Liberty vs. Obligation

By January 16, 2018General News

Does liberty have limits?

On one hand, we’re taught that liberty is a principle worthy of the devotion of every Mason.  On the other hand, if you look closely at liberty’s possible ramifications, you might develop some mixed feelings. These thoughts bubble up from an illuminating educational event, recently hosted by our lodge and presented by Bro. Kent Smith.  It was titled “Liberty and the Libertine”.

Afterward we had our usual informal discussion over refreshments.  And it became apparent, during this discussion, that as liberty advances toward a stage known as libertinism, it might take on qualities that prompt the mixed feelings mentioned above.Libertinism, according to Bro. Smith, has traditionally meant disavowal of all obligations.  The only exception might be obligations which a libertine assumed voluntarily, but thinks can be discarded at any moment.

As I listened to this discussion, my mind went to an observation made by the religious author C.S. Lewis.  He wrote that most people have an innate sense of right and wrong, which hints at some larger purpose in life.  No matter that sense might be vague or shifting – the point is, it’s there.  And that’s what my own experiences seem to confirm.  Virtually all individuals I’ve known well, have occasionally expressed to me their own sense of right and wrong.  So C.S. Lewis might be correct – most people have this type of inner compass.

That leads to a further question.  Namely . . .  is a libertine at war with himself?  If like most people a libertine he has an instinctive sense of right and wrong, but regards himself as unobligated, then he might regard himself as untrustworthy.  In that way, the libertine’s own perspective might be conflicted.

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