and the Search for Truth
has long been an important concept in western culture-some might
say a defining one. It goes back at least as far as ancient Greece,
where Athens produced the first known democracy. The temple of Delphi
bore the inscription, later echoed by Jesus, The Truth
Shall Set You Free.
fashioned a Republic. Germanic tribes gave voice to every man, and
commitments of loyalty were freely given and upheld. England grappled
with balancing the rights of monarchy with the concerns of the people.
The German philosopher Hegel, before he associated freedom
with nationalism tied to the will of God, differentiated negative
freedom, which is only license to do as one pleases, from positive
freedom, which fulfills itself in seeking something higher-what
he referred to as Truth.
introduced the idea of natural freedom, and how we sacrifice some
of this freedom to a social contract for reasons of security. The
social contract provides respect for law and ownership of property.
Jean Jacques Rousseau, another Age of Enlightenment
thinker, insisted that freedom can only exist for masses of people
within a state of equality. Without equality, there will be those
who have power over others, and those who must submit. Elements
of these two philosophies shaped the American Constitution and
Declaration of Independence, especially the latter, which liberally
borrows from them.
The British philosopher and parliamentarian,
John Stuart Mills, distinctly and passionately warned us
about the social oppression of freedom, which he called the tyranny
of the majority. We often forget about this when we focus on majority
rule and forget about minority rights. By minority, he meant every
person who disagrees with majority positions. He told us that the
only restrictions of freedom that were acceptable were those that
prevented injuries toward others. He also made clear that Truth
was not someone's possession, or a thing to be held. It was a process
of discovery and development.
Activist Emma Goldman eloquently declared
that even liberal democracy hampers freedom by creating a hierarchy
of power and opinion that leads to authoritarianism. She pointed
out, quite plainly, how it fails to lead to equality for all.
Chivalry-Now inherits the best thoughts
of all these western thinkers, along with others, but is not limited
to them. It carries first of all the western urge toward freedom
that these philosophers built upon. When, in medieval romances,
King Arthur built a Round Table to recognize the equality
of his knights, people understood what this meant. When these knights
went questing, they did so as thinking individuals whose freedom
embraced specific virtues and challenges of personal growth. The
Grail Quest drew upon spiritual elements that represented
the search for Truth. Arthur's knights sometimes disregarded unjust
laws or traditions. They often challenged abusive authorities. They
protected those who needed protection out of respect for human dignity
and basic human rights. This is the warrior tradition that we inherit
and build upon, and we find some of the very best expressions of
western thought illustrated in these stories. As Arthur's knights
were constantly challenged for their virtue, their ideals put to
the test, so are we.
Freedom cannot be taken for granted, or it is
lost. It becomes either negative freedom, or no freedom at all.
It flourishes only when it is tested, confronted, challenged, inspired-and
then rewards us with purpose, meaning and abundance of life.
Freedom means questioning things. It means liberating
our moral center so that we are free as complete persons, not social
products, or copies of our parents, or other trappings of ego.
Just as freedom is not an end but a process,
so is the search for truth upon which it depends. One cannot be
free by embracing lies, falsehood or illusions. Ignorance may be
bliss, but it liberates no one. Authenticity shuts down and the
automatic pilot of ego begins.
Life is the challenge that tests our commitment
to truth and virtue. Psychological dragons and wizards must be dealt
with or destroyed. In helping others, we prove our worth. Brotherhood
strengthens us. Thinking for ourselves individuates us. Opening
our minds allows truth to be discovered and falsehood recognized
for what it is. Self development and right action gives life its
free man discovers freedom and sacrifices all his previous restraints
and ego comfort to obtain it. It is the hidden treasure, the pearl
of great price, the metaphorical Kingdom of Heaven, wherein
one's true self is resurrected and given sovereignty over one's
freedom places one's life in a truer perspective of participation,
infused with purpose and meaning that is not imposed by others,
but discovered on one's own. It concerns itself with the happiness
and fulfillment of others, by striving to make equality real. It
does not align itself with wrong causes. It forgives its own mistakes
and imperfections, by forgiving those of others, and then seeking