When do we arrive at happiness? People do all kinds of things to reach happiness, to attain inner peace. Religion at large is taken up in our society as a means to reach this end, which aims at three core traits; all of which add up to inner autonomy, and they are the fulfillment, enlightenment, and deep inner peace.
Inner autonomy can be expressed in a quote from the ending scene of the movie The Last Samurai: “Some small measure of peace — that we all seek and few of us ever find.” It is that separate happiness from the external, that inner contentedness and deep peace which becomes part of one’s temperament. Inner autonomy is, moreover, arguably the most sought-after component in the experience of life, being that quality to be at one with self. Similarly, inner autonomy is an ever evasive condition, being an overall process.
To clarify, that is to ask, how can inner autonomy be cultivated or facilitated? Perhaps it plays into amor fati. That is to say it could be brought on through “the love of one’s fate,” or specifically, the acceptance of life as it fully is: acceptance of things beyond your control, and realizing the things that are in your control.
In conjunction with inner contentedness and deep peace, inner autonomy is fulfillment. In particular, fulfillment is one of the three core things that religion aims at attaining. At this level, inner autonomy could be compared to the Buddhist’s view of Nirvana, or perhaps the Christian’s view of Redemption. Furthermore, as a criticism I would say that generally religion fails in its mechanics to achieve fulfillment. This is because its views of spiritual harmony and its unrealistic, irrational assessment of the human animal are incongruent with inner fulfillment. To demonstrate this, all that one needs to do is look at the current issue of human rights and the religious discrimination against them. Nay, individual fulfillment, liberty, and development are not allowed. What is encouraged on the other hand is bigotry, discrimination, and bad science.
Moreover, on the notion of spirituality, it should be said that spirituality is a meaningless term as it carries no weight behind it. How do we measure the spirit? How do we measure something spiritual? The best it can boil down to is either a feeling of the profound or a higher articulation of thought. Even still the term is meaningless as we have an emotion or thought, and we can talk about them without defining spirituality. Emotions and thoughts are created in the brain, and we can understand ideas, concepts, and feelings without vague notions of the spiritual. If spirituality is an emotion, why not just call it emotion?
The final point in the triad of inner autonomy is enlightenment. Indeed, the autonomous temperament has ties to enlightenment, and it is also aimed at by religion. Enlightenment serves in the process of actualizing inner autonomy. When I think of enlightenment and religion, in my head I see some psychedelic being with his legs crossed, floating above the earth contemplating the nature of reality, almost like Dr. Manhattan from the movie Watchmen. But this image can serve as a good model of representing inner autonomy through enlightenment. This person is enlightened. He knows things. He knows the inner workings of things. He has adopted amor fati – accepted the inevitable, the things he cannot control, and has realized the things that are in his control. Because of this he is at peace with himself, and the universe. He is autonomous. In other words, and more to the heart of the matter, wisdom accumulated through experience is a direct pipeline to inner autonomy.
Again as a criticism, religion generally fails in its aim at enlightenment through its swift attempts at adopting convenient security blankets for things such as death, while ignoring the reality of certain matters. This can be exemplified by the “God of the Gaps” argument. That is, it would be like arguing that because there is a lack of knowledge about the very beginning of the big bang, that it is somehow evidence for the existence of a deity. It’s nothing short of kidding one’s self about a position that has a lack of evidence for, or knowledge of, while claiming to be enlightened. Such is religion’s view on death. The afterlife can serve as a security blanket to make death less dreadful, as adherents will go on living forever with friends and family, even though there is no evidence to accept this as fact.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk substantiated this general sentiment when he said, “When you get to reality there are no worldviews, there is only wisdom.”
In summation, to answer the question of how one could facilitate or cultivate inner autonomy, the answer is thusly: accumulate wisdom, adopt amor fati – accept what you can’t control, and realize what you can. Then you will come closer in the process of attaining inner autonomy.