The eighth component of spiritual health is freedom. Freedom is one of those words like “justice,” “beauty,” “goodness,” that can mean very different things depending on the perspective and the context. Isaiah Berlin, the philosopher, described freedom from and freedom to.
There is freedom from constraint and restraint which is probably the more common meaning of the term, but then there is freedom to meaning that people have knowledge, skills, resources, and opportunities. In our American declaration of independence there is a statement that citizens are free to pursue happiness, but whether they can and will attain it is left to the individual and the community.
In the era of rugged individualism, individuals are left to their own resources to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” This idea is nonsensical and blames the victim of social circumstances over which the individual has little or no control.
It is not until a person gains some maturity that they understand that the ways of the ego are an illusion and what Holden Caulfield called, in The Catcher In The Rye, the “big lie.” Once a person begins to see through the deceit and delusionary world of the ego, they begin to understand that they do have a choice, the freedom to choose between the world of the ego and the world of the spirit. Once awareness of this choice occurs, the decision is simple. Would we live with unconditional love, our natural inheritance, or in the world of the ego with its false promises of happiness? Will romance, money, status, power, material things really make a person happy and if so, for how long?
It is not until we begin to free ourselves from the blocks and obstacles to our awareness of Love’s presence, our natural inheritance, that we become essentially free. We liberate ourselves from desires, attachments, motivations, and dependencies on the illusions of the ego. We finally become free merging with the non dualistic Oneness from which we separated ourselves to begin with thinking that we could become the king and queen of our small world of the ego rather than the emperors of the Universe of which we are a part.
The freedom from is the attempt to purify, to eschew false promises and attachments. We need to free ourselves from the things of the ego in order to be free to attain the things of the spirit.
This freeing from takes consistent effort and a giving up of the things of the ego and surrendering, in the best sense of the word, to the things of the spirit. This desire and attempts to free ourselves from the things of the ego takes periodic review with a growing awareness of our attachments. In A Course Of Miracles this activity is called “forgiveness” which means being willing to give up making other people and circumstances responsible for our unhappiness. Gary Renard, a teacher of the Course, calls these instances “forgiveness opportunities” and he looks forward to many forgiveness opportunities throughout his day. Being aware and taking advantage of forgiveness opportunities makes us free to enjoy the peace and comfort of the Unconditional Love of the Universe.
To be spiritually healthy we have to decide in what we will place our faith: is it the world of the ego or the world of the Spirit? Do we believe that the things of the ego will make us happy or the things of the spirit? We come to realize that until we can free ourselves from the things of the ego we are not able to be free to enjoy the things of the spirit which are peace and bliss.