Wednesday 31 May 2023

The existential experience of freedom

I sometimes wonder how many other people have experience of pure existential freedom; a recognition of oneself 'standing before' reality, and choosing how to regard it. 

I suppose that such an experience is not universal, and used to be much rarer than it is now. Now, I suspect that such an experience is almost forced-upon people at some point, or often - but the response to it is extremely varied. 

Existential freedom brings a recognition that - upon our choice - hinges much else; because knowing reality requires something from us, requires our 'participation' - otherwise outside-us is meaningless chaos. 

From our freedom, which comes from our conscious selfhood; is where we recognize divine creation as a reality - and as a possibility. 

It seems to me that it is at this moment of experiencing freedom, that we make the primary decision; which is either to join-with the nature and purposes of pre-existing divine creation - or not

Among those who choose to take the side of divine creation; it is (or should be, I would say) from the situation of existential freedom that they decide how to ally with the divine, how to set-about our lives, what attitudes and assumptions are required. 

Some decide they want to hand-back the ticket of freedom, and of consciousness that enables it: these experience freedom only to reject it. 

In other words; the prime and final act of freedom may be to live as-if there is no freedom; as if freedom does not exist, or is impossible. 

Others make a choice - and then forget that they have chosen! - and tell themselves there was no choice, that the choice was compelled, that there was only one 'rational' choice...

Yet, in freedom there is the experience of knowing that we - alone, as individuals - have the power to reject divine creation. We can each, successfully, defy God; in the sense of rejecting and working against God. 

We have the power to seek other goals, to make alliances out-with divine creation - or against God. 

We can even 'go it alone' - choose to make our own knowledge, meaning purpose - unshared: be God to our-self. 

It boils down to love: the capacity for love, the desire to make love fundamental. 

In knowing freedom, we know that divine creation derives-from love - creation is itself the manifestation of love. Thus to participate in divine creation entails living by love.

Without love, or in opposition to it, creation is experienced as alien, intrusive; is not wanted.

So Much is - or should be - decided from this experience of existential freedom!


Francis Berger said...

Hear, hear!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank - Us against the world, on this matter!

Inquisitor Benedictus said...

I think it is a consequence of the Spirit of Babel, which is the spirit of confusion of languages; which spirit itself was God's punishment for mankind's seeking a godlike, total dominance over heaven & earth.

For this reason a big part of modern and especially postmodern philosophy has been the study of language. Hamann wrote at the same time as Kant, and he said that in the final analysis all philosophical problems are a problem of language; the first great existentialist, Kierkegaard, said that if he had come across Hamann earlier, he wouldn't have bothered becoming a philosopher himself...

Language is what "decodes" reality for us. It is essential for our interpretation of the world, the building up of our humanity and human cultures, and, ultimately, our relationship with God himself — hence the importance of scriptural texts and liturgical & prayer formulas. Language is a quasi-divine thing, and not just a made-up system of verbalised labels, as our nominalist academics would seem to think... In the absence of good language, man finds himself lost, dumb, and confused before the world. The proliferation of worldly philosophies; of man-centred, nature-trampling science and associated ideologies; of skeptical schools of thoughts which undermined the sacred scriptures and the Christian religion in general... — all of this led to a state of things where the European experienced having a language, but that language no longer meaning anything; or at least of being "cut off" from what it used to mean.

Existentialism is the experience of semantic drought; where you have the syntax of language/thought but not the semantic content, the meaning. You have the "signs" that no longer point to any "signified". This is a severe punishment of God. It prevents human beings from understanding each other, prevents them from forming meaningful communities and cultures, and makes people feel increasingly isolated.

When God withdraws His Word from men, the word of man becomes increasingly vain, puffed up, and tends towards this babelistic confusion. So when today the Gospel is being preached and people hear expressions like "Jesus died for your sins", such words fall quite literally on deaf ears, and the profound realities to which such words refer are utterly obscured. Meanwhile, such total nonsense as Artificial Intelligence and World Government and Liberal Democracy come to be seen as carrying profound, important meaning. This is Babel. The most thorough-going existentialists are just more aware of the babelistic condition we find ourselves in. Kierkegaard tried returning to the spirit of Abraham as a solution. Nietzsche wanted to restore the spirit of the nephilim, the superhuman giants. An existentialist like Sartre I would identify with the exiled Cain living with a tortured, alienated conscience. Most of our leaders are descendants of the spirit of Nimrod, i.e. they're stupidly happy as long as they can carry on building things; building bigger and bigger things.

Deogolwulf said...

Greetings, Bruce!

I don't know if you know much of Charles Hartshorne, but I presume to think that you might find some of his thinking rather congenial, specifically in respect to what is contained in the following summary:

Naturally one needn't accept his process philosophy or some of his other beliefs (liberalism, feminism, and personal annihilation!) to accept that some of his theological insights are impressive.

Bruce Charlton said...

@D - No, I never tackled him. He seems like too abstract for what I am aiming at - only half-way to where I think we need to go.

Deogolwulf said...

Ah, well, save it for an all-too-concretely rainy day in Northumberland!