Freedom: The Language of Soul

From a Sermon given Summer Solstice Worship Service on June 26, 2022.

I have been interested in exploring the issue of freedom with this community for some time now.  Freedom was always a big topic of the conversation in my family when I was growing up. Even when we talked about little else, in my particular family there was always permission to talk about cats. And as a military family in the cultural landscape around us there was always permission to talk about the freedoms that we were told were guaranteed by membership in the United States of America which were our duty to support. We would come together for huge fourth of July celebrations complete with fireworks, marching bands and parades of uniformed soldiers strutting their stuff in formation around fields. 

Talking about freedom is as American as apple pie, as deeply symbolic as the selection of the fierce and high-soaring American Eagle as our national bird. We did not the choose the turkey as our national emblem such as it was rumored was suggested by Benjamin Franklin. (This is actually a myth, but a good story). We chose the Eagle. Every country has an energetic core, an agreement about the essence of what those who are a part of that land have come to explore. In the United States of America our collective agreement involves exploring freedom and social justice.  And so it is fitting that our greatest challenges have been and continue to be learning what it really means to be free; what justice actually looks like.

Every country has its own energy. This depiction from Christian Chinese American artist He Qi depicts the essential essence of the United States. Picture used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

In recent days all around the globe there has been a rude awakening for many who have viewed the United States as a perfect union, as the ultimate land of opportunity. You all know that energetically speaking, perfect pictures led to a great deal of disappointment, despair and other forms of suffering when the world does not live up to our flawed expectations. The American ideal still rings true for millions of people who live under greatly diminished social freedoms and horrible injustices in their own community, whether in the US or other areas. Intensifying environmental disasters mean that US borders are increasingly overrun by thousands of would-be immigrants fleeing from harsh economic and social injustice, violence, brutal repression and other terrible events in their home countries. Recently however, many who have always dreamed of partaking in the American dream are also changing their minds as the universe wakes us up to a greater version of its Truth, and it becomes more clear what is really going on in North America.

In the United States we have a citizenry whose social norms are rapidly breaking down, who are acknowledging more and more the gut-wrenching injustices of our past and present with no real understanding as to how to correct them. In their panic Americans are clinging tightly to false illusions about freedom. After all, the one thing upon which we all can agree is that freedom is a good thing theoretically. That’s part of our national identity, enshrined in our collective psyche.

But what is freedom? Really. What is it? What does it look like? What does it actually feel like? How does it work in a collective space when one person who thinks of freedom in a certain way clashes with another person who thinks their version of freedom is not only the correct version but the only one that counts?

If we require people who don’t want to wear a facemask or get a vaccine to do so are we taking away their freedom? If the government does not let people own assault weapons or do drugs, is it acting unjustly in defiance to the rights of its citizens? If the highest court in the country decides women can be subjected to involuntary pregnancies based on what state they live in, is it supporting state rights or is it attacking the rights of women? Unless a group can actually agree on a concept, it is hard to meet any challenges that arise with any integrity.    

I’ve noticed that even people in this community, or in groups of otherwise-enlightened well-intentioned individuals working on healing themselves, are often still massively confused about what freedom really is. I watch said people just substitute the word “free will” with the word “freedom” like they are interchangeable. The energy behind using these words as a synonym is usually based on dysfunctional religious programming, by the way. Which, by the way, is the opposite of freedom. Pushing “free will” or accusing another person of violating it, is a sure indication that you have more to learn about what freedom actually is. Approaching freedom as if it is a static, binary thing, in which only the vaccinators or the antivaxxers or the people supporting or opposing guns have the truth, means you surely have not found your own freedom.

So, what is freedom? For most of us, the full answer to that question can only come about when we learn to love the question over time; and have the patience to know that our personal answer to that question will arrive when we are ready for it.

“Freedom” is one of those metaconcepts like the word “love” that is so huge, so packed with possibilities that is almost not worth trying to have a conversation with it. “Freedom” is big enough that it typically eludes words altogether. No real communication occurs when individuals with wildly different takes on the word, aka definitions, throw it at each other.

Words are symbols containing anywhere from a little bit of energy to almost an endless quantity. Words describing tangible objects can be simple. Words trying to encapsulate metaconcepts are profound, and often not worth using if your intention is real communication rather than argument. The current cultural warfare puts “freedom” in the latter category for now. Cartoon by William Boyd Watterson used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Meanwhile, there are a few people who have spent their lives in pursuit of freedom that can give us some clues on our own individual journeys towards freedom, often more through their personal stories than precise verbiage. I think the people that have the most to teach us about what freedom really looks like are often those that have survived its lack in the outer world enough to realize that freedom, ultimately, isn’t about the outside, or at least not solely.

As an example, the Austrian psychiatrist and philosopher Viktor Frankl has much wisdom to share. He discovered his freedom under the most horrific conditions possible, in a Nazi concentration camp. He led many people to a deeper understanding of how one can become free despite overwhelming political reality to the contrary.

In the United States, which is a country built upon the backs of indigenous peoples, immigrants, and African American slaves, there are many voices speaking with knowledge and grace about freedom. The thread that rings true through these sometimes widely diverse experiences is that freedom is something beyond just our bodies being constrained. True freedom needs to occur in a socially just physical world, but it does not end there. One can be free in terms of capability to make a great number of physical, economic, and social choices according to one’s own desires, and still be incredibly enslaved. One can be subjected to abject constraints in the material world and still be free in important, vital ways.

Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican-born leader of the Pan-Africanism movement had this to say to his fellow black Americans shortly before his death in 1940: “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, for though others may free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind.” 

The United States of America is moving towards freedom and justice. . .just maybe with baby steps when leaps are required. Lady Liberty 225th Anniversary US Mint coin

What is freedom? Freedom is communication. It is communication with the Divine within each of us. Within this communication there is only wholeness. There are no sides, no divisions that allow one person to be free at another person’s expense.

Freedom is something that we desire to the very depth of our soul, just as we all crave connection with our Creator whether we know it or not. Never let anyone stop you from seeking your personal freedom because that would be like intentionally dimming your light. Just like your true destiny is to love and be loved, to know peace and joy, you as a soul will never be fully satisfied until you are free. Especially if you live in the United States of America, because this is your collective journey as well as your individual one.

In order to fully understand freedom, you must first find your own place where there are no borders between self and other life. Art by Elsie Huther used in accordance with Fair Use Principles

That said, reveal in your desire for freedom but bring some humility to the table as you seek to understand both what it actually looks like in your life, and even more so, what it “should” look like for others. Let go of your need to find political solutions in the name of freedom as much as you can. . .less you get stuck in the endless loop of a false dichotomy.

Rather, free yourself, first and foremost. Free yourself from judgment by and of others, unaware social programming, out-of-date thinking, whatever binds you to a truncated worldview. Know that your best bet for advancing freedom in the collective space is to free yourself from that which limits your soul, which keeps you from truly knowing that your own freedom and the freedom of others as the same journey. Only then can you be present to the freedom of others.

As to the rest, trust the universe to rectify any injustices as surely it is doing increasingly these days, very rapidly.

Discerning what constitutes freedom for someone else is nearly impossible. It requires a 360 degree spiritual perspective through time and space. You will have your hands full enough just trying to figure out what makes you free! Cartoon by Man Martin used in accordance with Fair Use Principles.

Other people have very little to do with our own freedom, except as they reflect what is ours to correct.

Find what brings you alive.This is where your freedom dwells. Words by Simon Gawley, posted in accordance with Fair Use Principles

Ultimately, like everything else in the created order, freedom is from God and is meant to be in service of God. Or as it says in Peter, Chapter 2, Verse 16:

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.

Live as God’s slaves.  

Happy Fourth of July to the United States of America and to every individual in the entire world.

Copyright by Rev. Dr. Resa Eileen Raven, 2022

It’s all about letting go of the fear. . .allowing oneself to fall into the loving arms of the Creator.