2000 LITERATI CONTEST
FREEDOM ITS OWN REWARD?
"Hereditary bondmen! Know ye not Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow?"
There is a saying, "Virtue is its own reward," a comment on the fact that society does not usually reward virtue. If people want to be compensated for being virtuous, they will have to be satisfied with feeling good about themselves, in other words, with internal rather than external rewards.
This raises the natural question: what are internal rewards, how are they furnished, and for what? In general, endogenous (inner) rewards are coextensive with what we call "emotion." These reward pathways were constructed over evolutionary time as those with effective emotional rewards achieved better genetic survival than those without them. Emotional reactions are complicated combinations of neuronal pathways and endogenous chemistry, the result of genetics as well as developmental events and learned responses.
Nevertheless, as complex as the neurophysiology may be, simply put, emotions are the backbone of society. For instance, people have evolved to express parental emotions of love and sympathy for their young, with clearly enhanced genetic survival in those with loving parents. Where loving and compassionate feelings have extended to other family members and to the community, the family and community have done better as well. However, ferocious defense of the young and attack of outsiders, with or without loving care, may have done just as well in enhancing survival in some places Or the key to genetic survival might have been cold diligence and hard work to keep the elements at bay in very harsh environments. Such differences in survival strategies, perhaps honed in different geographical areas, may help in understanding cultural differences in reinforcement and expression of emotion, but emotions emanate from a common repertoire of animal feeling. Freedom and virtue are both issues fraught with emotion, but we don't necessarily associate them with emotion. What emotion or emotions does freedom evoke?
Is Freedom Rewarding?
In general, society doesn't reward people for being free any more than it rewards them for being virtuous, although it may punish equally for being unvirtuous and for being free and actually equate the two. Society restricts us in various ways from culture to culture, government to government, family to family, organization to organization. "Freedom" is hard to define, harder to practice. It's easier to discuss in terms of prepositions that often follow the word: "freedom from," "freedom to," "freedom of" Or the word "free" can be discussed in terms of "free with," "free for," "free as" These word combinations suggest the fact that freedom is seldom experienced as a philosophical construct or a positive sensation without a contrasting state of mind. Usually we know freedom as release from constraint, as exemption from duty. When we say "free" it is usually "free from": relief. Ironically, this is the psychological truth used in mind control. Freedom is a powerful tool of controllers, not freedom to think or do as one wills, but freedom as relief. Consider the mental and emotional state of someone who is subjected to abuse: a prisoner of war without the Geneva convention, a slave in the Old South, a battered spouse, a brainwashing victim. Oppression is nearly constant, but not quite. Nearly constant pain has a similar effect.
When the pain or abuse lets up a sense of gratitude washes over the victim, even when there is no conceivable entity to whom the relief can be attributed (except some kind of deity). So from the concept of freedom we progress to relief, and thence to gratitude. This instinctive emotional reaction to relief of pain or abuse is the most powerful tool in brainwashing. When the torturer stops, when the isolation is ended, when the torrent of abuse abates, the victim's sense of relief can be powerful, and his or her gratitude fixes on the nearest person like a duckling following biologist Conrad Lorenz.
Looked at from an evolutionary point of view, this makes sense. Imagine you are ill, birthing, wounded or undergoing the extreme tension of the chase, either as hunter or hunted. If and when the fever, pain, or tension lets up, those around you are people to whom you may bond. They may well be responsible for your survival, and your gratitude to them can be an overwhelming emotion. At this time you are now also extremely open to suggestion from these possible saviors.
Now think of yourself as a hostage. From ancient times to relatively modern ones, it was common for hostages to be exchanged by peoples on either side of borders to guarantee good behavior. If hostages were taken by only one side, that side had the advantage, so raids would often persist until the hostage exchange equalized. Also, in many cultures for thousands of years the traditional way of avoiding the genetic disadvantages of inbreeding was by rape, not in its modern definition, but in the older sense of kidnapping a bride who was then incorporated into her mate's family. (Such kidnapping was eventually ritualized and is memorialized in the more consensual tradition of "giving the bride away" in modern weddings.) As a hostage it is in your and your genes' best interest (if you are of childbearing age) to get along with your captors, who might kill you in the process of preventing your escape or domesticating you to their purposes. The emotion of gratitude at the cessation of tension, abuse or pain helps to ensure your continued bonding and thus your (and your genes') survival. The modern result is labeled "Stockholm syndrome," the binding of a victim to captors.
So ironically the result of relief or freedom from prolonged abuse is gratitude that can insure continued captivity or loss of freedom. Slaves, hostages, battered spouses and elders, abused children, and prisoners, especially brainwashed prisoners, exhibit this intensely paradoxical behavior, which has always led some apologists to conclude that they are consenting to their captivity. The cases of persons of African descent kidnapped and enslaved before emancipation in the United States illustrates this behavior with some clarity. The victims themselves often tried to explain their occasional tolerance of captivity by their fear of further abuse, yet they told of being fond of the less abusive of their captors and being reconciled to their circumstances when they were tolerable. It appears likely that they themselves did not understand their emotional responses and psychological condition.
Where is the compensating internal reward for freedom?
At this stage of inquiry it seems paradoxically true that freedom, in the philosophical sense of freedom to do one's own will, is actually less satisfying emotionally than the "freedom" that is relief from immediate pain, oppression, abuse, isolation or other damaging or unpleasant conditions. Children are not rewarded for choosing and acting freely, yet we value creativity, intelligence and the "entrepreneurial spirit." We say we cherish freedom but we do not reinforce behavior that exhibits free choice. In general, in our schools, churches and homes, we neither train nor educate for freedom. One reason for this, I believe, is that people fear what we call "license" or "licentiousness," the unauthorized, unapproved exercise of socially damaging "free will." In general, we reward behavior that stays within approved bounds. This cultural training leaves the impression, then, that anything outside approved boundaries is freedom. But mere antisocial acts, especially when performed through mimicry, suggestion or even coercion, do not constitute freedom simply because they are out of bounds.
It seems quite possible that the average person does not know what freedom is, in the philosophical sense. It's quite possible, as well, that even philosophers do not agree on what it is. It does not appear to have necessary connections with moral behavior, which is what makes it frightening.
Jean-Paul Sartre's idea of existential freedom, for instance, actions performed without premeditation or motivation, conveys no sense of social responsibility, and Alfred Hitchcock's movie "Rope" graphically illustrates one possible practical result-a random murder-of the teaching of such a principle. If we cannot conceive of freedom without its opposites-slavery, restrictions, confinement, and so on-then perhaps in order to reward freedom socially we need to couple it with constraints that bring it into a conditional range of reasonable behavior. In fact, we do, though we cannot always agree on how much constraint is necessary and where freedom turns into "license" or unrestrained antisocial actions. When behavior exhibits freedom that we approve, we call it "creative" or "original" and, if we like it, we do reward it-with money, prestige, applause, appreciative laughter or other concrete or psychological payoffs.
What Is Freedom?
In 1951-52, two opposite forces representing attitudes toward the freedom of human beings were unleashed. In 1951 L. Ron Hubbard published his Dianetics, and in 1952 John Cage released "Tacet," ostensibly a piece of music. Three years later, Hubbard made over the "Dianetics" organization as a "church," insisting on recognition of this status under US law, recognition that was not immediately forthcoming but was hard won through lawsuits and, if Scientology critics are to be believed, blackmail of IRS officials.
Proceeding from but not necessarily in concert with the earlier dianetics, Hubbard promulgated secret teachings available only to those who had progressed through the dianetics hierarchy of states to "clear." Charging increasingly ruinous fees for its services, Hubbard's organization is reported to have been autocratic, absolutely ruled by his iron fist.
Following his death the Church of Scientology became, if anything, more authoritarian. By report, it continues to insist on the obedience of its followers to an increasing degree as they progress along what Scientology calls "the bridge" to states they cannot attain on their own. Hubbard reinvented "original sin," calling it "reactive mind," and used his background as a science-fiction writer to populate the universe with dead space aliens who, according to secret teachings revealed on the Internet at great expense to those participating in the expose, provide its physical reality. There is no trust in any innate good in human beings or the universe in which we live. We are "hereditary bondmen," damned if not saved by the rigorous and sometimes fatal "technology" of Scientology. Compassion, love, kindness, family values do not show up at all on the "tone scale" of human emotions on which members are reported to be graded, and these, along with a sense of humor, are soon shed under the pressure of brainwashing doses of alternating abuse and relief. Despite the radically authoritarian structure of this organization, its magazine is named *Freedom*, "free" is a word applied to graduates of its various degrees of training, and adherents apparently believe themselves to be free in the sense of being able to consent to the mind control to which they are subjected. In contrast, Cage's "Tacet," usually known as "Silence" or "4'33," is the ultimate "open" work of art.
"Openness" is a characteristic discussed by semanticist Umberto Eco in his essays. On his scale, works of art are arrayed along a spectrum of "open" to "closed" No judgment is attached to either end of this spectrum, and it is only meant to provide a structure within which to discuss how much participation is required of an audience or performer to complete the work. A work of art at the extreme "closed" end of the spectrum – whether music, film, graphic art, literature or architecture – is complete as presented. Nothing is required of the spectator except attention.
Gradually, as we progress along the spectrum, an art piece demands more and more work from the audience and/or performers to put it together, to make sense of it, to interpret it, "see into" it, "read into" it or change an angle of vision or point of view. Less and less content is provided, and the form presented becomes minimal or trivial. On the extreme open end of the spectrum content is lacking entirely. Form encloses material of the audience's and/or performer's selection. In other words, works at the extreme open end lack an author, having only a form. Improvisation in theater, jazz in music, and minimalism in art and architecture occupy places at the open end of the completeness spectrum, while fully scripted plays, film and television, detailed graphic art and eye-filling sculpture and architecture occupy the closed side. Progressing from open to closed, the personality of the artist imposes itself more and more on the material, the form, the performers and the audience.
Anywhere on the spectrum the artistic effect produced could be exquisite or it could be a flop, but as progress is made toward the open end, success depends to a greater degree on the audience and the performers. The audience becomes less a spectator and takes more responsibility for the work of performance. People who enjoy open works of art are often people who enjoy the thrill of the freedom to create, like the thrill of flying so picturesquely illustrated by the two lovers in the recent movie, "Titanic," one supporting the other on the bow of a ship moving with seemingly effortless smoothness into the sunset. A group creative effort, at its best, can convey this sense of effortless and pleasant progress toward an unknown but certainly desirable goal. And this can be done without control, with only a structure within which to work provided by an artist, or just by an artistic tradition followed by performers and audience.
In "Tacet," audience members and performers are all trusted to satisfactorily fill in the structure invented by the composer. The only constraints the composer places upon the performers are that the piece must be timed and in 3 movements, and that performers must not play any musical instruments. "Tacet" is as much a work of philosophy as it is a musical piece. It arose out of Cage's Buddhist studies under his Zen master, Daisetz T. Suzuki in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In Suzuki's view, enlightenment is free and need not even be the result of work or thought. The human spirit is untrammeled by anything that cannot be shed during contemplation or meditation such as that possible in the "silence" (appreciation of environmental or involuntary sound) this piece provides. Whatever may be hereditary, "bonds" are not, and the blow to be struck for freedom echoes in the mind only, like the sound of one hand clapping. Cage's favorite story of his experience with "Tacet" was of performing it alone at his former home in upstate New York where, while walking in the woods, he "saw a deer." The ideas of freedom promoted by these two philosophers are at opposite ends of the spectrum. At one end, relief (freedom from abuse) is provided by Scientology to allow gratitude to take hold and bond its victims to Hubbard and his organization as they are taught to conceive of him and of it.
Hubbard's "freedom" is only achieved through tight and absolute control. At the other end, Cage's work makes obvious the freedom of each human being to structure his or her world as a work of art using nothing but mind and observation. Cage freed his audience to perform and his performers to be audience. The first time the writer experienced this composition, the audience was full of enthusiastic musicians, and the air was positively electric. It seemed that everyone else had heard of this piece and was anxious to get inside it. As it began, there were ordinary audience sounds, but they seemed to be more strategically placed than usual – a cough, something dropped, a rustle, a sigh. The faces around seemed ecstatic or at least smiling as they coughed or dropped things, caused their chairs to creak. Sounds were being deliberately loosed into the silence at calculated intervals. The musicians on the dais were refraining from playing the instruments they had brought, but the audience was making music of its own.
Hubbard insisted on orchestration of human behavior down to the most precise movement of each instrument, rapping the knuckles, as it were, of audience and performers alike at the least hint of a "false" note. His way represents "audited" as against "audience," Hubbard's "auditing" (actually William James's term for Catholic confession) as a way of controlling and using guilt instead of the uncontrolled act of hearing or experiencing (the literal meaning of "audience"). Hubbard's unremitting autocracy with only one right way to live is opposed to life as a work of art created by each person as artist. Only Scientology claims freedom, while the other end of this political control spectrum remains silent and smiling in a Zen pose. One trusts, the other attacks. Yet John Cage was in his 70s before his work was recognized, and those who were ready with praise in the '90s didn't want to hear about performances in the 1950s and 1960s, when more members of his audiences walked out than remained. Hubbard, on the other hand, appears to have made the decision so quickly to turn "dianetics" into a "church" in order to avoid taxes, because he was making so much money. And thousands of adherents (45,000 at last estimate and official count in the year 2000) still pay up to hundreds of thousands of dollars each to have their conscience and sense of humor removed, to be brainwashed and abused. Why is freedom so hard to sell? And mind control so hard to shake off?
The Hard Sell
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Dictionaries give different "senses" or numbered definitions of many words like "freedom," but what is described above is a more drastic breech between meanings Defining "freedom" as two very different states with the same name makes the two "freedoms" homonyms – words that are spelled and pronounced the same but with different meanings. One is freedom from (relief). The other is freedom to (liberty). One leads to increasing control to insure continuing immunity from perceived evils. The other leads to independence.
"Freedom from" is not a hard sell. Ask anyone in pain if he or she wants relief.
"Freedom to" is much harder to achieve, and although people may think they want it, they often will not accept a necessary component of "freedom to." "Freedom to" without responsibility is no longer freedom but license. This freedom is the hard sell.
A little more inquiry into the lives of the two philosophers above might elucidate the essential difference between freedom (from relief) and freedom (with responsibility).
L. Ron Hubbard is a highly controversial figure. Stories from former Scientologists present a picture of a man who is revered as a god within the "Church" However, according to documentation, his successes have been exaggerated and even fabricated, sometimes apparently by Hubbard himself.
When he came to write Dianetics, more objective accounts picture a man whose life had been marked by failures: for instance, he had mistakenly shelled another US ship while in the Navy, been divorced, lacked acceptance as a SF (science-fiction/fantasy) writer. Dianetics, a hash of psychology, philosophy and religion mixed up with electronic technology confused with scientific technique, provided the success he had lacked, and not only book sales but lectures and seminars quickly made a lot of money in an atmosphere of beginning disillusionment with psychiatry.
It has been argued that, somewhere around 1954, Hubbard's attempt to shelter his growing fortune in the same manner as Howard Hughes sank as the IRS decreed that a US citizen could not avoid taxes simply by sailing around the world without lighting anywhere as a resident. The "Sea Organization" or Hubbard fleet slowly lost its affinity for water over the years after that, but Hubbard's fight to retain his profits despite US tax laws continued on land with Hubbard's founding of a "church" in the same year that he wrote a treatise on brainwashing. Hubbard apparently used his military experience and his readings in psychology and philosophy to put together the beginnings of a technique that gained momentum through practice in an evolutionary way.
Hubbard and his top-level officers likely selected procedures for whatever gave them more control. It isn't surprising that an untrained layperson could think up a system of brainwashing that has been called – reportedly by Hubbard himself – the most effective ever invented. In 1969 a young Palo Alto, California teacher by the name of Ron Jones enacted an experiment that he approached casually enough but that changed the lives of his subjects. By now the story of how and why Jones thought up his simple experiment – emulating the rise of Nazism using a series of simple exercises and techniques as a history lesson – has been the subject of a television film, a book based on it, and Jones's own account.
Jones knew history but he was no psychologist or trained analyst or researcher. He just put together some things that he associated with Nazi training and belief.
He was right on target.
Sometimes people's seemingly unpremeditated acts work more precisely than their calculated ones – a fact that is the object of much mystical speculation and the subject of film and literature such as "Titanic" and "Star Wars," in which characters close their eyes and do everything from chop chains off closely spaced wrists with an ax to fly spaceships through impossibly winding corridors while chased by killers. Such events, when seen in real life – like the writer's friend's careless throw of a rock to scare a rabbit that instead hit it squarely in the head and killed it – are probably only the result of unconscious mechanisms honed over millions of years of human evolution rather than proof of spiritual guidance. When someone hits a target with little effort and less training, it seems certain that something more than surface cogitation is involved. And Ron Jones cobbled up a scheme that caused obedience in his class, blind loyalty in one student, the enlargement of the class to auditorium size, and the family of another, a Jew, to be deeply disturbed. All within a week. Jones was forced – happily by his own conscience – to end his experiment, but he was conscious of the pain he caused when he withdrew an obviously fulfilling purpose from the lives of his students. Leadership is rewarding, both to leaders and followers.
However, there is a peculiar psychological/political/sociological phenomenon that occurs as leaders gain increasing amounts of control over their followers. Aspects of it have been variously described and depicted, from Greek drama to Dilbert, and from Machiavelli to Tom Peters. Perhaps the most colorful name for this dilemma was coined by a man who had a serious brush with the syndrome himself, Timothy Leary. He called it the "guru trap." Despite urgings, Leary never wrote specifically or extensively about the phenomenon he named. It was clear, however, from his writings, lectures and private communications what he meant by it: a paradoxical, almost mathematical formula in which the seizure of control over other people's affairs is in inverse proportion to the amount of control over one's own.
That is, a leader who takes control over other peoples' lives loses control over his or her own life.
An acquaintance of the author has a very poignant story about his experiences as a reluctant guru. As the author of numerous books on humorous, quasispiritual topics, and an advocate and practitioner of techniques to free the mind of preconceptions, he has from time to time been plagued with followers. He describes one event in particular as representing both the height of temptation for him and the epitome of his rejection of the proffered role of guru. He was sitting at one end of a room, with people around. He says he suddenly became conscious of a swift movement in the room and noticed a young man sliding on his knees – toward him. The young man was literally throwing himself at the author's feet. The author was so surprised that he could do little other than tell the young man to get up and go away.
He was mainly conscious of the fact that he didn't want what his follower had to offer, which was clearly worship. He does mention, however, that he felt a nearly overwhelming impulse to succumb to the temptation to be worshipped and was only held back by his knowledge of the trap involved. It seems apparent that Hubbard did, at the least, succumb to temptation. The admiration of his followers and the color of their money may have been what he was after all along, but this will no doubt be a topic for research in the future, when the fierce battle between the scientology organization and its critics is over, and documents are more readily available.
Falling into the "guru trap" looks to be easy, and the results inevitably fatal. The cryptic behavior of Zen masters may be part of a strategy to avoid this trap and stay human instead of turning into idols. They seem to be able to sidestep the clear symptoms of the disease:
• A widening information gap between the controller and the controlled, in which the controller has decreasing information about the true condition of the controlled and about the world at large
• An increasing sense of one's own importance
• A growing physical isolation
• An expanding cadre of personal servers who handle an enlarging proportion of one's physical, informational and emotional wants and needs
• An increasing preoccupation with one's own thoughts and insights as opposed to research, reading and listening to the opinions of others, along with encouragement of this tendency by one's sycophants
• An increasing belief in one's power
• An enlarging capacity for flattery
• A growing lack of feedback from the controlled and the outside world
and other circumstances in this vein.
This situation is strongly colored by the fact that the leader believes that he or she is controlling everyone around, even at the same time that his or her handlers are developing more and more power over the leader. As the leader ages and his/her grip on reality begins to waver – as it must without true information input from the outside world and feedback from it – the aides inevitably begin to neglect the leader and tend to their own needs, wielding their own power and initiating the sibling wars that may result in the selection of a new leader. This is apparently how David Miscavige became the new leader of the Church of Scientology.
Considering the differences among US presidents is illustrative of some of these processes. Successful presidents have had outside lines of communication that they have maintained in order to overcome the well-known information loss inevitably caused by sycophancy. Lyndon Johnson had the telephone. Franklin Roosevelt was in uncontrollable motion despite his physical challenge, and met with people of all types, ages and classes, partly due to the restless social action of his wife, with whom he opened the White House in unprecedented ways. Richard Nixon, on the other hand, fell victim to the guru trap in what was eventually a very public and humiliating way. Because the US press corps had an investigative bent, and Nixon's staff people in the White House continued to feel the pricks of conscience, the fatal process was aborted, and Nixon lived. Only his career was destroyed.
Deprived of cogent information about opinions and political experience in the United States by both his own beliefs and the sycophantic protection of his aides, Nixon slowly drifted out of tune with reality. His paranoia, probably not previously a serious sociopathic trait, was encouraged by having too many people take his fears seriously. His belief in the danger of domestic dissent was levered into legal action by his control of federal law enforcement agencies, and his tendency to take himself too seriously transmuted into a nearly complete lack of a sense of humor. His occasional anger became uncontrollable rages. In short, all Nixon's personal traits were magnified by the trap and trappings of leadership, most especially his personal failings.
From his writings, it appears he never understood the process that devoured him.
From personal accounts about the end of Hubbard's life, it appears that he didn't understand what happened to him either. This may be reflected in the current (changed) goal of OT VIII, the last published stage on "the bridge" of Hubbard's progress.** This accomplishment, which before recent changes reflected a sci-fi set of powers, is now described as knowing who one is not, and being ready to find out who one is. (By the time this goal is reached the pilgrim will have spent half a million dollars or more in the pursuit of this knowledge.) It seems quite possible that Hubbard himself at the end could only define himself as not being his handlers, but had no positive idea of his identity, due to isolation and information deprivation.
Cage, on the other hand, appears to have devoted his musical career after a certain point to relinquishing control.
"Tacet" (which is usually translated as "rest" in musical jargon) was not the height of his career, but merely a relatively popular epitome of his philosophy of music, and life. In his writings he identifies two turning points that molded his attitudes toward instruments and toward music.
One was an assignment by one of his teachers to compose a sonata for piano. Cage wrote that he worked diligently at the piece but failed to satisfy himself with it until he reached one realization: the problem was not with him but with the piano. Cage changed the instrument to fit his needs, and the result was the "prepared piano," since utilized by other musicians and composers in different forms. From then on he felt free to invent instruments, formats, and forms of music as he felt necessary.
Another change in his thinking occurred during an unusually passionate period of Cage's life. (He wrote little about his personal life, possibly because he was gay.) He recounted that he put all of the storm and stress of his life into a piece of music that, when performed, conveyed none of the intended emotional themes. This unhinged his belief that music could be a personal vehicle for him, at least in the way he had thought. From that time he decreased the subjective content of his compositions until he supplied no content at all, only form – which describes "Tacet." Decreasing along with communicated substance was control over performers and audience. At one point in his career, Cage embraced the attitude that a conductor should be nothing but a timekeeper who imposed no other constraints on musicians, and one telling photograph captures him in the act of holding his arms in a clock position. Cage's experiments in releasing control over the form and content of music as well as its audience and performers caused another philosopher, Alan Watts, to insist that he was an "educator" rather than a composer. (Watts himself may have gone to extremes to avoid the "guru trap." By reputation he was a drinker and a profligate, an image possibly calculated to drive away followers.)
As Cage's career flowed on, he insisted on greater and greater freedom of both performer and audience, providing only a frame within which these co-composers could enjoy the material presented to them. He exerted less and less control over both his subject matter and the people with whom he was associated. To the extent to which performers and audience are willing to accept responsibility for the freedom extended to them, each performance of these works becomes a unique creation. "Tacet" exemplifies the extreme limit of this process, in which the "openness" of the form (in the semantic sense discussed by Umberto Eco) is complete. Content is utterly lacking. Form is merely a sandbox erected for the audience and performers (who may be the same people) to play in.
Freedom in the sense of independence is not just freedom from the control of others, but freedom from controlling others.
How Are Freedom and Responsibility Related?
"Eternal truths will be neither true nor eternal unless they have fresh meaning for every new social situation." – Franklin D. Roosevelt
This is not the first essay to note that freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin, that freedom without responsibility is license.
Responsibility is considered to be necessary to freedom because freedom in both its meanings and in all its contexts is a social phenomenon. Trees are not free, nor are clouds or rain. "Freedom" is a relative term. It is associated with peoples' interactions with one another, and is so defined that liberty of action that denies another's freedom is no longer freedom but trespass.
Christians of the Protestant persuasion often say "The Lord's Prayer" at services. This is most often an excerpt from the Christian *New Testament* translation from the Greek made in the time of England's King James, a prayer that Jesus was said to have taught his followers. In this translation in vintage early 17th-century English, "trespass" was used in its more general sense of not just a sin against property but a sin against another person.
So, many times in modern translation Christians will say, "forgive us our sins" instead of "forgive us our trespasses," adding as in the *Bible*, "as we forgive those who trespass against us." In other words, forgiveness from the deity is conditional upon the sinner's forgiveness of others.
This is another way of saying that freedom is conditional upon responsibility. Those who wish to be free must allow and encourage others to gain freedom.
Where Does Our Responsibility Lie?
Where the art and philosophy of John Cage and others who advocate freedom as independence are concerned, the only way to enjoy the works of such artists and philosophers is to accept the responsibility of co-creation. One can take one's place as composer, philosopher, filmmaker, artist, sculptor, or artisan in an open work of art or in the composition of life. Because there are so many other creators of the great work of life, one does not always get the effects one wants, and it is heartening to set aside time to be an audience to creative performers, to be performers, or to be both performer and audience in a performance of a work like "Tacet," in which life becomes art in a palpable way. Such active participation in artistic endeavor is a hard sell for those who are used to being passive spectators, or who lack the confidence to create.
Where the Church of Scientology is concerned, considering the question of personal responsibility leads to difficult social issues that are an even harder sell. Unfortunately for those who have attempted to expose the ruinous practices of the Church of Scientology – both within and without – most people turn a blind eye to hard truths. There is a sort of natural or instinctive homeostatic reaction in people that leads them to ignore even what they see with their own eyes if it would mean changing their belief system, comfortable routines or rewarded behavior.
Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a popular sci-fi saga originating in the UK, calls this the "SEP" effect. In one of the four books that make up this set of tales about a young man who is involuntarily taken on a tour of the universe, he and a friend, an extraterrestrial in human form named Ford, are at a British soccer match when his friend urges him to try to see something. Arthur, the reluctant space traveler, at first is confused about what Ford is getting at, since he isn't looking where he is pointing. Ford has to explain that people cannot generally see what they cannot believe, so it is necessary to try to catch some things out of the corner of one's eye or to surprise oneself with them.
Otherwise they are "Somebody Else's Problem," and invisible. At last Arthur surprises himself with the revelation that he can indeed see what Ford thought he saw – a spaceship.
Most people find the accounts of life inside scientology – tales such as are told by Jesse Prince, Stacy Brooks and Gary Scarff – as unbelievable as a space ship at a soccer match. They are also unable to credit the stories of those who have encountered "fair game" policy (see below) in courts, streets, homes or workplaces. At least they are unbelievable until announced by authorities, investigated by reporters, experienced, or heard in various forms told by various people again and again. One spaceship is an impossibility, but a sky full of them would get attention.
There are many reasons that the behavior of the Church of Scientology is ignored or explained away, and, typically, the "Church" takes advantage of them all. One is that in the United States religious tolerance is sacred. The country was founded by religious sects that imposed harsh disciplines on its followers, practiced witch burning and imposed death sentences for what people today consider to be either trivial misdemeanors or even constitutionally protected behavior (such as not going to church).
Disagreements among these opinionated factions were tantamount to war, and only the availability of space into which splinter groups could flee prevented bloodier episodes. The easiest answer to this bigotry was not to define religion at all, to allow, tolerate and encourage anything that called itself a church. The extreme limit of this tolerance is, however, studied indifference to the abuses of brainwashing, child abuse, hate crimes, fraud and money laundering that, among other crimes, can be so easily covered up by a claim to be a church.
Scientology jargon – a means of isolating and confusing members – becomes an impassable barrier to outsiders, requiring translation and explanation. For instance, "fair game," a phrase repudiated by Church leaders but a practice slavishly followed by its attorneys, investigators and members when ordered by superiors, takes explanation. For a humorous view, consider Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. Daffy and Bugs are both objects of the chase.
Hunter Fudd, a gun-toting dummy, will bag either but is a law-abiding citizen who will not shoot an animal out of season. So Daffy and Bugs each try to convince Fudd that the other is "fair game," that is, OK to kill. The dirty tricks they play on each other, while comical in a cartoon, become deadly serious when translated into real life by attorneys and others who fabricate crimes and then seek prosecution of their victims, threaten, attempt bodily harm, bribe, blackmail and threaten public officials, and perform a staggering variety of other illegal, legal and marginally legal acts to destroy anyone labeled an "enemy." Fair game tactics, even when displayed on as ridiculous a scale as Daffy Duck's "This is War!" cause shock, disbelief, then diverted attention. The shock is usually too great for immediate assimilation, even by the victims.
Citizens of what they believe to be a democracy do not want to know that their public officials are being bribed and blackmailed by a "church." The actions of the Church are deliberately blatant. Their agents are practitioners of "The Big Lie," which works simply because it is too big to believe. "Nobody would be that stupid." "Nobody would do that kind of thing," people say.
There is also the chicken response. Anyone who has raised chickens knows that hitting or stepping on a chicken for any reason can be fatal to the bird involved, regardless of the damage done by the human being. The killers will be the other chickens. "The pecking order" is no metaphor among chickens, and accurately represents human behavior as well, even if we don't have beaks.
When someone who looks as if he might represent authority picks on someone – it might be a judge, an attorney, a prosecutor, an agent of a religion – other people rush in to pick on that person in turn.
And people tend to believe the old adage "where there's smoke there's fire," when presented with misinformation that is easy to believe, such as the "dead agent" or defamatory material spread about critics and ex-members. Even truth will be used against an enemy, if it has failed to be useful as blackmail, but always exaggerated and combined with misdirection.
These policies have done well for the Hubbard organizations for the 49 years of their existence. The "Church" has lasted longer than the Third Reich by isolating, blackmailing, defaming, suing, bankrupting, threatening, physically assaulting and discounting its critics, lying and spreading misinformation, practicing misdirection and military-style tactics of spying, surveillance and attack. It is able to launder money, buy or finagle legal precedent, defraud, imprison and brainwash its members, abuse members' children in its "schools," and tear families apart with impunity. It takes time to inform the citizenry partly because the abuses have gone on for so long that it is barely believable that only such a small fraction of the population would have noticed by now. Until the intervention of the Internet, ex-members were isolated and defamed, their stories publicly discounted, and a smooth continuing front of bland and Vaseline-lensed religiosity presented to the world. Scientology has been like a country whose citizens were confined and oppressed within its borders and, when they managed to escape, caught and silenced, one way or another.
This comparison makes it clear that the magnitude of abuses leveled against its own members turns the enmity between the organization and its critics, including ex-members, into a struggle for liberation. Liberation not only of those who are still held in false imprisonment for their trespasses against Hubbard and his severe doctrines, but also of those who have been duped into believing that Hubbard and his organization offered freedom instead of bondage. And of those who are wrestling with the great difficulty of recovering from belief in the dogma of scientology, a task as huge as any effort at becoming "clean and sober" after alcohol or drug addiction. And of victims of the "Church's" fair-game policies, who are often bankrupted, sued and defamed, among other indignities, threats and damage.
Victory in such a struggle will be difficult. It calls for compassion as well as aggressiveness. It calls for truth as well as exposure of lies. It calls for intelligence and strategy as well as fortitude. It may call for the "lives [in the sense of time spent, hopefully not lives lost], fortunes and sacred honor" of many a liberator, but if it results in the freedom of hundreds or thousands of those currently in the thrall of a fraudulent global conspiracy masquerading as a church, it will be worth it. True political freedom, or liberty, is never free.
So Is Freedom Its Own Reward?
"Freedom has a thousand charms to show, That slaves, howe'er contented, never know." – William Cowper, Line 260, Table Talk
Yes and no. We have discussed how relief carries with it the satisfying emotion of gratitude. That kind of freedom, relief or "freedom from," is clearly inherently rewarding.
But at first glance the other kind of freedom, independence, liberty or "freedom to," does not appear to have a specific emotion or internal reward attached to it. What would be an emotion attached to being free that is not accompanied by gratitude?
"Freedom to" has its emotional moments: the flush of independence experienced by toddlers and teenagers with that first step out of parents' control, that sense of "flying" or frictionless progress toward a goal that comes with knowing the material on a test or flawlessly performing an exercise routine.
Or what about the teamwork of an audience and performers, especially in an improvisational situation, that completes an open work of art, that was discussed earlier? Or the good feeling evoked by the success of any teamwork? Or the "TGIF" celebration that can become almost a festival on Friday afternoons in big cities in the US?
What if the emotion connected with freedom is coextensive with the emotion of triumph, of victory? Wouldn't that have evolutionary repercussions? But triumph or victory is usually associated, again, with some conditional preposition, mainly "over." "Triumph over" evokes images of some conqueror with his foot on a subjective race, of chimpanzee wars in Africa and Haarlem (where primates are studied in an extensive zoo environment). Of football players wagging their rear ends at their defeated opponents. Perhaps "mixed emotions" isn't just a metaphor, and the feeling of competitive advantage, expressed as "pride" or (extremely) "hubris," can be confounded with an emotion that is not inherently rivalrous.
Perhaps "feeling free" is an emotion but one not well expressed by our language?
What would an "emotion of freedom" poster child look like? Ecstatic, happy, self-composed, triumphant are the adjectives that come to mind. No one else would be in the poster. Triumph would be over a task, a problem, convention, tradition, self. As soon as other people are involved, they must be there as equals, and all are free, or none are free. Freedom is neither controlled nor controlling, for both are slavery. Freedom is no strings attached. Freedom is loving and caring, but without addiction. Freedom is accompanied by self-confidence, compassion and objectivity. Freedom is letting go. This is an emotion. Feel it.
But freedom is a threatening emotion, a threatening state to controllers and controlled. To those who were punished as children for practicing freedom, this is a fearful emotion. Safer to remain a spectator than to participate. Safer to stay on the well-trodden path than jump off and go swing in a nearby tree. Safer to be controlled or to control.
Alan Watts once wrote that security is an illusion. But that is not quite true. Security lies in freedom, which is a paradox. Most people think that security lies in control, which is where Watts was right. But security actually inheres only in the ability to be flexible, to continue to grow and transform, in the freedom to change. These things can be painful and difficult.
In this year's live-action production of "The Grinch," this Dr. Seuss character is more human than ever, played by Jim Carrey. When his "heart" begins to "grow," Carrey writhes on the ground with pain. Growing, changing, taking risks can be painful. But freedom includes freedom from fear, even from fear of pain.
Liberation, enlightenment, independence, freedom. Freedom is hard but beautiful. And emotionally rewarding.
**Note: There is truly something ominous and suspect in Hubbard's naming his process of personal development a "bridge." In American parlance "sell a bridge" refers to an old and probably apocryphal "confidence game" in which a person is illegally persuaded to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, a public work not for sale, with proceeds going to the fraudulent salesperson.