Lesson 61- Review of Freedom From
I end my last program with the song, I Beginning to See My Father in Me to illustrate how we progress from childhood to adulthood by incorporating into ourselves the very laws and principles that we resented as children when they were imposed upon us by our fathers and mothers. In modern psychological terms, they would say that we have taken ownership of them. It doesnt pertain just to fathers but it refers to all authoritative figures who in our early stages had control over our lives. It refers to our relationship with our parents, with the Church, and with God. It refers to all relationships represented by the upright triangle, and it doesnt refer to just the good qualities but also the bad qualities. If we were lucky enough to have good and wise parents, then it will benefit us. If not, then these may be the very qualities that keep us from experiencing the fullness of life. Thus, the son of the alcoholic father may end up being the very image of his father. Even Jesus once said that anyone who saw Him, saw His Father. And He also accused the Pharisee of resembling their father, the devil, who had been responsible for killing all the prophets.
Although we all experienced the natural need to break the destructive relationship which involved domination and subservience, when the break comes some will leave, never to return again or only to return at those times, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, demanded by social convention. Thus, there are children who come home only at these times and there are Catholics who stop going to Mass or who go only on major feast days. Their relationship is either nonexistent or minimal to say the least.
However, there are others who will reconnect with the authority figure on a productive level by freely accepting to have an ongoing relationship because they have incorporated into themselves the values and attitudes that the authority figure tried to teach them.
It suggests that the job of any parent, Church, or God is to set us free by teaching us to become independent. Of course there is a danger and risk in this because by setting us free we might choose to not come back. But that is the risk that true love must take. Its the risk that God our Heavenly Father takes with all of us because, as the Song of Thanksgiving says, Love that freely given wants to freely be received. All the love You poured on us can hardly be believed and all that we can offer You is thanks all that we can offer You is thanks.
However, some foolish parents make the mistake of trying to rush the natural flow of the relationship by setting their children free before they are ready. Thus, they believe that it would be wrong to impose their values on their children because the child should be free to make us his/her own mind, as though the child possessed some innate wisdom and didnt need the guidance of those who possessed more experience. Good parents prepare their children for freedom from by sharing with them the values that have proven to be most successful in their lives. In this way they are attempting to give them freedom to, the ability, before they give them freedom from, the permission to be free. If we dont give them values to live by when they are young, we have no one to blame but ourselves if they fall under the power of someone elses vision when they are older. Nature abhors a vacuum and will immediately seek to fill it.
Both the Church and some parents are experiencing this right now because they have failed to properly train those under their care in the way that they should go and now they are making frantic attempts to make up for what should have been done before. It is a well-known fact that most modern Catholics have been poorly catechized in the teachings of the Church and that is why, according to the evangelicals, they are the easiest to lead away. As my brother said, the Church cant excommunicate him because it never communicated effectively with him. By the same token, the forces of Secular Humanism find many members of our Church to be easy picking because we are not sophisticated enough in our own faith to see the nuances and differences between their views and ours. That is why so many liberal, educated Catholics find themselves in disagreement with the Church on major moral issues. Therefore, it is my hope that I will help all my listeners to see and understand what these nuances and differences are because very often the difference is not in the ends but in the means and that is why it is often so difficult to sort it out.
However, before I continue with this topic, let me review some key concepts that I have addressed in previous programs so that I know that all my listeners are up to speed.
First, there is a cultural war going on between the forces of Secular Humanism, which, beginning with the Renaissance and coming to fruition in the French Revolution, set out to overthrow our Judeo/Christian heritage and to replace it with a secular state based on the theories of Platos Republic. Thus, the government of choice during this time was a Republic in which representatives of the people had the power to make, judge, and enforce laws that was necessary for social order and justice. How these representatives were to be chosen varied according to the system that created it. Thus, both the United States, which claims to be democratic, and the Soviet Union, which was totalitarian in nature, claimed to be republics.
Second, Communism and Socialism are examples of secular humanist states and, as such, are spin-offs of the philosophy behind the French Revolution. This type of state, in its best form, sets out to establish a paternalistic government that seeks to provide for its members needs from the cradle to the grave.
Third, the symbol that represents the flow of power in this type of state is an upright triangle in which those on the top have assumed control over all of the important areas of life of those on the bottom.
Fourth, according to Eric Fromm, even in its benevolent form, this is a destructive sado-masochistic relationship because those on the top gain their order by controlling those on the bottom, while those on the bottom gain their order by being controlled by those on the top. In essence, it is a parent/child relationship.
Fifth. This type of relationship is necessary and normal when we are children because, lacking the ability to be free, which is freedom to, we are not able or willing to receive the permission to be free, which is freedom from.
Sixth, destructive relationships become abnormal when the child or those on the bottom fail to develop freedom to, or the ability to be free, or when those on the top refuse to grant them freedom from, which is the permission to be free. Thus, it is the job of parents and all those in authority over us to teach us how to move from other control to self control.
Seventh. People who develop freedom to or the ability to be free, will eventually demand freedom from, the permission to be free. However, people who receive the permission before they have the ability will become frightened by their freedom and seek, when chaotic consequences result from their misuse of freedom, to escape from freedom by seeking an authority figure to take control of their lives. Like the Hebrew people in the desert who wanted to go back to Egypt, they were frightened by the hazards and uncertainties of freedom.
Eighth. Not only is each individual moving from dependency to independency or from childhood to adulthood through the process of freedom to and freedom from but Humankind in all of its relationships is moving through the same process. Thus, all authority figures are being challenged from the government, to the Church, to the boss, to the parents. Aspects of our lives that were arranged and decided by those on the top in the past are now, either rightly or wrongly, being placed in the hands of individuals.
Ninth. If the proper laws of development were followed in which each step towards freedom from was preceded by a step in freedom to, then this should be a natural and positive movement away from the destructive relationship of childhood towards the productive relationship of adulthood. However, if freeedom from is granted before we have freedom to, then it will eventually lead to chaos in the person or the society and they will seek to revert to the destructive relationship by turning the responsibility for their lives over to some authority.
Tenth, if the authority figures during our destructive childhood phase were wise and good, then once the destructive bond with them is broken, a new bond is formed on a productive relationship based and mutual respect for the freedom and dignity of the other person. Translated to the family level, it means that parents give up their right to pull rank on their children and learn to interact with them as adult persons. On the religious level it means that the Church, which has been our spiritual Mother throughout our spiritual childhood, loosens the rules of obligation and law and instead encourages each of us to form our consciences based on knowledge and understanding. In reality, assuming that those in authority over us have greater understanding and wisdom than we do, nothing changes except the motivation that we have for obeying. Where, as children, we obeyed under the threat of punishment, now we obey because we understand. Having grown up and having come to an understanding of the rules and regulations that controlled us in childhood, we have now internalized them into our hearts and freely choose to follow them. In other words, we go through the same transformation that Mark Twain did when he said, when I was seventeen I thought that my father was the most stupid person that I knew and now that I am twenty-one, I am amazed by how much he has learned in four years.
Many Catholic go through the same experience with the Church where, in their teenage years, they leave or reject the Church, only to discover, as they mature, that the Churchs position on many issues was the right one. Or as the line in the song Im Beginning to See My Father in Me states,
The more I tried to prove him wrong the more I proved him right.
Thus, the rules dont change; just our understanding of them. All of this, of course, is based on the assumption that we have grown in our knowledge and understanding of the Church and this, of course, is what the Church means by an informed conscience. However, if we have not grown in our knowledge and understanding and are simply demanding the right to choose our own path because we have reached a certain chronological age, then we may end up ignoring or opposing the wisdom of those with more experience and bring about consequences that are chaotic for ourselves and our society.
Eleventh. If this analysis is correct, it means that our relationship with God is also changing. In the Old Testament our relationship with Him was based on laws backed up by promises of rewards and threats of punishment. God controlled us like our parents controlled us when we were young. Thus, the Old Testament is full of laws that controlled every aspect of the people lives. There were spiritual laws, relationship laws, dietary laws, hygenic laws and a faithful Hebrew was expected to follow them all. Thus Paul, who was a strict Pharisee who tried to obey all of the laws in the Old Testament speaks of being set free from the law by his faith in Jesus. He wasnt speaking so much about the Ten Commandments, which is what most of us think about when we speak of the law. Rather he was speaking of all the kosher dietary laws and hygienic laws with which most of us are unfamiliar. For example, there were laws that required ritualistic baths if one should touch a corpse or woman during her menstrual period. There were laws concerning washing and eating. There were so many laws that they could drive a scrupulous Jew, like St. Paul, crazy. In fact the ancient Jews were often referred to as the People of the Law and it may have been this mindset that caused so many Jewish men to become lawyers. Their culture trained them to be legal hairsplitters.
I once taught a student who was a Hasidic Jew who said that his religion forbade him from seeing himself naked. Therefore, one can sense Pauls sense of relief when he declared, I am no longer under the law. He was like a teenager who had finally got out from under the thumb of a dictatorial parent, and, like Martin Luther King he wanted to shout, Free at last! Free at last! Great God Almighty, Im free at last. Therefore, Paul was the one who argued most vehemently that new converts should not be required to be circumcised or made to obey all the dietary and hygienic laws required of the Jews. Basically, his relationship with God changed from a Destructive Relationship based on other control to a Productive Relationship based on self control which resulted when he incorporated the Spirit of Jesus into himself. He didnt stop obeying the Ten Commandments but he did stop all the other stuff that Jesus Himself had condemned when He confronted the Pharisees and criticize them for following the letter of the law and totally missing the spirit of the law. And that is why John wrote, The Law came through Moses but Spirit and Truth came through Jesus Christ.
Thus, all relationships, as we mature should be moving from a destructive type, based on law and fear, to a productive type based on love and freedom. And that is why St. Paul says, When I was child, I thought as a child and I acted as a child, but now that I am fully grown, I have put away the things of a child. When we were young we were fed milk because that was all we could digest, but when we become adults, not only physically but spiritually, we have to learn to eat meat and potatoes. And that is what I am doing in these talks. I am feeding you spiritual and intellectual meat and potatoes so that you too can pass from spiritual childhood where you followed the rules, into spiritual maturity where you begin to understand and to love the rules. And when this happens, youll begin to see, as I have, it wasnt that the Church was wrong. No, it was just that we couldnt understand why it was right.
With this in mind, let me continue my analysis of the basic difference between the vision of the Secular Humanist for the New World Order and the one that the Church has.
Remember that the Secular Humanistic movement began with the Renaissance when new products and new ideas coming flooding into Europe as trade developed with the East as a result of the Crusades. As Western Europe emerged from the Dark Ages or Age of Faith as a result of these new ideas, the Conservative closed their eyes and blocked their ears, which is what Conservatives are suppose to do because they have the responsibility for preserving the Old Order. The Liberals, drunk with the excitement of new ideas, attacked the Old Order and pushed for radical change, which is what Liberals are suppose to do. And the Moderates sat in the center trying to sort out what was good in the new that was compatible with what was good in the Old, which is what Moderates are suppose to do. And since the Truth is the midpoint between two extremes, it is the Moderates who allow us to grow organically by grafting on to the Old what is beneficial in the New.
The Liberals, rejecting the Age of Faith and the Bible, wanted to replace faith with reason as they began to read the ancient writing of the Greek and Roman philosophers. Already they were starting to see the positive results of the scientific method and the use of human reason and therefore they started to think thoughts like, There is no God to save Mankind; Mankind must save itself through the use of Reason. This idea came to its full fruition in the French Revolution of 1789 when the revolutionaries spurred on by philosophical teaching of certain French philosophers and disgusted by the abuses of the French monarchy and the fighting and corruption found in the Christian churches, began to call for a New World Order based on Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality. By liberty they meant that Men were meant to be free By fraternity they meant that men were meant to be brothers By equality they meant that all men were equal and therefore all titles like Your Majesty, Your Excellency, Your Honor, and Your Holiness should be eliminated and everyone should be called Citizen. You can see the influences of these ideas on our own country in Thomas Jeffersons words in the Declaration of Independence in which he declares that all men are created equal and the fact that we address our President as Mr. President. You can also see their influence on the Communist Revolutions where everyone is suppose to call everyone else Comrade.
However, as I have pointed out before, there was a major difference between how these ideas developed in our country during the American Revolution of 1776 and the French Revolution of 1789. Our revolution was against a king and we believed that the rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence came from God. In fact, we saw our revolution as being directed by the Almighty in His plan to move the human race from Darkness to Light, from slavery to freedom, from destructive relationships to productive ones. Even Benjamin Franklin, the most modern man of his times, said that unless the nation that we were forming was consistent with the will of God, it was doomed to failure. The French Revolution, on the other hand, was trying to overthrow Christian society and to replace it with a Secular State based on Human Reason. In fact, as I mentioned, they created a statue to represent Human Reason to which they paid homage. The Secular Humanists of today are a continuation of this historical movement and that is why they are constantly challenging any expression of God or religion in our public life. It is also why every Communist revolution is followed by the suppression of religion and the replacement of crucifixes and statues of saints with pictures and statues of political leaders.
However, both the American and French revolutionaries agreed about one thing. The monarchies, based on kings, queens, and nobles had to go and a new form of government had to replace them. Since they were familiar and greatly influences by the Greek and Roman philosophers of antiquity, they naturally looked to them for clues as to what was the best form of government. It was Plato, and his Republic, which won the day and thus we continue to hear the need for the rest of the world to adopt a democratic republican form of government by discarding their outdated governments in which one person or group of persons has the power to control everyone else. In other words, give up destructive relationships of the past based on the upright triangle and replace it with productive relationships based on the inverted triangle. There is only one problem with this. Plato, who thought that the masses were asses thought that democracy was the worst form of government and his idea of a Republic was not democratic. Let me review with you the major points of his Republic.
Plato believed that governments followed a cycle from dictatorship, which emphasized order and control and the upright triangle, to democracy, which emphasized freedom and the inverted triangle, and then back again. The reason for the cycle was that dictators at the top of the triangle ultimately became corrupted by their power and instead acting like benevolent parents who served the best interests of their children, they became tyrannical parents who abused them. Therefore, their abuses led to reform movements to limit their power and thus other forms of governments like limited monarchies, aristocracies, oligarchies were tried and each in turn led to abuses by those who had the power. Therefore, the people themselves finally demanded to have the power by creating a democracy and the triangle turned and became inverted. The problem was that although they demanded freedom from, the right to be free, they lack freedom to, the ability to be free because in essence the people were children and always would be. Put in cruder terms, the masses were asses and were incapable of handling freedom. Like children, who followed their passions, they thought freedom meant no control and, as a result, they ultimately created such chaotic conditions that, being frighten by it, they sought to escape from their freedom by turning responsibility for the state and their lives over to some benevolent dictator who promised to restore order for them. However, the cycle would begin again and the dictator or those who followed him would become corrupted and begin to abuse their power. Thus, according to Plato, the problems of human society would never be solved until one found a way to stop this cycle by creating an incorruptible government dedicated to representing the best interests of the people. The name of his solution was called The Republic and it represented an attempt by the left lobe of the brain to create a utopian society by giving dictatorial control to those who were wise and good. In fact, all dictatorships come from the left lobe of the brain because of its obsession with order, even at the expense of freedom. The word dicta which is the root for dictatorship is also the root for dictation, which means, to speak and, of course, speaking is a function of the left lobe of the brain
The first problem that Platos Republic would solve is that of nepotism which, according to him, had corrupted every type of government ever created. It was the practice of the leaders placing their incompetent relatives in important government position. In other words, the right lobe, which operates according to feelings, placed personal relationships ahead of skills and qualifications. Therefore, according to Plato, we could never have efficient and effective government until we solved this problem. His solution was to remove every child at birth from its parents and relatives and to have him raised by the state.
The next problem was to develop a method to assure that the leaders of the state would be wise and good. To accomplish this he suggested a meritocracy, based on individual merit, in which all the children would be entered into a competitive state educational program designed to take each child as far as he or she could go. When the child reached the level of his/her ability, it dropped out of the program and assumed a job in society that was compatible with its skill.
The educational program was designed to mold the entire child. It began with music to train the soul, gymnastic to train the body, followed by Art to develop their sense of beauty, then logic to train the mind, and finally, for those who make it to the top level, the study of philosophy to make them wise. Of course, at this level, there were only a few students left and they were destined to become the philosopher kings who would rule Platos Republic.
Next to give them practical experience they were sent to live with the common people for fifteen years so that they would understand their problems and concerns. Then they would assume their roles as philosopher kings who would devote their lives to representing the best interest of the state and the people. Thus, the definition of a Republican form of government in one in which representatives of the people make, judge, and enforce laws which are necessary for social order and justice. To assure that they would devote their total energies to this cause, Platos philosopher kings were forbidden to marry or own property. Perhaps you might recognize the similarity between Platos philosopher kings and the cardinals of the Catholic Church who are highly educated and do not marry.
Notice that these representatives were not elected by the people because, as Plato thought, the masses, like children, lacked the wisdom to run their own lives and therefore needed wise leaders to make all the important decisions for them. Therefore, they also lacked the wisdom to pick the best leaders because their immature minds would be influenced by prejudices, selfishness, ignorance, and emotions.
Thus Platos Republic is an upright triangle that was designed to assure that the philosopher king dictators would be and always remain benevolent. And, as such, it is also what Eric Fromm meant by a destructive relationship in which one group established order by controlling others and the other group established order by being controlled. And, as he also said, it is not an abnormal relationship when it exists between adults and children but it does become abnormal when it exists between adults and other adults.
And how, when its put into practice, does it work? Pretty good as my experience with students from both Communist China and Russia proves. One girl from Communist China, whose father was a diplomat, enrolled, as a ninth grader, at the High School of International Affairs, where I taught. She was so advanced mathematically that there was no math program in the school that could challenge her. She eventually enrolled in a college calculus course at Drexel University where she scored an A. In her senior year, I interviewed her and asked her about Communist China. I asked her whether they had what was equivalent to our junior high schools in China. She said, Yes. Were they coed? Yes. Did the boys and girls have dances and proms? No Why not? Because our job at that stage is to be educated. Well, did they what was equivalent to our high schools? Yes Were they coeducational? Yes. Did they have dances and proms? No. Why not? Because our job at that stage was to be educated, she said. Well, when do boys and girls start to interact in that way? I asked. When they are through their education, she answered matter-of-factly. Contrast this with our own country in which kids in the elementary schools are attending dances sponsored by the schools themselves and, according to my own students, that sexual activity begins for some students around the fifth or sixth grade and our schools have become dispensers of condoms and referral agencies for abortions.
When I asked her if she was going back to China after graduation, she said No because she wanted to go to college. Well, dont they have colleges in China? I asked. Yes, she said, but I would never be able to get into one because your educational system ruined me and I would be unable to qualify for college in China. Therefore, I have to stay here and go to one of your colleges or universities.
Another male student from the Soviet Union arrived at our school and was chided by our own students because of his serious approach to education. During his education in the Soviet Union he had read all of the Russian and American classics, and appreciated ballet and classical music. When he learned that he was to study economics on the next grade level, he asked to borrow the textbook so that he could read it over the summer. Eventually, he found our system to be so unchallenging that he was taking college courses at a local university. I spent many hours discussing philosophical issues with him and found him to be much more mature than many of the students on a higher grade level who were older than him.
And how did these two students reach this reach this level of accomplishment and maturity. They were raised in a Communistic, secular humanistic society in which the Communist Party and leaders, like philosopher kings, assumed total control over the lives of the people ostensibly for their own good. They controlled the schools, the media, the entertainment, the work force, the goods and services produced, and the thoughts and beliefs of the masses. And, in return for this, they offered cradle to the grave care free of charge at the expense of the state. Of course, the only money the state has it what it gets through taxing the people so, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch. But its hard to argue with the results when you compare these two students to the students that grew up in our system.
We might say that our society emphasizes freedom from, the permission to be free, without providing freedom to, the ability to be free, while their society emphasizes freedom to, the ability, without providing freedom from, the permission. The same might be said when we compare Catholic schools, known for their discipline and control, with public schools known for their freedom and lack of control.
Well, I see that my time is up. I will taking off for the summer months and will return around the third week of September. In the interim, we will be playing reruns of my previous programs. Have a good summer.