Freedom of Thought, Speech and Religion Are Not Guaranteed in the Future

Certain principles of individual freedom have been enshrined in Western democratic lands over the last few hundred years, and in particular, the freedom of thought, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association and the freedom of religion.  These principles are enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States, but they are universally acknowledged as a cornerstone of Western civilization, and have gained adherence in many parts of the world as societies embraced democratic ideals.  Nevertheless, these freedoms are at great risk, both from the rise of a World-State attempting to achieve uniformity throughout all nations, and from the rise of technology which can be used to propagandise and to subvert free thought through active manipulation of information and the pressure of media impinging on the thoughts of the populace.  If we add to this the risk that a State-run education adds in a very real risk of controlling the information and thought process of young people at an impressionable age, we can see that there are no guarantees for the future freedoms treasured by individuals.  In his book 1984, George Orwell envisioned a State that controlled the news, the media and the thought of its individual members.  In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley posited thoughts implanted through sleep indoctrination.  Neither of these two works can be dismissed as we look around at today’s world.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Freedom of thought would be the last human liberty directly attacked by the all-regulating State, which will first seek to regulate the whole life of the individual in the type approved by the communal mind or by its rulers.  But when it sees how all-important is the thought in shaping the life, it will be led to take hold of that too by forming the thought of the individual through State education and by training him to the acceptance of the approved communal, ethical, social, cultural, religious ideas, as was done in many ancient forms of education.  Only if it finds this weapon ineffective, is it likely to limit freedom of thought directly on the plea of danger to the State and to civilization.  Already we see the right of the State to interfere with individual thought announced here and there in a most ominous manner.  One would have imagined religious liberty at least was assured to mankind, but recently we have seen an exponent of “new thought” advancing positively the doctrine that the State is under no obligation to recognize the religious liberty of the individual and that even if it grants freedom of religious thought, it can only be conceded as a matter or expediency, not of right.  There is no obligation, it is contended, to allow freedom of cult; and indeed this seems logical; for if the State has the right to regulate the whole life of the individual, it must surely have the right to regulate his religion, which is so important a part of his life, and his thought, which has so powerful an effect upon his life.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 27, The Peril of the World-State, pp. 240-241