ONE who has recognized the principles upon which the philosophy of self-help is based, to say nothing of the exceedingly practical relation of psychology to living, can hardly fail to have as a result a new conception, if not a new sense, of freedom. It will have occurred to him that the most prevalent form of slavery is a bondage to false beliefs and to the tyranny of the senses, and that this concerns him more nearly than any Social or Political tyranny whatsoever. He will have concluded, therefore, that true freedom lies in the perception of truth and in perfect self-control, and that, as he has been in slavery to his own sensations and opinions, he may now be his own liberator. As ignorance binds, truth makes us free. Every false belief is a link in the chain; but wisdom overcomes ignorance, as love casts out fear and light dispels darkness. Mental
and moral evolution is, therefore, always in the direction of freedom. Defects of character and disposition are obstacles we interpose between ourselves and the light, obstacles to our own progress. As these are surmounted one by one, we see more clearly, and experience greater freedom. Enlightenment and freedom go hand in hand. False belief shackles us, for whatever we believe stands to us in the place of truth, and usurpers are never just rulers.
The Aztecs were vanquished more by their own fear and superstition than by any prowess of the Spaniards, and were thus enslaved because of beliefs which obscured their vision of the facts and paralyzed their activity. In like manner we are all victims to our own fears and to false concepts, which shut out the light of truth and diminish our native energy, if they do not wholly obstruct our activity. Let us not blame either Society or Fate, then, for conditions which are personal to us and for which we have the remedy in our own hands. While there is much discussion in regard to hypnotism, apparently no one has recognized the fact that we are all hypnotized, more or less, by the world-thought.
As this is one of the factors which militates against our freedom, there is something to be said of the necessity for hyperventilation. The import-ant question is not—can we be hypnotized or no; but being already in a state of hypnosis, how are we to be hypnotized and freed from the tyranny of false world-beliefs? Some are in the profound hypnotic sleep and their acts are purely automatic, their opinions wholly reflected.
Others are merely in a drowsy state and are obedient only to the hypnosis of certain ideas from which they have never been free. This hypnosis, begun by their parents, by stupid nurses and silly Sunday-school teachers, has been fostered ever since by the verbose nonsense of the newspapers and by the pressure of the world-thought itself. There is only one remedy for ignorance and that is enlightenment, but if you do not know you are in slavery you will not seek freedom.
The most hopeless class intellectually are the half-educated who think they are wise. And in this day of the general diffusion of cheap knowledge and half-truths, when every one has a smattering of information, and people learn from the newspapers a thousand things which are not true, this class is rapidly growing. Instead of thinking for themselves, as
they fondly suppose, they are merely reflecting opinions and their point of view depends on the paper they take. It is a hopeful sign when any man becomes intellectually self-reliant—a sign of developing character: when he accepts a theory, because on his own reconnaissance he believes it to be essentially good and not simply because others think so; when he essays to examine popular notions concerning ethics, religion, and hygiene and rejects or accepts them at his own discretion. He is in a fair way to free himself from much superstition and false belief which cramps the mind and inhibits its power; he is on the road to intellectual freedom. Self-trust is inseparable from character, and to inspire any one to a greater degree of self-trust is above all to help him to help him-self.
If we do not think for ourselves—if we have the habit of delegating others to do our thinking for us—the fiber of the mind grows flabby like an unused muscle. If we are to run a race we must gradually strength-en the muscles and the lungs to that end.