Freedom, as a general concept is often taken for granted in this so-called modern world. In the modern political language, nations are either “free or not free”; the governments that manage them are either “friends” or “enemies” of freedom, as are the persons living in them. For those living in the Far West, this notion of freedom applies to much of daily sociopolitical discourse, with phrases such as “freedom of speech,” “freedom of religion,” “freedom of conscience,” and “freedom of the press,” being used regularly to give credence to or discredit one political position or the other.
Such a notion of freedom, vague and arbitrary as it is, is not taken as a logical conclusion derived from reason, but rather taken to be a zero-point idea; a truism from which all other conclusions must be derived. Indeed, when a new issue arises, and the worshipers of freedom can invoke such a principle, they never fail to do so. In fact, it is quite obvious that to such people, laws and public affairs must not be decided by moral values, but democratic ones.
Therefore, in modern times, we see many instances of Man leading his life in a manner where the “freedom of action” seems to be the paramount consideration. He dresses, eats, and trades as he pleases, spends his earnings however he likes and entertains himself in whatever way he desires and so on. In such a state, Man today cherishes his unrestrained freedom and will readily and quickly oppose whatever limitations are imposed upon it, unless he, in the first place chooses to agree to such limitations. In so doing, Man believes that he, whether individually or as the member of a democracy, knows best what is good for him and how best to regulate his affairs.
Khalil Gibran, critiqued such a worldview:
“At the city gate and by your fireside I have seen you prostrate yourself and worship your own freedom,
Even as slaves humble themselves before a tyrant and praise him though he slays them.”
The notions of “freedom” became enthroned by the Americans, with the Bill of Rights promising “freedom of religion,” and “freedom of speech.” The Declaration of Independence was heralded by the ringing of the “Liberty Bell,” now a national relic and shrine. Subsequent documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights list “freedom of conscience” and “freedom of the press” as great goods to be guaranteed. Norman Rockwell, after the suggestion of Franklin D. Roosevelt, portrayed the four great freedoms: freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship, freedom of speech. Upon the shores of the quintessentially American city of New York, stands the anti-Colossus of the times, known as the Statue of Liberty.
The Historical Context of Liberty and Freedom
To any Traditional society, the idea that freedom is something which is bestowed upon Man by a secular government would have been laughable. In the ancient world, “freedom” was more often applied to a spiritual state, rather than to a socio-political one. Indeed, according to the Aryan worldview of the Rig Veda, one finds that the way to complete liberation is through dharma, which literally means “that which is firm,” and by extension, the ethos or Divine Law. Therefore, in the traditional worldview, liberation encompasses not absolute freedom of action, but rather the fact that through dharma — the supreme Law — one becomes liberated from the baser instincts of the flesh.
This is to say that Man is not “liberated” by governments which permit certain behaviours as ends in themselves, but rather through discipline. The notion that true freedom is achieved by going along the path of self-discovery and self-abandonment is not uncommon in a religious sense. In fact, the Apostle Paul exhorts the Galatians:
For you, brethren, have been called unto liberty: only make not liberty an occasion to the flesh, but by charity of the spirit serve one another…I say then, walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Epistle to the Galatians, Chapter 5).
The notion of freedom as that which is attained by the permission of the Divine, rather than from earthly rulers is also reiterated by Imam Abu’l-Qasim al-Qushayri, a Sufi mystic. Al-Qushayri, states succintly: “Freedom is that a slave ceases to be a slave of created things and that things of the world cease to hold authority over him.” In this sense, we see the that the Traditional concept of freedom differs quite vastly from the modern one. Evola articulates this dichotomy thusly:
[I]t is important to distinguish between the freedom to do something and the freedom for doing something. In the political domain, the former is a negative freedom that corresponds to the absence of bonds while remaining itself formless. It generally culminates in arbitrariness and in anomie, and where it is granted to everybody, in an egalitarian and democratic fashion, it becomes an impossibility. Where there is equality there cannot be freedom: what exists is not pure freedom, but rather the many individual, domesticated, and mechanized freedoms, in a state of reciprocal limitation.
Passing to the political sphere, in ancient Greece, free status was identified by a set of various rights and privileges. At the same time, it was inseparable from the concepts of duty and honor. Even Aristotle, whose ideas later influenced the modern concepts of liberty, made no claim to the freedom to licentiousness that one sees today. Indeed, consistent with the concept that the individual is but part of the larger organism of the sate, Aristotle sees the even the “free” individual as needing to be subordinate to the state in certain matters.
All of this, however, was overturned by the time of the eighteenth century in Europe. This time period, as those well-versed in history can attest to, was a century of revolution, freemasonry, naturalism and rationalism. On the one hand it was the century which proclaimed, perhaps even more fervently than the Bolsheviks a century later, that beyond the horizon of the bloody revolutions of the present was a sort of deistic, democratic, and egalitarian utopia. On the other, it was the century of violent repression in the name of progress. In short, it was the century that took the dark secularism of the Renaissance and Reformation to their logical and bloody conclusions; it was the century that saw the birth of the “Far West” in the shape of the American and and French revolutions. In short, the eighteenth century was the century of intellectual rebellion against order and hierarchy.
Thus, out of this intellectual rebellion one saw the birth of a cult of liberty and freedom, la Culte de la Raison, which was intended as the new faith of humanity; a new religion of freedom and democracy was to supersede all previous forms of governance and all previous ideologies. In the place of faith and honor, were put democracy and liberty, and the guiding principle of the Culte was the exercise of so-called Reason. It implied that somehow, there had been only tyranny, especially embodied by the Catholic Church and its various monarchs, which needed to be abolished.
Nevertheless, the supposed overthrow of the “old order” came at a cost. As Guénon says:
“Those who wished to overthrow all dogma have created for their own use, we will not say a new dogma, but a caricature of dogma, which they have succeeded in imposing on the western world in general; in this way there have been established, under the pretext of “freedom of thought,” the most chimerical beliefs that have ever been seen at any time, under the form of these different idols…”
It had been obvious until this point in history that human beings should be free in those areas which are truly indifferent, but constrained with regard to those things which are necessary. Thus, there have always been laws which pertain to the common good and consequently civil governments legislated against the transgressions of these laws. Hence murder, which disrupts civil order, is outlawed by civil law. On the other hand, civil governments would exceed their authority were they to attempt to dictate to citizens practices which are not necessarily linked to the common good. Thus it could be said that all previous governments had allowed a measure of freedom.
But the worshipers of freedom were not content with this. Nor were they even content with the freedoms that were given by such revolutions.
Is the cult of freedom the desire to free man from the excesses of government in regulating the lives of the citizens?
The answer to this is a resounding “no”: such people only want the government to not “interfere” where it would stop them from enjoying their lives. The facts of history and of our current situation already disprove such a notion. Since the rise of secularism, the abolition of the monarchies, and the rise of democracies, the common man, the family and business have been subject to tyrannical oppression, emaciating taxation, as well as economic and social “engineering” which affects every aspect of life. The democracies of the past two hundred years, and the ideologies they bear, make the most dictatorial monarchical regimes look tame in comparison.
The effects of this cult of liberty are disastrous. For as long as the American people were naturally conservative, moral, and religious, they agreed enough about moral and religious issues at least to hold back the tide of most serious evils. It is these days, the days before the 1960’s, or even better before Roosevelt, that most American conservatives dream about when they form their political views. But those days are over. We now live in the reign of Quantity, in which people have handed themselves over to indescribable debauchery, wanton disregard for the laws of God and even of the natural law, and to a selfishness and cold-heartedness that justifies the killing of unwanted babies. There is no possible way in which this godless population is going to put back in place the restrictions which were in place fifty years ago. The only thing that the conservative can hope for is a moral reawakening of the United States.
The world has never known more oppressive governments than those which profess to be the staunchest defenders of democracy and “freedom of action” or “freedom of thought”. And moreover, those who most loudly tout the notion of “freedom” do so only selectively in order to promote their cause. For instance, while Europeans boast of the free speech given to atheists and homosexual activists, they readily imprison those who question the official versions of history, or those who question the dogmas of modernity in the name of “defending democracy”. Such is perfectly illustrated when in 2004 when the Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione was forced to resign as a European commissioner when it emerged that he supported the Vatican’s line on certain social issues.
The fact that the modern world has built up around such secular freedoms a system of ethics, and even a psuedo-religion is proof positive of the cult-like status that people today attach to the mere notion of freedom. In many nations, this has progressed to the point where there is not a single political force which is both significantly Traditionalist (that is to say, normative) and not decried as being reactionary by its opponents. In Europe, for instance, the so-called far-right parties are in fact, at best those which follow a distorted model of classical 17th century liberal idea, yet ascribe to the unique faith of freedom, equality, and liberalism.
The Cult of Freedom: Recipe for Decadence and Moral Breakdown
So far, the only thing which the Cult of Freedom has perpetuated is the complete destruction of our continued values. In some countries, they have lead to massive demographic shifts, while keeping those immigrants in squalid conditions and fomenting social unrest.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the constraints of law that were in place in the United States or in other countries even fifty years ago have been abolished in the name of choice. In the name of freedom, abortion now takes place on demand, and every sort of perversion occurs in abundance, and even even when freedoms have been taken away, such laws have always been done in the name of freedom. In the 1920’s for example, a druggist could be arrested if he sold birth-control devices or chemicals. Now he might be arrested if he does not, and these wicked instruments of the devil are advertised on television alongside everyday items.
In the name of “freedom,” the United States promoted decadent artwork, and to this day, promotes decadence and moral decay in every country that dares to oppose it. Like modern-day crusaders, the believers in Freedom have scurried about the world, dressed not in cassocks and not with the Bibles and relics of the Church, but wearing sharp suits and deceiving with fast words.
The modern notion of “freedom” has been used to justify all sorts of excesses, while at the same time suppressing that which is most noble and sensible in mankind. Modern “freedom” is thus a contradiction in and of itself: it claims to pursue an egalitarian and open society, while imposing constraints against those who do not fulfill its tenets. In this sense, it is truly a blind faith, although it claims to be founded upon reason: anything and everything that does not appeal to certain ad hoc conclusions is rejected without further debate.
Freedom has truly become the idol of secular times, and a faith for the faithless. Those who have lost all hope in any divine power or even in the rallying power of a national identity all flock towards a lukewarm “Deism of progress,” filled with the false hope that their salvation lies in such.
It is obvious that the various aspects of our modern society’s sociopolitical chaos are linked back to the cult of freedom, and there is no real way to effectively oppose them other than by returning to the origins. To go back to the origins means, plainly and simply, to reject everything that is connected to the principles of the French Revolution, and to oppose it with the hierarchical view, in the context of which alone the notion, value, and freedom of man as person are not reduced to mere words or excuses for a work of destruction and subversion.