, reward and acknowledgment, the inner world becomes barren and untended. There is no balance, no centre. It is difficult to be free when near perpetually off balance.  In this respect simplicity is a counterpoint to acquisition, where need as opposed to want or desire, is the basis of interaction with the material world. Not everyone can tolerate the idea of monastic sparseness, yet relative comfort without excess is liveable for most. And in not feeling owed, or attached, knowing that your tenure of goods is transitory not guaranteed, equanimity can be found. The concept of ownership and permanent ownership at that, is a human invention. Nature can at any time challenge human perceived ownership of goods and irrevocably so. This construct of ownership and possession is of human origin and thereby a part of the illusion of the common dream, the prevailing world version.  The mantram of “must have” is chanted daily by millions and it is not a mantram of peace or fulfilment. It is mantram of hunger. “Must have” is not free.

In order to be free, one must at least lessen the power which things and awards have over one. There needs to be a responsible lessening of attachment, perhaps in a stepwise manner. Slowly the umbilical to the world of materialism needs severed. To be possessed by possessions is to be hooked to them and their purveyors. And short of a full-blown exorcism it is best to wean yourself towards autonomous living and thinking. This addiction to materialism is powerful and it holds power over most.

Towards Freedom – Power

It may seem a little out of place to start discussing power in the context of freedom and equanimity, but it is necessary. Until you have more than a notion of your relationship to power and with power, it is difficult to have balance. Power of course has many meanings, there are many types of power and it comes in all shades. There is power in the sense of dominance, power in the sense of ability, power in knowledge and power as in material plane enforcement. Power is a vast topic itself. Some people have power, that can be positional or organisational power, it can be personal power, it can be muscular power or sexual power. There is the saying that power corrupts, though it need not, it often does. Humanity has a bit of a thing for and about societal power; it has a status hang up.

If you wield power in the sense of political or corporate power, it is unlikely that you will have equanimity and peace. This is because people are so often fighting for power. Even if your powerful position is secure, by the very nature of that position you will be required to make decisions. Those decisions are a responsibility of positional power and rarely do they come with serenity and peace. It is not the fate of most people to learn what high positional power means and those so called are in for a bit of a tough time. All societies have leaders, and these are of varying ability and quality. Some seek power with a thirst. And it is many that are so drawn who end up abusing power. Power has many traps associated for those drawn to it.

In the context of freedom, it is useful to figure out what has power over you and then adjust that situation. Things that have power over you can be as simple as arachnophobia. If a simple spider makes you come out in a sweat, then you are not free of spiders. A tiny creature can evoke a massive drama. It is not the spider’s fault, it is your reaction. For whatever reason you have a fear and a drama associated in your mind with spiders. Chances are this is disproportionate. Few spiders attack humans just because there is nothing better on the TV to watch. People have hang ups about a host of things and this restricts their liberty. Anything which can evoke drama upsets balance.  If small creatures have power over you, then what does that say about your level of mental control and balance?

Similarly, because of co-dependency, there are many people who have power over you. Some will go out of their way to manipulate you into a dependency and if you are so oriented you might even seek such people out, whether consciously or not. There are a multitude of buttons available to others for the pressing of. If at the pressing of a button off you trot into drama, then that button and the finger thereupon, have power over you. It can evoke drama and lack of control, you are off balance and flailing around. It is in this dependency and co-dependency that people give their power away to others. If you want to be free, then you do not need other beings having emotional power over you.

Many of the things that have power over you are to be found in the truck load of baggage which most adults carry with them. There may be shame, wounds, ambitions, unresolved conflict, grudges, guilt, vengeance, fear, unrequited love etc… The list is often long and until you have clarity on where the button comes from, it will stand proud and beckoning. It is in unpacking the baggage and by examination that one can begin to understand and slowly loosen the power over which is held. To be relatively free of buttons is to have more freedom generally. One is not beholden to the past and the narratives of it, which if we bear in mind the likelihood of selective perception are in any case often inaccurate. Memories and history are prevalent members of the set of buttons which are the indicators of something that has power over.  A skilled manipulator can spot these a mile off and press them at will.

If you seek freedom, then you must defend it. This may sound ever so slightly bellicose, but one has to fight to extract oneself from situations in which things, people and ideas have power over you. The past has power over most and reorienting the past in such a manner as to be free of it, is no easy task. The common dream advertises that building memories for your dotage is a good thing, but who can really live in a sepia or rose-tinted world? It is not real. It is imagined and unreliable of recall. To build “memories” is to never be free of them. This is perhaps slightly radical but do consider this. If you live in a mish mash recollection of the past, what do you make of the present, if you even notice it all? To be bound thus, is to not experience the now.

I have used bound, shackles and manacles already in this text, emotive words of slavery and imprisonment. It is up to you to figure out if I am by metaphor over egging the pudding. Until the duvet of illusion is pulled off, there is a cosy familiarity which can seemingly be justified.

Of course, in any material society there will be people and organisations that have temporal power over the circumstances of your life. Short of going off into the wild, this will always be the case. The freedom of complete anarchy is not currently possible in large society, this need not impinge overly on your state of mind, your mental freedom. One can see it for what it is, do the minimum necessary to be a “good” citizen and not feel overly oppressed by the apparatus of state. Within this framework it is possible not to succumb to ideological power over. People will do whatever they do, they will think whatever and opine ad infinitum. None of this need impact on your own equanimity. One does not have to agree, or argue or succumb. If your own mind is clear it is not overly perturbed by the folly and behaviours of others. Unless they are directly intent on harming or manipulating you, they are not direct threats. In keeping your centre, you can rise above it. If you cannot resist the pull of hive or herd mind, then it has power over you, which means you are not yet free of it.

As you begin to see though your own façade, understand your self and get close to your true nature, you will be acquiring power in the sense of knowledge. That knowledge pertains not only to you as a being but to other beings. This knowledge then opens up choices, possibilities for you which were hitherto not available, you have more personal power and more freedom. Freedom is in your choice as to how you respond to whatever life throws at you. There will be a reduced rigidity and an enhanced flexibility of living. With more personal power comes the temptation to exploit that power and perhaps use situations and others to your “advantage”. With all growth in personal power comes temptation. In the absence there are few choices. When there is a plethora of choices available some will not be life enhancing. If you are so inclined, you may use your personal power to exert power over others. As alluded to above that way is not freedom. How can one be free if one enslaves? It is not possible.

I have briefly touched on power here. Learning to handle new found personal power is a part of the walk to freedom. Keeping oneself grounded and developing humility offsets the temptation of power, which can enslave. In this sense knowledge is power which without wisdom and discernment can be a dangerous thing.

Are You Possessed By Your Possessions?

There are two additional questions:

Do your possessions have power over you?

What is the longest period of time that you can actually “own” anything from within the socio-political notions of ownership?

~ 120 years at a push…if you live that long.

The item which I am currently wearing on my left hand is likely to have the longest longevity of anything which I, according to human socio-political law, own. This is because it is a ring made from a non-reactive metal namely Welsh gold. My ring even has Celtic writing inside which says “cariad”. Unless it comes into contact with heat, pressure or mercury it will stay intact long after I have popped my clogs and done my bit to aid global warming with the fiery oxidation of all “my” molecules.

By flipping the question from do you possess your possessions to the title I have perhaps perceptually turned the world on its head. Many people are enslaved by their possessions. If there was a threat of loss many would be very unhappy and perhaps scared.

What would happen if you lost your house, your SUV or any other of “your” paraphernalia? Do you really own these items? Do you own “your” image and “your” kudos?

What exactly does “own” mean?

It is likely that your house will outlive you. So, when you die what happens to this notion of ownership?

People cling to their possessions and because of this, it is not unreasonable to say many are technically possessed by their imagined possessions. Whatever you cling to has power over you and something else, some other being, could use that clinging to leverage you. The metaphor of demonic possession by worldly goods is not so far from the truth for many.

This is why the “Precious” of Sméagol – Gollum is such a biting piece of satire on human obsession with power and material artefacts.

Power can possess one too. One can imagine that one is in control of one’s power. When in fact power itself has power over one. One starts to take on Gollum like thinking patterns.

“Nasty, sneaky hobitses…”

As a follow up question: which of your so-called belongings do you cling to the most?

What would happen if it/they were taken from you?