Robert Shea on Freedom

Happy new year!

I just discovered the RAW Illumination blog that carries on and promotes the philosophy, attitude, and perspective of one of my very favorite authors and thinkers, Robert Anton Wilson. There's a great interview with Douglas Rushkoff on his book "Program or Be Programmed" which I reviewed here. However, this transcription of Robert Shea's speech upon accepting the Hall of Fame award from the Libertarian Futurist Society for the book he co-wrote with Wilson, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, is quite gratifying to me. It provides comfort for the long, hard slog of being intellectually free and curious, not so much as some demonstration of autonomy as a will to self-definition and self-discovery. The final paragraph is powerful:

We say in the novel that the original Illuminati were dedicated to religious and political freedom and that this secret organization somehow became perverted so that in recent centuries the Illuminati had become a vehicle for a monstrous authoritarianism. Thus the myth of the Illuminati is an archetype for every political movement, from Lenin's Bolshevism to Reagan's Republicanism, that has promised people greater freedom while loading them down with more government. People can be fooled in this way because they are not sure what freedom is. Freedom is a word whose meaning has been worn away by overuse, like a coin that has passed through too many hands. We need to be clear about what it means to us when we use it and maybe not use it quite so much, but use other, more precise words instead.

In ILLUMINATUS! we suggest that freedom begins in your right to define yourself and to insist on the validity of your own perceptions and your own thoughts. To change to a new point of view because you find it convincing is, of course, merely an exercise of that freedom. But freedom is lost when you are coerced or frightened into denying your own way of seeing reality and into accepting a point of view you cannot really believe in, be it that of a family, a teacher, a boss, a party, a church, a state. And an amazing thing is that when each of us insists on his or her own vision, it does not divide us. It unites us as no externally imposed unity ever could. It unites us in reverence for that inner light which we can only find by knowing ourselves, never by denying ourselves, that light by which each one of us can truly be said to be illuminated - the true Illuminati.

Read the whole thing. He also mentions that Wilson stopped calling himself an anarchist, but more out of a rejection of loaded labels than a rejection of the ideas. I feel myself pulled that way at times.

Written on Monday, January 10, 2011 | Tags: freedom, robert-anton-wilson, left-libertarianism, anarchism, philosophy, spirituality