Friday, April 29, 2011

Thoughts on Liberty: Knowledge, the Great Liberator

It has taken some time for me to decide whether I should write down my thoughts on Liberty.  As a person who has prided themselves on being an avaricious reader, it comes to mind that writing any ideas on the subject may be moot as it has been written about so often and so many times before by authors of much greater intellect.  It requires some form of ego to imagine that anyone has anything better or greater to say on the subject.  On the other hand, I have found that the best method to obtain some kind of reasoning on my own part is to write ideas down.  I have also determined that the only manner to obtain a better understanding of events, ideas and perceived truths is to put it into the open and allow it to be challenged, even if those challenges cause me some unease or frankly disabuse me of an idea I might have perceived as my own infallible truth.  

We live in extraordinary times.  Knowledge, the great liberator, is only a keystroke away.  That knowledge has led to real acts of liberation around the globe.  At the same time, liberty is under attack.  Nations long ruled by dictators attempt to turn it off and suppress knowledge.  Fanatics expressing decidedly illiberal ideas and oppressive ideologies are rampant.  The only saving grace of their liberal use of the great liberator called the internet is that society may now examine their ideas up close and compare them to their own ideas.  That is not to say that these ideas are all discarded.

It must be noted that, even as many embrace the liberty of knowledge, too many are still influenced towards ideas that are full of bigotry and fear.  That cannot be unexpected.  Historically, every time knowledge exerts it's power to liberate, great swaths of society seem to instantly withdraw into a more conservative and less free conglomeration.  Even those who would dub themselves "liberal" are easily persuaded into an almost fanatical rejection of ideas that challenge the thinking of the group.  In both cases of the so called liberals and conservatives, it is often militant rejection.   In many instances, regardless of who professes to be the guardians of liberty, they often express oppressive ideas.  

The hardening of these positions seems all the more wretched when viewed against the great back drop of the liberation of knowledge. 

What must be feared most is that history suggests, whenever the liberation of knowledge pushes forward, there is almost always some form of regression into both ignorance and fanatical superstition.  Most often this has been brought about by two catastrophes: the end of security by a large armed society enforcing some form of order and the destruction of technology.  This typically leads to the suppression of knowledge and the institution of religious dogma as the governing force of society instead of the natural laws of association.  

The institution of religion cannot be confused with faith and spirituality.  Religion demands strict adherence to rules and dogma, requiring abeyance to a hierarchy of leaders selected from among a few as the chosen representatives of whatever gods or God that may be presented.  Religion insists that there is a knowledge of greater power that can only be obtained through the abeyance to the chosen hierarchy and clinging to the institutions and rituals.  Faith and spirituality must insist that no one can know All things, but that there is a higher reason for existence.  To seek out this reason is the highest form of faith. 

Religion stifles, while faith pushes for self examination and the search for truth without the insistence that everyone else must believe religious dogma or be labeled a heretic.  Sometimes religion masquerades as political ideas and political ideas masquerade as religion.  In either case, neither can accept or sustain any form of inquiry because they would both be found fallible being shaped as they are by men who are anything but perfect.  

What must be considered the most egregious are those who claim to know God's will and believe it is their right and duty to enforce these ideas upon others with penalties for failure to adhere to the ritual and dogma, most often presented as blasphemy and heresy, those penalties ranging from ostracizing to prison to even death.  Those who claim to be the arbiters of God's will are the heretics and blasphemers because they have placed the All Mighty at the service of some men when He is the All Knowing and All Powerful over all men and nature, things seen and unseen.  Whatever He wills, will be and it has never required the active participation of men to make it so.  Whenever men suppose that it does require their action it is only the stretch of ego assuming they have been given a mission and a power far beyond their place in nature, not the will of God.

For those who do not see the All Mighty in nature or mankind, but instead see nothing but the force of Nature itself, then they must also know that Nature is infinite in it's design.  Whatever we may discover about it or whatever we may harness for the use of mankind is but a grain of sand compared to the intricate, various and yet practical design of Nature.  

What we can determine as truth is that God and Nature have given men the ability to think, to learn and to reason.  Not all men possess the same skills or have used this gift to their advantage, but it still exists.  The thinking mind, one that demands inquiry and searches for answers, is not the creation of some evil force, but of Nature itself.  If it was not meant for the purpose of inquiry and obtaining knowledge, then mankind would have been given the brain and instincts of an ant that only knows that it must collect sustenance, seek protection within the colony and service the queen in order to reproduce

Instead, for thousands of years, from the most primitive times until this moment and into the future, man has used his powers of reason and his intellect for inquiry.  He has used this ability to harness the basic provisions of nature to provide food, shelter and clothing among the least of things as well as medicine, language, writing and mechanics to improve upon his existence and society.  He has used it to seek knowledge of the universe, of God and of Nature in all of their vastness.  If this was not the will of God or the design of Nature then it would not exist.  .  

From that we can suppose that any inquiry and subsequent knowledge that leads to challenging religious, political and even social dogmas is the will of God and design of Nature.  All of that can be surmised to mean that to do so is the purpose of knowledge and meant to improve upon mankind's existence, making man closer to God and Nature, not further away.  Those who resist inquiry and knowledge are not doing the will of God or acting in Nature, but are resisting only their own loss of power over some part of society by their control of religious institutions and its governance of a population.  When instead, doing the will of God or following the design of Nature would be to foster inquiry and propagate knowledge among the faithful so that they may fulfill their reason for existence.

It is unfortunate that after thousands of years of existence and the great leaps in technology that expands the power of inquiry and provides an infinite library of knowledge that mankind must again assert his right to free inquiry and freedom of conscience.  Yet, man is forced to acknowledge that religious and political dogma still exists insisting that all that was worth knowing was written and established long before and any inquiry beyond that or demand for the liberating power of knowledge is heresy, evil and treason.  

Therefore, it is up to mankind to resist being pulled back into the darkness of ignorance and superstition.  To insist that it is in fact the will of God and the design of Nature to pursue knowledge and make inquiries into all ideas and sectors of life.  No idea must be considered too sacred to be challenged or too necessary to the common good of any part of society to resist it.  The obtaining of knowledge and its service to mankind is the Great Liberator.  Where God and Nature have created the rational mind and given the gift of knowledge, the Great Liberator, then Liberty itself must be the will of God and the design of Nature.

To deny knowledge and liberty is it's own form of heresy.  

If tomorrow security fails and technology falls bringing about the next lengthy decline into darkness and superstition, we may take comfort in knowing that God and Nature, in their infinite wisdom, have provided mankind with the power to once again raise a torch and the light the way.  That torch is man's rational mind and undying thirst for inquiry that leads, once again, to seeking knowledge, The Great Liberator.

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