There are few people who profess to disbelieve in freedom; who declare freedom to be an illusion, but when contradicted by the freedom believers, the disbelievers tend to fight to maintain their disbelief. They not only disbelieve in freedom, but work hard to try to persuade others to accept their disbelief, apparently quite unaware of the inconsistency of their persuasion attempts.

But most people in practice behave as if they believe in freedom, and freedom is held by them to be basic to meaningful human existence. If there is no freedom, then there is either an entirely mechanically determined world, or a random one in which “order”, wherever it appears, is merely accidental.

We humans, or most of us, do not like a totally mechanical universe, and we do not like a merely random and accidental appearance of “order”. We like to be in charge of our own destinies. We hate to think of ourselves as merely the products of “accidents”.

Fall from Freedom

In our belief that we are “free”, those of who embrace this belief present ourselves with a problem. If we are really “free”, why do we so often find ourselves “bound by events”? We have seen that we are inheritors of a doctrine of a “fall”. This doctrine says that once we were perfectly free, and then that through some error we lost this prefect freedom; and since that loss our freedom is no longer perfect. What freedom we have is now merely relative, influenced by conditions over which we apparently have little or no control. We are imposed on by natural forces, gravity, terrain, climate etc. We can, to some degree, adapt ourselves to the presence of these forces. We can study them, arrive at some understanding of their modes of operation, and adjust our actions to them, but we cannot safely ignore them.

But when we have gained a sufficient degree of knowledge of the operations of these forces to give ourselves a fairly high probability of our survival, we are still faced with another problem, the problem of our own significance within the universe at large. We ask ourselves what we arewhat is our real function within the realm of natural ecology, and this question leads us to the other: what is the meaning of “spiritual ecology”?