The Timeless Path to Freedom
The ancient Greek historian, Thucydides, declared that “the secret to happiness is freedom…” and many of us might agree with that.
The freedom to do and act as we choose when we choose and with whom we choose is probably high on everyone’s idea of happiness.
But Thucydides, esteemed for his intellect and judgment, went on to say: “…and the secret to freedom is courage.” This immediately puts a different spin on our common understanding of happiness. Generally, we tend to put courage and happiness in two entirely separate and even opposite categories, not related to one another at all. Courage suggests danger and difficulty, while happiness tends to imply a certain comfort and ease.
So what was Thucydides possibly thinking? One likely answer can be found in The Nine Freedoms, a spiritual teaching delivered by the cosmic orator Mars Sector 6. He begins this great metaphysical treatise on freedom by declaring that the first freedom will be bravery; and that without bravery no real benefit can ever come from any task we undertake.
Courage and Conscience
Bravery is encountered in different forms. One way it can be experienced is to speak out on a matter of truth or conscience. Some of the bravest people are those who refuse to fight on religious or moral grounds in times of war. This is not cowardice as some attempt to make out but extremely brave, knowing that they will be stigmatized and possibly maltreated, even executed. However, despite this, they are unwilling to compromise their deep and sacred conviction.
The great American minister and abolitionist, James Freeman Clarke, similarly observed that “conscience is the root of all true courage.” It drives us to take action that can be contrary to the will of others. This is often experienced by those who devote themselves to a spiritual path or selfless calling, including many of us in The Aetherius Society; and which can cause completely unsought alienation from friends and family members.
And so in order to find true spiritual happiness and genuine freedom, we must begin by having the courage to heed our own inner voice of conscience. That is to do what we intuitively know to be right. Without being true to our real self and heeding our inner voice, not only will we never find real happiness but neither can we hope to lead a valuable and meaningful life.
Honoring this calling, as a matter of conscience, takes honesty and bravery but it is also greatly liberating and even brings a certain freedom when we do stand on our own integral truth.
Fortune Favors the Brave
As such, bravery is really only the beginning of this journey towards fully experiencing genuine happiness and fulfilment. To quote another ancient philosopher, Pliny the Elder, “fortune favors the brave.” When we find that we are brave, and we honor this inner voice of truth and conscience, it brings in its wake something even greater, almost as a reward.
Mars Sector 6 refers to this as Love, which he describes as being “an active living thing.” He goes on to say:
Love is not possession. In its highest aspect, it is above all forms of individualization. It is impersonal. It is not binding as is possession, but it brings Freedom.
When we take to bravery, or courage, we embark upon a mystic path of freedom whose first port of call is a deeper experience of love. Surely any greater realization of love has to be at the very heart of finding happiness.
Later in the same text, Mars Sector 6 describes this love as “sacrifice, real sacrifice.” On the face of it, this also seems paradoxical and yet this sacrificial love can be found in the lives of all our greatest heroes and saintly figures. In many cases, the individual has had to abandon material ambition, possibly even family ties, to bring relief to others. One outstanding modern example is the life of Mother Teresa who devoted herself to helping the poorest of the poor.
On a much lesser scale, it was my own experience when, as a young man, I informed my family and friends that I was abandoning my career and life in London to assist The Aetherius Society 6,000 miles away in Hollywood. It caused them deep concern, especially to my parents, all the more so since I had just been offered a lucrative position in the company for which I had worked for the past eight years. But deep down I knew where my true feelings lay, and with it my happiness.
Service is the natural result of bravery and love, and is declared as such by Mars Sector 6 in the third of The Nine Freedoms. However, when we commit more of our lives in service to others, rooted in bravery and love, we begin to taste the real fruits of spiritual happiness and even joy.
It is a sentiment expressed by the great Indian poet and Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
Again, this may seem paradoxical, and yet if we want to understand “the secret of freedom”, it is necessary to look where we perhaps least expect to find the answer.
“What is looked for in the wrong place will not be found” – I Ching
Most of us look for happiness in the more obvious places such as being entertained and other forms of escapism, but these will not bring any deep fulfilment. In the void that is left behind many people look for more stimulating forms of gratification such as alcohol or drugs. Recent years have seen an epidemic in the use of opioids and this has come at a horrific price with almost 100 people in America now dying each day from an overdose, and over half a million people in the United States having died from opioids either through an overdose or addiction since 2000.
Equally, when we seek happiness through materialistic ends not only does it not satisfy our deeper quest but it also can lead to its very opposite. Statistics published last month in the healthcare journal Pediatrics reveal a disturbing rise in the incidence of teens and adolescents experiencing episodes of major depression. Similarly, in March 2016 the World Health Organization expressed its concern over the rapid rise in the use of antidepressants among young people, including a 54% increase in the UK in recent years. It is difficult for researchers to isolate any single cause for these significant and tragic increases but the pressures of Western culture with its emphasis on superficial gratification, materialism and competition, appear to be a common theme.
In the Third Freedom of Service, Mars Sector 6 makes an interesting statement that speaks to this very issue: “See how people, the young ones, are being deluded.”
The Benefits of Service
At the same time, he addresses the challenge of living in a material world and gives us the advice we need to experience not just freedom but lasting happiness. It has a familiar ring:
If you would be free from the materialistic prison cunningly devised to enslave you, you would serve.
If you would be detached from your own petty worries, you would serve.
If you would enjoy better health, you would serve.
By incorporating selfless service into our lives he informs us that we will not just experience a deeper sense of connection and meaning but also improved health and happiness. Recent research carried out by Dr. David Hamilton and others fully supports this conclusion. According to these researchers, as human beings we are designed within our DNA to be compassionate and selfless in our actions. When we engage in acts of service a chemical hormone known as oxytocin is released into the bloodstream which causes us to not only feel “a deep, warm feeling of spiritual accomplishment” – to use the words of Aetherius Society founder, Dr. George King, but it also benefits our health by opening up the arteries and reducing stress.
This would support the follow-up statement from Mars Sector 6 when he says:
There are no words great enough to describe the wonder of – SERVICE.
When we do engage in selfless action it inherently feels the correct thing to do, as if it is something our conscience wishes us to do. Could it be that we already, intuitively, know what to do to experience this kind of happiness?
This was certainly the belief of another ancient philosopher, Socrates, who affirmed that one thing we can truly know is the dictates of our soul, or conscience. He argued that we all have an inherent sense of right and wrong, and that we only have one thing to consider in performing any action – that is, whether we are acting rightly or wrongly.
“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:33)
Four hundred years after Socrates, the Master Jesus took up a similar theme by pointing out that when we do turn within to seek our inner voice or higher authority and act in righteousness, all gifts are given to us. He was not speaking about the gifts of materialism and idealized relationships, but rather gifts of the Spirit including joy, love, and realization – or wisdom.
For many of us with our busy lives in this materialistic world it is often necessary to slow down and reconsider our happiness. Are we really happy? We may pretend to be happy while having lost touch with our inner voice of conscience which not only knows our true sense of happiness but which, also, can never be deceived. This is the perfect time to reconsider how we are living and how we are experiencing happiness.
I have sometimes likened life to one of Jay Gatsby’s parties, as depicted by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his classic novel The Great Gatsby. It seems the whole world is present at these lavish parties even if some have gatecrashed the event. And the purpose of the party is to have fun – to indulge ourselves, whatever that takes. However, very few of the party-goers are interested in knowing their host. Obscure rumors start about Gatsby while others even question his very existence. I believe the same can be said of life. We’re all here trying to have fun and yet few of us seek out the host of this unique experience, while others similarly maintain that there is no host. The aftermath of such self-absorbed indulgence leaves a chaotic, irresponsible mess, in part much like the situation we now find on Earth.
Finding our host is essential if we are to truly find spiritual happiness. Again, it was Socrates who pointed out that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. This goes back to heeding our inner voice at a deeper, spiritual level. When we do, what we find might not be what we expect; for example we may find that it is not actually happiness as we perceived it that we most want but, rather, the opportunity to help others; literally, to be of service. Such a realization will almost certainly instinctively feel right, and would indicate that we are already on our way to fulfilling not only our life’s purpose but actually experiencing spiritual happiness.
Bringing this back to my own personal journey, as I look back almost 30 years since I came to the United States, not only do I retain that same conviction that compelled me to listen to my inner voice but my journey has been remarkably fulfilled. Moreover, I have long since gained the admiration of my family while virtually all of my old friendships remain intact to this day.
This is not the end…
By taking the path of bravery, love and service, we are establishing the foundation for attaining true happiness and for fulfilling our life’s purpose; but still it is not the end. What awaits us is a further “secret to freedom” – the gift arising from the path of righteousness spoken of by the Master Jesus.
The Nine Freedoms describes this stage as “Enlightenment”, that state which allows us to understand the conundrums and mysteries of life. By definition, it is the hallmark of all true spiritual Masters, and is the example of what we all can become. Yet, amazingly, even this is not the end. The Cosmic Master Mars Sector 6 in The Nine Freedoms has outlined this mystic journey even beyond this elevated state of terrestrial experience.
All of which serves to remind us that all of the time we expend through trial and error is merely a prelude to the extraordinary revelation of our Divine and immortal Self – the ultimate meaning of freedom and spiritual happiness. This journey begins with heeding that inner voice of truth and conscience – the “Spark of God” within us all, and having the courage to act upon it no matter where it may lead. By taking these essential steps we will be living not only a fuller and more meaningful life but also encountering the freedom we are each destined to find and which, when fully pursued, will take us to Enlightenment and even beyond. To know of this now, if only intuitively, will set us on a course that not only enables us to make sense of our present life but to start living it to its fullest possible extent.
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About the author
Rev. Paul Nugent is an International Director of The Aetherius Society having joined the Society in England in 1986. He was a personal assistant to Dr. George King during the latter years of his life. Active in interfaith, Paul is also Vice-Chair of the Southern California Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
All the blogposts written for aetherius.org are written by experienced Aetherius Society personnel and approach themes relating to the teachings, practices and ideals of the Society. However, they also contain personal opinions, insights and interpretations that are not necessarily representative of the Society as a whole, or all of its Members as individuals.