Freedom – An Empty Delusion?

In the desert sands of Nag Hammadi in 1945, another parchment was found alongside a number of Gnostic texts. On it was written, "Seek freedom and you will NOT find it; knock at the door of freedom and it will NOT be opened to you." If there had been such a message, what would the human ego have done with it? I suppose, it would have buried it again immediately.

Freedom – An Empty Delusion?

We are gifted with freedoms of all kinds. In the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, the word freedom is mentioned 37 times. Legally guaranteed freedom has several varieties including, in particular, freedom of the person, freedom of belief, freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association.This system of freedom is embedded in a liberal democratic basic order.

A self-deception?

In the course of fighting the pandemic, civil liberties were more or less massively restricted in almost all countries of the world. Thousands of people protested against this and many also took to the streets to express their displeasure and their need to “restore the freedom status quo”.

In concrete terms, what does it mean for us to be free ?

For example, a ban on being able to visit restaurants, operas and cinemas at will limits our options for action and choice in everyday life. The same applies to all other prohibitions to which we are subjected when dangers threaten. The freedom we are granted is, therefore, relative and can always be subjected to restrictions. Could we possibly be free despite all restrictions? Or, asked the other way around, could it be that we are nonetheless unfree, even if there are no external restrictions at all?

Is it possible that we are now dealing with surrogates of freedom?

Freedom, as defined in the constitutions of many countries, has a counterpart, a natural counterpart: unfreedom, the regulated, in which many people seek to satisfy their need for protection and security.

In a country where protection and security take precedence, the desire for freedom grows. In a country with the most extensive individual freedom, without laws and agreements, the need for protection and security would increase. It is always a question of balancing different values and providing the best possible conditions for life in a society. Between these two poles, between these two forms of experiencing life, no absolute freedom can be found.

The two layers of life and experience

This struggle for the right measure is, as A. H. Almaas[1] describes it, fought out in a sphere of life that is determined exclusively by actions and reactions. On this level of life, profound changes are not possible because our egos are constantly busy reacting to the actions of others and, thereby, themselves call up the reactions of others. Thus, life remains a chain of reactions without end that are perpetuated by the ego and its needs and fears.

At this level of experience there is a longing for “real being”, for real freedom, but it cannot be realised. Everyone is busy manifesting their own image of how the world should be in thoughts, in feelings and in deeds as far as they can.

We remain trapped in a matrix of self-deception because we cannot accept the world as it is.

Almaas recommends “developing a courageous vulnerability” [2]. That is, to overcome the ego’s need and constant desire for protection and control.

Is there such a thing as “real” freedom?

A German folk song states:

“Thoughts are free

who can guess them

they flee by

like nocturnal shadows.

No man can know them

no dungeon can shut them in

It remains forever:

Thoughts are free.” [3]

Thoughts are free – that’s where the problems start. The carousel of thoughts in our head does not leave us alone for a second: “Do this, do that! Deal with what was, what might come tomorrow, next week or sometime! Feel guilty that things have taken place this way.”

Ego-being means complete identification with one’s own thinking and feeling. In contrast, Eckart Tolle [4] says, “You don’t think. Thinking happens to you.”  Ron Smothermon [5]urges dethroning the thought energy that dominates almost all of life, the “brain god”.

The decisive step is to not merely be an actor on the stage of life, but to become an observer of the actor. The possibility for this is inherent in us. An instance can unfold and come to fruition in us that can be called the new or original soul. It is quite different from our ego, it does not originate from the earthly struggle of life. From the moment we succeed in increasingly experiencing life from the position of observer, the dominating power of our self-assertion dwindles. The ego is then put under observation, so to speak, including its thoughts and feelings. They are perceived for what they are, namely fleeting forms of reaction on the periphery of life, waves on the ocean of life. And interestingly, the new level within us allows us to see new possibilities for action.

This significant step, which is tantamount to self-revolution and leads to a new understanding of life, does not happen overnight. It requires patience and perseverance and a fuel, a driving force.

Perhaps this driving force can be described as a longing for absolute freedom, for absolute love and absolute oneness.

If we persevere on this path, one day the miracle happens: our individuality, largely liberated from the rule of the ego, succeeds in BEING. To the extent that we simply ARE, we express more and more through our whole life that the lives of others may also be as they are.

From this conscious being, a powerfully transformative force emerges into the world that changes everyone and everything. It ends “the malice of ignorance”, as Jan van Rijckenborgh [6] calls it.

We then experience something we thought impossible before: We can allow every moment of life to be as it is right now. All resistance has disappeared. Life reveals itself in its absolute fullness, absolute freedom and absolute, unchanging beauty.


[1] A. H. Almaas: In die Tiefe des Seins, 5. Auflage, 2016

[2] Op. Cit., p. 93 ff.

[3] https://www.volksliederarchiv.de/die-gedanken-sind-frei/

[4] Eckart Tolle: Die neue Erde, 7. Auflage, 2005

[5] Ron Smothermon: Drehbuch für Meisterschaft im Leben, Bd. 1, 7. Auflage, 1986

[6] J. van Rijckenborgh: Die ägyptische Urgnosis 2, S. 22 ff., 3. Auflage, 1997

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Date: April 20, 2022
Author: Wolfgang Sandten (Germany)
Photo: Jill Wellington auf Pixabay CCO

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