For the past few weeks I've been haphazardly studying human potential, or "self-help," mainly through e-mail lists, free e-books, and some religious literature. There's more to this stuff than what I first suspected; instead of emphasizing self-discipline, positive thinking, and goal-setting, much of it addresses the way we think.
One recurring theme in the literature is the components of the mind. Different people use different words and descriptions; I will use my own as I have come to understand them:
The subconscious mind. Where "animal" instinct governs. Our basic operating system which runs all the biological functions and perceives information through the senses. The home of survival instinct and physical pleasure. The storehouse of memories. Unless it receives new instructions, the subconscious will settle into default modes and habits, including old patterns of thought and emotional response. But it is a glorious machine that performs almost all of our desired tasks automatically. For example, even as I type this, if you were to ask me where any particular letter appears on the keyboard, I'd have to pause and think for a moment, yet the subconscious has come to know it through my repetitive practice in a high school typing class. But the subconscious itself knows no emotion, morality, foresight, judgment, or will. What it does do, however, is reveal our emotional state.
The self-conscious mind. Where logic governs. Where we make choices. The place of self-awareness, ethical judgment, conscience, and foresight. Where we name our emotional states - where, indeed, we name everything. Where we search for a "place" in this world. Where we discern our will - what we want to see accomplished in order to acquire the emotional state of happiness.
The super-conscious mind. Where intuition governs. The place of intention and attention, from which creativity flows. The power source through which dreams become reality. Where talents are engaged, and discoveries are made. Where visions are conceived, and self-consciousness and doubt disappear in realizing them. Where the mind directs our body in the execution of our will. Where works of genius are created and world records are set. Where everyone fully realizes their potential.
If we had only subconscious minds, we could not be "inherently evil." At least no more than, say, a dog whose thoughts are focused on eating, sleeping, and having sex. The development of other aspects of our minds indicate that our nature is to think about other things not instead of, but in addition to, eating, sleeping, and having sex. Apparently, there is more to life than survival and sensory gratification.
Which are, apparently, pleasures of the intellect and the soul. Such as architecture, music, scientific discovery, and love. Such pursuits might also refine physical pleasure as well; they may develop one's taste buds, or train the body to experience heightened sensations.
What is the obstacle to a happier life? The self-conscious mind. Yes, we need it; it governs our animal instinct and checks our excesses. It restrains us from eating too many sweets, for example. But, precisely because of its heightened perceptions, self-awareness, and abstract thought, it is burdened with worries and cares. The animal thinks about his next meal; the self-conscious person thinks also about next week's meals, next year's meals, his retirement meals. The animal fears injury and death; when it sees a predator, it runs away. The self-conscious person has the same fears, but also fears poverty, rejection, and the loss of reputation. The animal lives day to day and has no concept of time; the self-conscious person is aware of his mortality and is worried that he won't make the best of his limited time. The animal takes what he can; the person believes he must sacrifice something he wants so that he can get something that he wants even more. The animal has no moral sense; the person sees injustice everywhere and is constantly beset with inner conflicts, catch-22's, and ethical dilemmas.
In short, the self-conscious person resides in a world of scarcity, and is plagued by doubts about his place and purpose in the world. But the super-conscious individual resides in a world of possibility, and is emboldened by vision and confidence. The one common feature of successful people is that they don't doubt. They don't doubt their abilities to accomplish their goals. They don't doubt their "worthiness" to receive the prizes and rewards they seek. They do not question the moral worth or "meaningfulness" of their vision, whether its a civil rights revolution or an athletic trophy.
Thoughts create reality. Confident thoughts turn dreams into reality. Doubt prevents dreams from becoming reality. It takes very little self-reflection to see the truth that we get what we expect in life. The successes I've had came about because I expected them even when they should have seemed unlikely. They came even when I knew I wasn't the most talented in the field. They came even when the goal in mind wasn't all that important to me, even when I didn't put in the "hard work" or lose sleep. Instead, the outcome I expected determined my course of action, which was stress-free and relatively effortless. And when I've failed, it was because I expected failure. I would give up too quickly, or not even try.
Self-consciousness makes us unsure of ourselves and our surroundings. Super-consciousness reconstructs the surroundings to suit our vision, our expectation. Super-consciousness is power. There are lots of decent guys who want pretty girls, and then there's the guy who attracts pretty girls. There are competent people who deserve the promotion, and there's the one who gets the promotion. Vision and expectation determines not just what we do and how well we do it, but also our attitude, our words, our body language, our appearance. There are reasons the boss says, "Lee is doing a fine job, but I've got a feeling about Smith..." It's less about how badly you may want something, as it is whether you expect to get it.
Think of the life of your dreams, the life you want to live. In that picture, think of yourself as the person who is living that life, who has accomplished what you want to accomplish. That person is your hero, your role model. Become that person. No one can stop you from becoming the person you want to be right now. No one. Not the President, not Congress, not a 5-4 Supreme Court majority, not the taxman, not the terrorists. You are the person who lives the life of your dreams. You are that person who removed the roadblocks and impediments in your life. You are the hero who has reached your goals. Of course you have every right to expect to live the life of your dreams; you are the very person - that hero, that role model - who has made it so!
Freedom is not just the absence of external restraints. The struggle for liberty isn't just about repealing laws, eliminating taxes, pardoning those convicted of victimless crimes, and ending war. External conditions are a reflection of the mind. Impediments to freedom that we see today are the manifestations of confused minds who create the very evils they seek to prevent - scarcity, violence, and injustice - by assuming they are inevitable.
Therefore, it does no good to think, "If we got rid of the State, then I'll be happy." Or even, "If they just cut government to 10% and limited the federal government to its Constitutional functions, then I'll be happy." The external reality - the decisions of other people - can't ever make a person genuinely happy. One who ties their enjoyment of life to the political situation will never really be free, because true freedom is in the mind.
The best strategy for freedom lovers is to realize their dreams and potential. To live the full life they want, the life much larger than ideology alone, the life of love, work, leisure, and spirituality. And to encourage others to do the same - to overcome fear, guilt, and self-doubt and embrace the life they really want. For each of us are free to become the person we want to be - that's one thing the State can't prevent. The more who embrace the freedom to live life to its fullest potential, the easier and quicker everyone's dreams will be realized. The tyrant doesn't stand a chance against a free mind pursuing its dream.