Letting Go

The need to believe, once detached from all rational hope, becomes a dangerous breeding ground for many vicious and growth-stunting spiritual traps: confirmation bias, idolatry, paranoia, moral compromise, intellectual dependency — and ultimately cynicism, nihilism, and despair, as the disparity between what one needs to believe and what one increasingly realizes will never materialize becomes overwhelmingly obvious.

Here is the solution to this danger: Let go of the insupportable belief. Recognize that this “needed” belief, however subjectively powerful it may have seemed, was no true need at all, for no falsehood can be genuinely necessary. Such a false belief was merely the residue of long-established mental habit or emotional vulnerability.

For many years, some of us — “we happy few,” as we once imagined ourselves — clung to the vague sense that we were engaged in an uphill but viable battle to revive the idea of freedom, to stall or even somewhat reverse the progressive tide, while reinvigorating the intellectual base and spiritual institutions that would eventually restore the practical structures of limited republicanism. We further believed, or at least hoped, that in this effort we were struggling alongside a sizeable minority of likeminded men and women who would carry on the fight in their own corners of the universe, such that together we formed a kind of global guerrilla force for preserving the concepts and attitudes of individual liberty. 

The past several years, at an ever-accelerating rate, have exposed those beliefs, somewhat cruelly, as having been utterly unfounded. We were in truth far fewer than we imagined or hoped — almost infinitely fewer, as it turns out. And most of those we had vaguely assumed were our allies have proved not merely to be unequal to the challenge, but rather to be the blandest and most spineless of milquetoast followers and obedient tribal sheep. The vast majority of the numbers we thought we sort of had “on our side” have collectively confronted us, over these past several years, like the pod people in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, nothing but shells of the men and women we thought we knew. “Join us, we’re all happy,” they have said to us, as we stared in a combination of shock and terror — shock at how easily they gave up their souls, and terror at the awareness of just how thoroughly alone we now are — how alone we always were, in fact, contrary to our long-cherished imaginations.

The shock and terror, then — along with the subsequent sense of despair — were largely the result not of any sudden change in our fortune, but rather of our sudden awareness of the reality of our fortune.

The shock dissipates as soon as one comes to terms with the fact that all that has really changed is one’s perception of the situation, and that the change is from a false perception to a true one. Seen in this light, the new condition may be understood as a pure positive for the soul, since understanding, to the extent we are capable of it, is always superior and preferable to ignorance. As for the terror, that too is mostly a product of our subjective apprehension of the situation, specifically the sudden awareness of a fundamental conflict between the reality we now see and the belief we had hitherto experienced as a basic spiritual need. The solution to this fear, then, and the path to a much firmer ground of confidence and fortitude, is simply to accept the falsehood of our former belief, which in turn means accepting that what had previously seemed necessary to our life, and to the sustenance of our will to carry on, was not necessary at all — or was perhaps necessary at one time, but only as a transitional step on the road to a clearer knowledge of our true situation. Having achieved that truer picture at last, we may do what every human being willing and able to grow will and must do, namely let go of the revealed falsehood and all its implications. This is the real testing ground and proof of the profoundest meaning in those words we are so often inclined to recite without any depth or sincerity: “The truth shall set you free.”

Here you are, then: You do not live in a free society. You will not live in a free society for a single day of the rest of your earthly life. You are now living in a society that has utterly and voluntarily submitted to the intellectual and moral premises of totalitarianism, and — if it has not done so already — will gradually succumb to the practical mechanisms of totalitarianism as well, as surely as the sun will set. You will be very fortunate indeed if you meet, or otherwise locate, a handful of your contemporaries on this planet who share your awareness of what has been lost (and will not soon be recovered), let alone feel as deeply as you do what this loss means, and how reprehensible is a human world that would forsake its essence this way in the name of nothing more noble than a vulgar desire for the emptiest physical pleasure and the most superficial physical safety.

When you see and feel what you have achieved, and what you stand to gain, from sincerely accepting and embracing the truths stated above — when you come to terms with the meaning of the disparity between your true predicament and the beliefs you formerly wished to cling to, particularly regarding the real number of your spiritual kin — you will see that, far from being a cause for despair, these truths are your path to the only level of freedom that is still possible among us. This, however, is the realm of ultimate freedom, residing above any practical tyranny, any corruptible nation, or any transient age. In understanding, and in understanding alone, you, along with the very few others whose souls are still aligned with yours in their will to embrace even the hardest truths for a temporal being, may be truly and incorruptibly free. 

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