We are in touch with our own innate freedom only indirectly – the connection exists beneath the threshold of our conscious attention. It is there, but we don’t know that its there. It is there, but if we were to actually discover that it is there then this would come as the most tremendous surprise.
Our own intrinsic or innate freedom is the best kept secret there is. Even the suggestion that there is such a thing is usually met with profound indifference. We don’t understand the suggestion. We’re all too busy getting on with what we’re doing, what we’re caught up in – we all too busy trying to avail ourselves of the possibilities that we do know about, do understand, and are interested in.
Being pragmatically cut off from our own innate freedom, we have to make do with something else, we have to make do with a surrogate. We have to make do with an ‘artificial version’ of freedom. But what could this possibly be, we might ask? How could there be such a thing as an ‘artificial version’ of freedom? Surely there is only freedom and the lack of freedom? Surely freedom is not the kind of thing that comes in different types, different varieties?
In the strict sense this is of course true but what we are talking about here is not really freedom at all, but a substitute for it, just as margarine is a substitute for butter. This substitute freedom is ubiquitous but the point is that we just can’t see it. We can neither see it nor conceive of it and the reason we can’t see or understand it is because our viewpoint – which is the viewpoint of the rational mind – is itself the originator, the source of this artificial freedom.
Artificial freedom is the freedom that we have ‘left over’, so to speak, after we have made a whopping great assumption and then conveniently forgotten that we have done so. ‘Making a whopping great assumption and then conveniently forgetting that we have done so’ is how the everyday rational mind works – it is the only possible way in which it can work. This is rationality (or logic) in a nutshell. What is left over after this forgetting is not a whole lot, but we make do with it because we don’t know the difference. The whole point of forgetting is that we don’t know the difference. The whole point of forgetting is that we forget…
Another way of talking about artificial (or substitute) freedom is to say, as we have just suggested, that it is in essence a logical system, or ‘logical continuum’. A logical continuum is a set of possibilities that are related to each other in a rule-based way so that we can get from one to another by following these rules. The rules of logic don’t permit ‘just any old thing’ however. The whole point of ‘logic’ is that these rules are very strict, very specific, very rigid; the whole point of logic is that change happens only in the way that it is permitted to happen. A rule is a rule because it permits ‘this but not that’. If a rule permitted this and maybe other possibilities at all then it would not be a rule at all.
A rule functions on the basis of exclusivity. One specific possibility (or set of possibilities) is permitted and all others are excluded. A perfect example of this is the simple mathematical set Q where Q is ‘the set of all integers divisible by 7’. This is a logically defined set of numbers – it includes only those numbers that are divisible by 7 and it excludes all others. This is the whole point of a set – a set wouldn’t be a set otherwise, a set can’t be a set unless it has definite boundaries. A set without definite boundaries (which exclude everything that hasn’t been explicitly and exhaustively specified) is not a set at all – it is in fact the Whole. It is the Whole precisely because there are no boundaries, precisely because nothing is excluded. What creates the Whole (which is called ‘the Universal Set’ even though it is not a set) is not a rule, therefore, but the lack of rules.
If we specify we get a set, we get a defined and limited domain, and if we don’t specify we get ‘Everything’. Logic – or the rational mind – has nothing to do with the Whole, it does not lead us towards the Whole, it does not tell us about the Whole. It does not even acknowledge the Whole. Logic deals in what we might call ‘false Wholes’ – it deals exclusively with defined and limited domains, each of which it treats as if it were ‘the Whole of Everything’.
When we pull a set out of the Trick Top Hat which is the Universal Set we focus exclusively on this set. This is how the set gets to be the set – a set is only a set when we ignore absolutely everything that is not the set, and ignore the fact that we are ignoring anything. In exactly the same way, the world we know with our minds and inhabit every day is only an actual ‘world’ because we focus exclusively on it.
All logical statements specify, that is how logic works. There is no such thing as an indecisive or uncertain logical statement, a logical statement that doesn’t mean exactly what it says. There is no such thing as a rule which says ‘MAYBE’. Whatever the rules specify, that’s what gets to be in the set, in the logical system. What they don’t specify is what doesn’t get to be in it. What the rules don’t specify is what we don’t know about. Thus, we can say that the ‘whopping great assumption’ that we have made and then forgotten about is the assumption that what we have not bothered to specify doesn’t actually exist… This might sound like a ridiculous assumption but it is the one we make.
We can also say that the world which the rules of the simulation do permit (the everyday world that we know about and believe in) is the domain of artificial freedom, which we restrict ourselves to without knowing that we are restricting ourselves. This world only gets to exist because a whole lot of possibilities have been excluded – it is a dramatically simplified world, a hugely simplified world. There is therefore a whole other world out there which we do not know about, which we do not have access to, a world which we cannot perceive or conceive because it is not permitted by the rules of the simulation.
This ‘whole other world’ is what we have been referring to as intrinsic (or innate) freedom, which is the freedom we have to ignore in order to live our lives exclusively in the clearly-defined world of our mental constructs or categories. It is the world that is there before we start specifying, before we start excluding and forgetting that we have excluded. The very remarkable point here is that the unconditionally free and un-predetermined is seen as being absolutely inimical to us, even though it is our own true nature. Somehow, what we speak of as ‘freedom’ is in reality the freedom to be what we are not, and the freedom not know what we are.
This gives us our last definition of ‘artificial freedom’ – artificial freedom is the freedom that we have to forget who we really are and thus think that we are who we aren’t.
Author: Nick Williams
Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.